When Dennis Kucinich announced his candidacy for the presidency, his original plan was to get $50 from each of a million citizens, about a third of one percent of the U.S. population. 50 bucks – that’s two tanks of gas or 10 six-packs of beer. With that, he figured, he’d be able to mount a decent campaign without having to go, hat and soul in hand, to the money sources that have the American political system in their grasp. He was not successful.
Skip to January, ’08. Kucinich has been denied the right to debate in Iowa and on ABC (Disney, Inc.) and has had his image excised from a photograph of democratic candidates, said photo sent all over the world. After an early debate, when a national poll revealed that viewers considered him the winner, mainstream media declared him “unelectable” and began to ignore him completely. Nevertheless, he has won polls by ABC, MSNBC, CSPAN, Democracy For America, the John Edwards Campaign (!) and every online poll I’m aware of that would attract progressive democrats and independents. On January 7, Jay Leno asked Ron Paul who on the democratic side he liked best. When Paul mentioned “Dennis” the crowd erupted in applause.
The New York Times produced a two-page synopsis, “Where the Democrats and Republicans Stand”. It included photographs of the presidential “hopefuls” and their positions on Iraq, health, taxes, energy, immigration, climate ….. everything. The presentation included candidates down to Richardson, Biden and Dodd, all three of whom have, by now, dropped out. Everybody was shown except Kucinich. As far as “America’s Paper of Record” was concerned, he did not exist.
Going into the New Hampshire primary, Clinton and Obama enjoyed 200 million corporate/fat cat dollars — “the mother’s milk of American politics” — between them. Hillary “We are the President” Clinton touted her experience which, if one recalls the administration of her partner, must include NAFTA, welfare “reform” and the 1996 Telecommunications Act that further solidified corporate control of the public’s airways. Obama, whose “star quality” cannot be denied, gave the crowds stirring speeches and lots and lots of “Hope”.
It is understandable that “The System” would consider Kucinich a threat and seek to make him invisible. Simply look at his platform: Out of NAFTA on day one; out of the World Trade Organization; universal not-for-profit health care; creation of a Department of Peace (Imagine that! ); repeal the Patriot Act; end the phony “Drug War”; end the war in Iraq now, not in 2013 or 2020 but now; speak as an equal among equals with all world leaders, whether or not they are in synch with “American Interests Around the World”. Everything a progressive American would dream of. Just imagine the shudders his expressed plan would send through the defense industry (e.g. GE/NBC), the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, the “corporate sector” generally.
One cannot consider Dennis without his wife Elizabeth, an articulate expert on monetary policy who would certainly be as valuable a partner in a Kucinich administration as Hillary was in Bill’s. But our media, hell-bent on reinforcing its tabloid qualities, locked on her looks. In one painful/hilarious interview of the couple, the “journalist”, after speaking with Dennis, turned to Elizabeth, immediately referred to her age and looks, and wanted to know about her pierced tongue. Dennis, unruffled, said “I hope as a professional you won’t trivialize her”, and he then ticked off Elizabeth’s considerable accomplishments. His allusion to “a professional” was a tangential rebuke of the interviewer’s stunningly unprofessional display. Nevertheless, obtuse and undeterred, the woman was unrelenting in her tastelessness and wanted to know if Elizabeth would show her tongue. Elizabeth would not.
On January 3, the New York Observer declared “Dennis Kucinich Owns New Hampshire”. Oh how I hoped for an upset. In a way he may have owned that small state, for having vacated Iowa he went early to New Hampshire and criss-crossed it to enthusiastic crowds. But people do vote “strategically” in primaries, and the acute lack of “big money” necessary for “front runner” status may have been too much. That and the media drumbeat of “But he’s not electable” and the pathetically superficial need of too many American voters for slick or “alpha” or “tall-in-the-saddle” father-figure politicians.
But of course he is electable if people vote for him. He certainly has the most progressive platform. “Change”, we’re told, is what people desperately want. Obama may give us a little change, but he won’t give us the real change we need because he won’t be able to. He’s in hock to Big Money, and he’s mum on the issue of his tight relationship with “Bush’s favorite democrat, Joe Lieberman. Hillary won’t give us the real change we need because she has already demonstrated with her Senate votes that she will not. Dennis is giving us our chance for dramatic change, and, to date, either we are failing to see that chance or we are rejecting it outright.
Bill Willers is emeritus professor of biology, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh now living in Middleton, WI. He is founder of Superior Wilderness Action Network (SWAN) and editor of Learning to Listen to the Land and Unmanaged Landscapes, both from Island Press. He is a sculptor and painter some of whose work can be seen at www.billwillers.com
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