dirty rag

Election 2004 - On Dennis Kucinich in the Fray - Josh Frank

Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich on Monday, February 17th tossed his hat in the ring, announcing his bid to seek the Democratic nomination for President in '04. Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, wild-eyed Kucinich has been the most outspoken critic of the Bush administration's reactions to September 11th, the dismantling of our civil liberties under Ashcroft's Patriot Act, and any bombing Baghdad may endure.

Rep. Kucinich, former mayor of Cleveland elected in 1996 to the House, has also been an outspoken advocate against our current Free Trade malfeasance, opposing Fast Track legislation in 1997 and '98, as well as 2002. He also claims if elected that he would "repeal NAFTA" altogether. He states that, "NAFTA has attacked federal laws meant to protect worker rights, human rights and environmental quality principles." No other Democrat running for President has ever made such a critique. No question then that his support is strong among unions and environmentalists, garnering praise from the League of Conservation Voters, Public Citizen, among others.

Dennis, a vegan, is also the most outspoken supporter of labeling genetically engineered and organic food products. As the key player in congress pressing for such labeling, he can be credited with the new federal labeling laws of organic foods passed in 2002.

When taking on huge corporate conglomerates, such as big agriculture, Dennis puts himself in the company of advocates like Ralph Nader. Similar to Nader, Dennis has not stepped down from right-wing leaning attacks, which have escalated since announcing his presidential bid. In fact he has only accelerated his own stabs at the Bush administration, asserting in a speech at the New York Peace March last February, "we will either bring an end to war, or we will bring an end to a warlike administration!"

Dennis certainly is the loudest opponent of war among Democratic hopefuls. The only other antiwar candidate is the timid Howard Dean of Vermont, who in February announced he was against a unilateral strike against Iraq. But Dean is not opposed to any of Bush's other hawkish foreign policies, including that of Israel and Palestine. In fact he is openly in support of the President when it comes to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Kucinich of course is not.

But Dennis isn't perfect. He only recently announced that he is pro-choice, this after years of voting with the pro-life cartel. His turnaround, and his lingering anti-choice votes yield much criticism from feminist organizations and other pro-choice advocates. His past opposition to partial birth abortions, and his vote against Medicaid funding for the procedure, have stirred quite a few controversies among the chattering feminist class.

The likelihood he will be able to overcome his choice swap is grim. But we'll see if the antiwar movement can get behind Dennis enough to stir the Dems in these early primary days. He's counting on it.

Kucinich's popularity skyrocketed in February of 2002 when he gave a fiery speech in LA that lashed the Bush administration's preemptive strike philosophy. In his talk sponsored by Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, he blasted unilateral war, saying that we must stop the "fueling (of) a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation, risking the future of our nation, risking democracy itself with the militarization of thought."

His small DC office soon flooded with thousands of phone calls and emails-- thanking him for articulating the thoughts and concerns of those who have had no voice. His speech circulated by the millions in forwarded emails, and dozens of websites--a true grassroots movement in our new cyber era. It seemed that Dennis reached pinup status literally overnight, giving him the confidence and courage to seek the democratic nomination for president.

But come Election Day, if nominated, Kucinich may not be the only real peace candidate in the hunt for President. Ralph Nader and Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange have both been rumored to be contemplating seeking out the Green's bid- and either would bring hefty antiwar stances. Right swinging Reform Party leader Patrick Buchanan is also antiwar, but few progressives would label Pat as pro-peace. The political climate may be quite different during election season, especially if the Iraq ordeal gets messy. If Kucinich can hurdle his anti-choice record, old Nader supporters, new progressives, and those angered at the lack of representation among the Dems, will surely be tested as to whom they should support.

The primaries will be picking up full speed by July, with votes to come early next year. Our conflict in the Middle East is bound to have multiplied by then, still bloody and unresolved. Spreading the word about Kucinich can only benefit the antiwar and anti-globalization movements-- movements that until now-- lacked any politically leadership in Washington.

No other Dems currently got it like Kucinich - and Nader ain't runnin' yet. It may change, but right now it's all Dennis. You can visit and support Dennis at: www.kucinich.net