Long shot presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich continues to plug away in his effort to attract attention. He seems to be implementing a strategy of "Hit 'em where they ain't!" He is reported as visiting places the other candidates seem to avoid, as if they aren't worth the attention. Considering the media attention focussed on all of the other candidates, this strategy just might work - to a point. At least people will know he was there.
He is also attracting attention from certain groups that the other candidates might not want, but when you are running almost last, you take what you can get. But you might not want to get some of the attention he's attracted!
One of the nine candidates running for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election, Kucinich, a congressman from Ohio, is widely viewed as the farthest left, or most extreme, of the candidates. Many observers also believe he is essentially out of the running for the nomination, as he is languishing at the low end of public opinion polls. Kucinich, however, insists that not only can he win the Democratic primary, but he is also perfectly capable of beating President Bush.
David Lanoue, chairman of the UA political science department, said Kucinich's presence in the race is "not so much trying to win the nomination but making sure the progressive side of the Democratic Party is well-represented." Lanoue said that since Kucinich is not expected to win, he is able to take "bold policy stands" that he might not be able to make otherwise.
Kucinich has proposed creating a federal "Department of Peace," which would seek to make war "archaic" and instead use peaceful means to resolve conflicts. UA political science professor Donald Snow dismissed that as "just rhetoric," saying, "Most of this is shock value and a way to publicize issues."
However, Lanoue said Kucinich may not be doing as good a job of doing that as the candidate might like. "He hasn't gotten all that much attention, so he's had relatively little impact," Lanoue said. An informal poll of UA students confirmed that statement. Almost no students interviewed had ever heard of Kucinich or knew who he was.
Carolyn McNeilly, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Howard Dean supporter who did recognize Kucinich, said Kucinich has had little or no influence. "Because he's not a front runner, most people don't know his ideology," McNeilly said. McNeilly, who describes Kucinich as an "overgrown hippie," said that not only is Kucinich too liberal for the American public, but "his policies and views are too left even for most Democrats."
On his campaign Web site, Kucinich claims to have a history of attracting "Reagan Democrats" and swing voters. Snow disagrees, however. "Kucinich would under any circumstances be a fringe candidate," he said. "He's too far from the mainstream - too far to the left and on some issues, too far to the right."
So what's a candidate got to do to earn some respect? Go to where the other candidates won't.
He doesn't have the name recognition of Howard Dean, or the personal wealth of John Kerry - he doesn't even have the polling numbers of John Edwards - but Dennis Kucinich told an audience at a union hall in Westbrook Wednesday that he has momentum. The Democratic congressman from Ohio who is running for his party's nomination for president looked at each of the 60 people crammed into the little room and said that with Maine's help, he will win. "Our showing in the Maine caucuses will propel us into the middle of February," he said.
The Maine caucuses will be held Feb. 8 - less than two weeks after the New Hampshire primary, and three weeks after the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. The congressman's thinking is, if he pulls in respectable numbers here, he'll have tangible success to build on. His sole full-time staff member in Maine, a volunteer, said that other candidates are "ignoring Maine and for us, Maine is going to be our watershed. We have a very good chance of having an excellent showing."
Lu Bauer said the campaign is well organized here, and that "if we do better than expected in New Hampshire and then keep that profile and then do really really well in Maine, we'll have the rest of the states and we'll be very much in the picture."
Kucinich feels good in Maine. He has low polling numbers in Iowa - a Zogby Poll has him at 3 percent in Iowa, behind former Vermont Gov. Dean, at 28 percent, Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, with 23 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Kerry, at 17 percent and North Carolina Sen. Edwards, at 14 percent. Polls in New Hampshire have him at about 1 percent - but the congressman feels a connection here.
During an interview Wednesday afternoon, he said members of his family have lived in the state for 40 years, and that he has been vacationing here since he was 17. More than that, though, he said, "Maine has always been a place which responds to progressive politics."
The Maine Legislature is the only one in the nation with a Green Independent - Rep. John Eder of Portland - among its members. Maine voters preferred Reform Party candidate Ross Perot to former President George H.W. Bush in 1992. And, Kucinich said, "I have the ability to attract Greens and members of the Natural Law Party on environmental issues and libertarians on the Patriot Act and civil liberties issues."
David Crosby, an 18-year-old Falmouth High School student who attended the Westbrook event, said he admires the candidate's independence. "Unlike (President) Bush, you can tell he is totally unscripted," Crosby said. "And no one is pulling his strings."
Speaking of New Hampshire, ...
Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich addressed students at Winnacunnet High School on Thursday afternoon. He articulated his progressive vision for America to a group mostly composed of those too young yet to vote, but he directed his ideas toward problems for which the students in the room will be forced to take responsibility.
He said the opportunities one is born with in life do not matter. "What matters is what is in your heart, what your dream is," said Kucinich. "As president of the United States, I want to make sure that the dreams of young people can be realized" by providing universal health care and fully funded public education through college.
"We have to ask ourselves is there any such thing as a world community or is it just dog-eat-dog? If you think it is dog-eat-dog, then you are going to have war," he said. In his travels, Kucinich said he found that "people all over the world are looking for unity."
Kucinich wants to "unite America along principles of social and economic justice" but says he does not want to stop there. "I would suggest the feeling of unity extends beyond your school, your state, your country," he said. "You do not unite people with war," he said, criticizing Bush. Americans, he continued, "do not want to feel we’re separated and isolated from the rest of the world."
Kucinich wants to make Iraq the central issue of the campaign. He believes that, because of his position on Iraq, he is the only Democrat who can beat George W. Bush. As chairman of the Progressive Caucus of House Democrats, he was vocal in his opposition to the invasion. He is equally vocal is his criticisms now. "This thing that is going on now is beginning to look like another Vietnam." He points out that had the U.N. weapons inspectors who were in Iraq previous to the invasion been allowed to conclude their work, "we would have found out the same thing we know now, which is there are no weapons of mass destruction."
Kucinich wants to bring in U.N. peacekeeping troops and bring many U.S. soldiers home within 90 days of taking office. "I stand alone in having an exit strategy," he said.
His plan includes financial incentives for using renewables and disincentives for the use of carbon-based fuels. "I want to take a different approach and heal this globe. We need to work towards renewing our planet and sustaining it," he said. He added that the nation is not forced to choose between a clean environment and jobs, but that "we need both" and it can be done.
Kucinich is already viewed as a "counter-culture" candidate. This incident certainly isn't going to help abate that perception. Anyone know where Ken Kesey is lately?
Dennis Kucinich's campaign is getting a boost with the arrival of a group of young activists from around the country, who showed up in a bio-diesel powered, psychedelic-colored converted school bus. The group drove from Santa Cruz, Calif., stopping in Des Moines, Iowa, to attend the Democratic candidates debate there on Jan. 10. They will stay in the state until the Jan. 27 primary and plan events at colleges and high schools.
The group calls itself the Democreation Project; its goal is to unite young artists and political progressives behind candidates that represent their values. Kucinich gave a brief speech to the group, which crowded into his two-room headquarters. He talked about his plan to remove U.S. troops from Iraq, repeal NAFTA, leave the World Trade Organization and provide a universal one-payer health care system.
Responding to a question, Kucinich said a military draft is inevitable if the United States remains in Iraq. "There is already a form of involuntary keeping of soldiers," Kucinich said, referring to reservists kept mobilized longer than expected. Afterward, Kucinich said young voters are responding to his positions on Iraq. "The issue of the draft is just below the surface on college campuses and at high schools," Kucinich said.
In near-zero temperatures in Portsmouth, the group pounded on drums and danced in the street outside Kucinich's headquarters, greeting the Ohio congressman with hugs and stories about their trip Wednesday. "It's been a series of spiritual awakenings for all of us," said Thaddeus Jude, a Farmington, N.M., artist and activist who got on the bus in Salt Lake City.
"Hang onto those," Kucinich told Jude. "Write them down."
Kucinich isn't just attracting attention from leftover '60s Native American wannabes. He's also getting it from the real variety.
Dennis Kucinich, one of nine candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, met with Chief Arvol Looking Horse during a diversity celebration at a downtown Des Moines hotel, blocks from where a Democratic debate was to be held later in the evening. Dennis Kucinich presented the spiritual leader of the Lakota tribe with a ceremonial blanket Sunday, saying that as president he would work to heal wounds between the government and American Indians. "I pledge to you a presidency that embraces the spirit of being of America long before it was established as the United States, but an America which connects with the values of Native Americans to the Mother Earth," Kucinich told Looking Horse.
The Ohio congressman said he would work to heal the breach that exists between the government and American Indians. "There is much so healing to do," he said, noting their long suffering at the hands of the U.S. government.
Looking Horse, who gave a blessing in his native language, said America needs a president who will honor the original intent of the Constitution. "We need a person who can make a difference and bring peace and honor back to Mother Earth," he said. Looking Horse, of the Eagle Butte, S.D.-based Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, is the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations.
A diverse crowd of about 100 people, spanning all ages and ethnic groups, crowded into the hotel meeting room to hear Kucinich and Looking Horse. The crowd was entertained by "Democracy in Creation" a group of singers and dancers from Santa Cruz, Calif., touring to raise political awareness among young voters.
Jenise Hibbeler, 35, a massage therapist from Des Moines, set up a massage table in one corner of the room, giving massages to raise money for Kucinich's campaign. "There are a lot of people not feeling nurtured in the world and when you do feel nurtured you're less willing to 'GRRRR,'" Hibbeler said, growling. "He wants to nurture us as people. He truly is a loving, caring and passionate man and he really works from the heart."
Closer to the traditional homeland of the Lakota, Kucinich made a stop there as well.
Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich made several stops in Fargo Tuesday. He had breakfast at a cafe, visited a homeless shelter, and appeared on a local radio talk show. Despite a poor showing in the polls, the Ohio congressman believes he still has a shot at the party's presidential nomination.
North Dakota is one of seven states with a primary or caucus on Feb. 3. A win or strong finish on Feb. 3 might give Kucinich's campaign a needed boost. Kucinich is the fourth Democratic presidential hopeful to visit North Dakota this month. Vern Thompson, executive director of North Dakota's Democratic Party, says it's exciting to see the turnout for Kucinich and other presidential candidates who visit the state. He still thinks the field is wide open, with about three weeks before the state Democratic presidential preference caucuses. Thompson says John Kerry is making plans to come to North Dakota. He says two other presidential contenders, Joseph Lieberman and John Edwards, are waiting on early primary results before they decide.
Fargo citizen Deb Pullen says she plans to vote for Kucinich in the North Dakota caucus. "I think he stands for all the issues that I think are important," says Pullen. "I think he's a very non-egotistical, sincere candidate, who really is a public servant."
All of this effort to attract attention for Kucinich seems to be having an effect.
Dennis Kucinich is running for president, and many of the people whose automatic response once was "Who?" have a growing awareness of the candidate out in far left field. On practically every issue important to voters, Kucinich, a fourth-term congressman from Ohio, can be counted upon to have a position that most would consider extreme.
For his admirers - and many others who consider his ideas progressive but stop short of calling themselves supporters - Kucinich is an ultraliberal Democrat whose presidential candidacy is extreme in the same vein as conservative Barry Goldwater's battle cry in his 1964 bid for the White House: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." Critics accuse Kucinich of being, in their politest terms, an impractical idealist. Their harsh label is "wacky."
"That's absolutely preposterous," said David Kaler, his campaign director in Arizona. "The things he espouses are the things that this country was founded on." Kaler said he was drawn to Kucinich by the candidate's "charisma, ability to talk straight and his integrity."
More people would recognize those qualities and the validity of his views if they took time to explore them, Kaler said. "Dennis doesn't just talk generalities. He has a plan for everything, and it's all very delineated. He knows what he's talking about."
Kucinich's dedication to his work has given him a near-perfect voting record in Congress and 3-to-1 majorities of victory in his past two re-election contests in a district with substantial Republican registration. His populist appeal comes from genuine identification with blue-collar workers and the hardships faced by the "little guy," a term he has had to endure more than figuratively, given his 5-foot-7 stature.
The eldest of seven children whose Croatian father drove a delivery truck, he grew up in 21 places, including a couple of cars, by the time he ventured out on his own at age 17. He worked two and three jobs at a time to put himself through college, and in 1973 completed both his bachelor's and master's degrees in speech and communications at Case Western University. By then, Kucinich had become the boy wonder of Cleveland politics, elected at age 23 to the City Council, where he served three terms. In 1977, elected mayor at age 31, he became the youngest person ever elected to lead a major American city.
His term would be a torturous two years. Cleveland went into default on its loans as banks tried to force him to sell the city-owned electric system, and Kucinich narrowly beat back a recall attempt. He was defeated in the next election. Twenty years later, the City Council honored him for having preserved the utility.
The congressman has an estimated net worth of less than $45,000. Illustrating the breadth of his appeal, one of his leading backers is salt-of-the-earth musician Willie Nelson, and perhaps his greatest honor was receiving the 2003 Gandhi Peace Award, which in previous years has gone to such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, physicist Linus Pauling, farm workers organizer Cesar Chavez and former Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D.
If the nation at large is ready to accept the clean-sweep programs of a congressman it barely knows, the polls haven't indicated more than a blip yet.
But in the recent Iowa debate, Kucinich had a ready answer for Democrats who like his views but don't think he's electable. "Well, you know, I'm electable if you vote for me," he said.
OK, Dennis, if you say so. Now, how do you explain this little faux pas?
Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich violated House ethics rules in his bid for the presidential nomination, the Washington newspaper Roll Call reported Monday. The paper said Kucinich's campaign failed to abide by House regulations forbidding a member's campaign from immediately publicizing material released by their congressional office. The rules are designed to prevent a member of Congress from using government resources to help their political campaigns. More than three dozen press statements issued by Kucinich's House office, the newspaper said, were immediately placed on his campaign Web site. Doug Gordon, a spokesman for Kucinich's House office, acknowledged the violation after it was brought to his attention. "All the press releases that were issued out of the congressional office were directly related to issues (Kucinich) has been working on in his official duties," Gordon said. "But as soon as this was brought to our attention, the congressman instructed his campaign to remove this material from his campaign Web site," the aide told Roll Call.
The Socialists aren't too impressed with Dennis
"I believe life begins at conception, and that it doesn't end at birth."
--The Nation, May 20, 2002
IF THERE’S a candidate who’s running on his "underdog" status, it’s Dennis Kucinich. The Ohio congressman’s stance against the war on Iraq has won him the support of many activists who believe that the Kucinich campaign can take the Democratic Party back to its more liberal roots.
But Kucinich is hardly the "outsider" to U.S. politics that he claims to be. His political career began in 1969, when he was voted on to Cleveland’s city council at the age of 23.
During his long political career, he’s made quite a few twists and turns. In 1998, Kucinich voted for the Iraq Liberation Act, Bill Clinton’s call for regime change in Iraq.
During his 1996 run for Congress, he opposed same-sex unions. Now he supports them. He made a similar switcheroo on affirmative action.
But perhaps Kucinich’s most extreme turnaround is on abortion rights. While he now says that his position has "evolved" and he is for a woman’s right to choose abortion, he has a much longer record of voting to restrict abortion rights.
"People want to make sure that their president has a capacity to grow and a capacity to evolve," Kucinich explained to the San Francisco Chronicle. The danger is the he will evolve again--back the other way.
Despite the likelihood of Kucinich not scoring big anywhere in the primary season, I don't see him going away. He has just enough enthusiastic volunteer support to stay with the campaign all the way to the convention. What he manages to accomplish by this remains to be seen, but I honor his tenacity.
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