Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Kucinich says "follow my words, not my ideals"

The Iowa caucuses held many shocks for the Dean campaign back in 2004, few more than the last-second decision of long-short (okay, no-shot) candidate Dennis Kucinich to tell his supporters to caucus for Edwards on the second ballot. Given how diffuse and low Kucinich's support was -- a respectable but ultimately useless good 2-3% -- he was rarely viable, but his support made a difference to the final totals for the Edwards campaign. Of course, at this time Edwards was firmly in support of the Iraq war (unlike Dean or Kucinich), was wishy-washy on health care reform (unlike Dean or Kucinich), and had no record to speak of supporting equal rights for gays or lesbians (unlike Dean or Kucinich). Although it was not a complete changeover, the body of Kucinich's supporters did go to Edwards as instructed. Now, I don't fully blame Kucinich's supporters, as they were told that doing so would help Kucinich. I do blame the man himself, though. Maybe being a big shot for a couple of hours helped his ego, but I didn't notice big changes in Edwards' speeches after the Kucinich thumbs up.

So now it's 2008. Edwards has moved much to the left, making progress on gay rights, apologizing for his war vote, and bringing back economic populism. He's not as extreme as lil' Dennis, but he's much closer to Kucinich's positions. And lo and behold, Dennis can't pass up the attention that comes with making another move. So he announces that...he will once again bypass an ideological confrere in favor of the flavor of the week, this time Obama. Obama, who is currently racking up a great record of attacking trial lawyers, rolling out a health care policy that (unlike Edwards and Kucinich) doesn't cover all, imitating Republican God-speak, touring with anti-gay performers in order to rack up votes, and promising a new age of consensus and agreement with this pack of torture-loving hyperpartisans.

I'd like to believe that Kucinich does this repeatedly because he's been given promises that we don't know about and never end up being kept. Heck, I'd be satisfied to learn that he just doesn't understand his rivals' positions. But it's hard to see this as anything other than an ego thing.

I'd gather that the idea of running a no-chance campaign for presidency, ignoring one's district for months, is to at least influence the conversation by injecting your ideas and issues into the conversation, as Tom Tancredo marginally did. Then, if you're going to make a move toward another candidate -- and this is the tricky part -- you usually pick somebody with whom you generally agree.

Now, I haven't heard much about cancelling NAFTA, banning handguns, or establishing a "Department of Peace" this year. I haven't heard a candidate consider, or even forcefully refute this idea. So much for moving the debate.

Frankly, Kucinich has lowered his credibility to Naderite levels by consistently using what little power he's built up to get in the way of achieving what he states are his goals. If you're tired of this routine, I'd point you to someone who agrees, and is ready to do something about it.

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