Dennis Kucinich ran for President in 2004, and garnered at best 17 percent of the vote in the state primaries. He is back in the running for 2008, but the question remains: what does Kucinich think he has to offer that we haven’t seen before?
Kucinich was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1946. He was the eldest of seven kids, and the family moved around a lot as he was growing up, even living out of their car on occasion. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a MA in 1973. He was elected to the Cleveland City Council in 1969, and ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. He lost the election, but ran again in 1974…when he also lost. Undeterred, Kucinich was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977. It was a controversial tenure, with the most glaring spotlight coming with his refusal to sell Cleveland’s municipal power company to a private industry competitor. In his staunch determination to not back down on this issue (one of his campaign promises), he refused to accept the ultimatum of six banks who threatened not to renew credit on Cleveland’s loans unless he capitulated. The end result: Cleveland was the first American city to go into bankruptcy since the Great Depression. He survived (barely) a mayoral recall, but was voted out of office by a landslide with the next election.
After close to five years of wandering, and difficulty finding employment due to his reputation as the mayor who went into default, he returned to Cleveland in 1983 and managed to win a seat back on to the council. The difference was that now people were beginning to see the benefits of his choice as mayor:
In 1993, then-Cleveland Mayor Michael White cited Kucinich’s “wisdom” in not selling the utility, and in 1998 the council honored the deposed mayor for having the “courage and foresight” to stand up to the banks. The utility, now known as Cleveland Public Power, provides low-cost electricity that saved the city an estimated $195 million between 1985 and 1995. One of the new buildings in its expanded plant is named for Kucinich.
In 1994 Kucinich made it to the Ohio state Senate seat, and in 1996 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he remains today. He made an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 2004, and on December 11, 2006 announced his intentions to run for President in 2008.
Kucinich has earned for himself the reputation of being a man guided by his inspiration and his ambition. He has been variously labeled as loopy, pugnacious, mystical, and visionary. His history is certainly that of a man who is willing to stand behind his dreams and relentlessly fight to see them realized, and he is not at all shy about laying out those dreams in sparkling color for everyone else to see.
Developing the Vision
Of all the candidates thus far in the running, Kucinich has one of the longest political histories and one of the most clearly elucidated visions. He claims to comprehend the systems of power from the national to the local, and believes that the nation which was not ready to hear his message in 2004 is ready to hear it now.
Kucinich’s vision is well established both in his voting record and his own words. Domestically, he envisions an America made strong through rational policy. All children will be given the opportunity to begin public preschool at age three, and all children will be given the opportunity to attend public college. Drugs will be legalized (and rehabilitation centers will replace our overcrowded jail cells), and gun fatalities will become a thing of the past, due to the fact that people simply will not want or need guns anymore for anything other than recreation, and potential gun owners will be carefully evaluated for their competency. The death penalty will be abolished, and mercy will rise again in our courts, which will no longer be clogged and overworked due to the reduction in nonviolent crimes prosecuted.
Our unionized workers will contribute their efforts to environmentally conscious businesses which will pay fair wages, care for their employees, and be required to shut down to allow everyone to vote on election day (along with, perhaps, offering free tai chi classes and lunch break massages and meditation). Health care will be universally available, and will support not only allopathic but also alternative therapies. Locally grown, organic produce will grace every table as our people become strong and healthy again (meat will not be an issue, as everyone will have realized the moral turpitude associated with carnivorism, and will have become vegan). Oil dependency will be replaced by a wide range of alternative energy resources, improving the lives of American citizens while releasing us from some of our more contentious strategic efforts abroad. Abortion will remain every woman’s choice, though the necessity for it will lessen due to an increased awareness of both the advantages of abstinence and the availability of various means of birth control. Homosexual couples will finally attain the same rights as other couples in love, and we will all reclaim our rights as American citizens to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects. Injustice, inequality, hatred, illness, and insanity will fade into the unfortunate past as we embrace the calmer, more peaceful, and more governmentally regulated possibilities.
On the international scale, war will become a thing of the past. We will negotiate in solidarity with other nations and take up our heavy role as the leader of peace and democracy in the world. We will work to correct injustice and inequality wherever we find it, addressing terrorism at its roots, rather than continually combating its symptoms.
From our new position of affluence and respect, we will reach out to aid those less fortunate than ourselves. We will join with other nations in endorsing the Kyoto Protocol, the Biodiversity Treaty, the Forest Protection Treaty, the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Landmine Ban Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the International Criminal Court, and others. Efforts to discourage other nations from actions which are considered damaging to the international community will be confronted on an international level, through the United Nations and other alliances. The United States will, however, withdraw from the WTO and NAFTA, for the sake of preserving its sovereign right to determine for itself what is best for its own workers. In short, we will stand tall and proud in our own accomplishments, while opening our arms to the rest of the world.
It is a beautiful vision, replete with scenes of love, peace, and harmony. The question remains, however, whether the United States is yet ready to embrace it. Perhaps The Smiths said it best back in 1987 when Morrissey crooned, “…maybe in the next world, maybe in the next world…”
Or perhaps, as Dennis Kucinich believes, the time is now
Note: This article is part of a series examining the visions of America presented by the 2008 Presidential candidates. The necessity for such a series is explored here, and an exploration of Rudy Giuliani can be found here