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Kucinich Backers Aren't Kidding
Nicholas Johnson
Des Moines Register, Opinion: "Iowa View"
July 21, 2003
p. 7A

NOTE: You'll also want to see Nicholas Johnson's "Another Iowan for Kucinich" page,

“Not only can Dennis Kucinich win the presidency, he just may be the only Democrat who can,” say his supporters.

They’ve got to be kidding, right?

But Kucinich supporters aren’t kidding. And Democrats best listen to their reasons, and their candidate. Activists, Washington insiders, and political reporters ignore them at their peril.

Is Kucinich a sure thing? Of course not. Sure things don’t exist in politics.

Such tactics have worked – at least for the winners. But at a price. They so alienate the eligible electorate that half don’t vote. Polls reveal a majority correctly perceives Washington cares more about corporate keepers than  citizen constituents.
Kucinich supporters argue this won’t cut it in 2004. Conventional politics, compromises, and corporate contributions can’t win. Why would voters choose an imitation Republican when they can vote for Bush, the real thing?

They emphasize each Kucinich victory – mayor of Cleveland, state senator, and congressman – involved an “unbeatable” Republican. He took a 34 percent Democratic district and won with 49 percent, was re-elected with 65 and now 74 percent. Colleagues voted him chair of the largest caucus in the House. Clearly he has a record of winning – and winning over – with Republicans and Democrats alike.

Unlike the others, Kucinich’s positions are a stark contrast to Bush. He is the only one advocating defense spending cuts, single-payer health care for all, public education pre-K through college, public funding of campaigns, signing Kyoto and other treaties, and repeal of the death penalty, NAFTA and the Patriot Act. He organized the two-thirds House Democratic opposition to the Iraq war resolution Congressman Dick Gephardt drafted and most of his Senate competitors supported.

The media think former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is “liberal.” But on some issues he acknowledges he’s to the right of Bush. Both support the death penalty and defense spending increases. Both like profit-driven health-care systems. Both like NAFTA and question Kyoto. Both have NRA support. Dean’s “opposition” to the Iraq war was his proposed 60-day delay before attacking.

Will a majority support all of Kucinich’s positions? Of course not. The majority of Iowans didn’t support all of Gov. Harold Hughes’ positions, either. So why was he so popular? Iowans knew he spoke from the heart and admired his honesty.

If Democrats would unambiguously speak to and serve their natural constituency – those earning under $200,000 – they could win in a walk, say Kucinich backers. They say Democrats need to energize the non-voters. Is it possible? In 1984 and 1988 Jesse Jackson registered three million and Democrats won back the Senate. It’s more than possible, it has been done.

The Kucinich supporters’ secret weapon, they claim, is their candidate. They say, “A Dean supporter is a Democrat who hasn’t yet heard Dennis speak.” Those who have are often moved emotionally. They comment about his courage, compassion and commitment -- and their hunger for his vision of hope and inspiration.

I haven’t seen anything like it since Robert Kennedy.

What if they’re right, and thinking outside the box is the only way to get inside the White House? At a minimum, those trying to trivialize and marginalize Kucinich do the Democrats no favor.

NICHOLAS JOHNSON, who formerly served on the Federal Communications Commission, is evalating Democrats' choices from his home in Iowa City.