On December 12, 2006 the anti-war movement got a standard bearer on the road to the White House. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former mayor of Cleveland (the youngest person ever elected to be mayor of a major city) and a five term Congressman announced his second run for the presidency.
In his announcement he made the centerpiece of his campaign opposition to the Iraq War. Further, he is running against the leadership of the Democratic Party who is supporting the continued funding of the war. Rep. Kucinich said:
“On November 7th, the people voted for a new direction for our nation. They voted for the Democrats because they expected us to end the occupation and to bring the troops home from Iraq. On October 1st Congress appropriated $70 billion for the war in Iraq. The money is in the pipeline right now to bring the troops home. Unfortunately our Democratic leaders have already announced they will support an additional appropriation for the war of up to $160 billion dollars. Not only are we not listening to the voters and taking steps to withdraw our forces quickly, we are actually planning to spend twice as much on the war as we did last year! Somebody didn’t get the message. And unfortunately it is the leadership of the Democratic Party and the consequences may be disastrous for our party, our nation and the world.”
Iraq War Results in Making Problems at Home Worse
Kucinich gets a 99% rating from Peace Majority Report but his campaign will not be a single issue campaign. Rep. Kucinich shows how all issues are impacted by the illegal and disastrous war and occupation of Iraq. Kucinich highlights the economic failures in Ohio and the nation because of the nation’s “misplaced national priorities,” he sees factories and businesses, large and small, closing, people losing their jobs, their middle class status weakening and many pushed into poverty, people losing their homes and their retirement. He notes the millions of Americans without health insurance and the many more who are underinsured. He describes cities, schools, and the nation’s infrastructure crippled by debts and lack of funds. Kucinich notes the rising cost of energy that is further tightening the already tight budgets of Americans. And, he sees the loss of opportunity describing “millions of entrepreneurs whose ingenuity will create new jobs by bringing forth advanced clean energy technologies being starved for capital.”
What is the root cause of these problems? “The war, tax cuts for the already privileged, and our trade policies have become a massive engine to redistribute upwards the wealth of our nation and to transfer our national wealth out of the country,” says Kucinch noting further such policies are “inherently un-American.” For Rep. Kucinich they are un-American because we are the “United” States and these types of policies do not unite us, they divide us.
Kucinich has a history of standing strong for peace and justice against powerful interests. He lost his mayorship of Cleveland when in 1978 he stood up to Cleveland Banks who were insisting he sell Cleveland’s 70 year old municipally-owned electric system to a private corporation that the banks had a financial interest in. While he lost re-election the next year, in 1998 the Cleveland City Council honored him for, “having the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the city’s municipal electric system.” And, in Congress he has championed causes he views as right, no matter how they are perceived by the establishment. For example, he has urged a Department of Peace because he believes that peace, not war, is inevitable, if we are willing to work for peace.
Lessons from the 2004 Campaign
In the last presidential run, Kucinich’s anti-war stands were muffled by the loud campaign of Howard Dean. When the progressive, Internet advocacy group, MoveOn, ran their on-line primary, Kucinich received 24% coming in second to Dean who received 44%. By the time Dean imploded it was too late for Kucinich to gain momentum. Kucinich ran in all the primaries only endorsing Kerry just before the convention. Many were disappointed when he endorsed Kerry who ran to “manage the war” better rather than end it.
This time around Kucinich may be the only clear peace candidate. The other Democrats tend to criticize the war, say change is needed and call for the beginning of a troop reduction but none call for a complete withdrawal in the foreseeable future. So, Kucinich has a clearer message at a time when anti-war sentiment in public opinion is rising steadily.
However, even with this I’ve already heard from 2004 Kucinich supporters who are not as excited this time. Why? Some Kucitizens see his involvement inside the Democratic Party as problematic because they have learned that neither of the wealthy, special interest funded parties can really stand for the people. They worry, as one 2004 Kucinich supporter told me, he serves as a “gatekeeper to keep folks from leaving the party.” As another supporter said on a Kucinich discussion list:
“I must admit to being still struck by Dennis’ eloquence when he is permitted his moments on television, and I too gave an incredible amount of time and energy last time around. But I know many of us are convinced there is no room for progressive thought inside the Democratic Party. The ‘relief valve’ Tony speaks of, sometimes called the ‘border collie’ role by others, is dead on. I respect Dennis and don’t regret one moment or dollar I spent. But I think it may be a waste of time for him to run again as a Democrat. The left will back him less than last time, given four more years of proof that Democrats don’t share any of our priorities; the ‘realists’ and electability freaks are emboldened by the midterm results, and I expect even more bullying this time around.”
Some are particularly upset about his endorsement of John Kerry despite views that are very different from Kucinich’s on key issues like the war, Patriot Act and corporate globalization. Many past supporters are uncomfortable giving a megaphone to someone who, if he is unsuccessful, will cheer on candidates like Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama who are not even advocating a complete withdrawal from Iraq and remain quietly supportive of military action against Iran.
Rep. Kucinich needs to reassure these anti-war voters that they are not throwing away their vote on the pro-war Democratic Party leadership by supporting Kucinich, and that he will not be keeping anti-war Democrats in the party if there is an anti-war alternative outside the party. He needs to be an uncompromising anti-war, anti-corporate candidate who will not endorse a pro-war Democrat if he fails to win.
He will have a steep, uphill climb against the monied candidates who represent the dominant DLC center of the party, candidates like Vilsack, Clinton, Obama and Biden. Certainly during the Democratic primaries Kucinich is the anti-war candidate and if he can reassure voters that he is an uncompromising anti-war candidate he deserves support from all voters opposed to the Iraq War.
The Kucinich for President website is at http://www.kucinich.us/
KEVIN ZEESE is executive director of Democracy Rising and a co-founder of VotersForPeace.