Sunday, February 16, 2003

Kucinich candidacy extremely intriguing

Apparently, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is seriously considering a run for president ["Kucinich says he wants to be president"] .
The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the progressive will announce Monday that he is forming an exploratory committee to seek the Democratic nomination.
While everyone at the newspaper is writing off Kucinich’s chances, there has been a lot of chatter about his candidacy. – the place I found this link – has been of cheerleader of Kucinich’s for years. Other progressives have also been touting his potential candidacy. The Nation published a major anti-war piece last week by the possible candidate. Even Ralph Nader might support him and everyone knows the lack of a Nader candidacy will definitely help the Democrats in 2004.
Nevertheless, the Kucinich candidacy does pose a fascinating dilemma.
The adamantly pro-peace and pro-worker candidate is also pro-life – a distinct no-no for most democratic presidential candidates over the past 20 years. Kucinich has said that although he is pro-life, it is a personal issue and not about ending abortion access for women although his voting record says otherwise.
The abortion issue is probably one of the last litmus tests left in the Democratic Party, with many religious leaders ignoring their spiritual values to politically survive. Except here in Massachusetts of course, where pro-life Democrats basically control the state legislature although most do not move beyond the local level.
However nationally, the abortion rights lobby controls the party – not unlike the pro-life lobby controlling the Republican Party. But unlike the Republicans – who allow pro-choice representatives of their party to address their conventions and have prominence – Democrats have shunned pro-lifers. In 1992, democrats refused to allow the late Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey to address the convention for fear that he might lecture them about abortion. This was a change from the days when both political positions were accepted by the rank and file.
Katha Pollitt is one progressive who has already come out against Kucinich, likening him to Republican Rep. Henry Hyde!
Personally, I would prefer to see other progressive-populist Democrats like Ohio Rep., Marcy Kaptur or even Jim Hightower run for president. Conservative populists and Reagan Democrats have a soft spot for Kaptur after her relentless pursuit of fair trade and these voters need to be drawn back into the party fold. Hightower is hilarious on the stump and how better to beat a Texan than with a Texan?
But the Kucinich candidacy makes things a little more interesting in this early presidential campaign and it might be time for the Democrats to consider forcing the abortion issue to take a backseat to other issues. For far too long, the abortion rights groups have dictated what kind of candidate the Democrats put forth much to the detriment of many other interest groups like labor, consumers, and peace activists. These groups have seen their interests ignored – even destroyed – just to preserve abortion.
Look no further than the Clinton administration which decimated unions, workers, and families because of his free/slave trade policies. Sure, women preserved their right to have an abortion by voting for Clinton/Gore. But what about the people who chose to bring their kids into the world but could not feed them because most workers are working harder and longer for less while expenses like housing and health care skyrocket? And what about the welfare moms who chose not to abort their fetuses but were basically punished for this by Clinton and Republicans because they couldn’t afford their choice? The $51 billion Mexican peso bailout in 1994 sure would have helped to stabilize some of these families if it was spent domestically.
Ideally, progressives will say, the perfect candidate would be both pro-choice and an economic populist. But tell that to a whole slew of candidates, Democrat or otherwise, who fit the bill but had their heads handed to them by the voters: Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Jerry Brown, Larry Agran, Tom Harkin, Fritz Hollings, Bruce Babbitt, Ted Kennedy, Fred Harris, etc. – the list is a very long one.
The economic rightward turn of the Democratic Party has brought it where it is today – light Republicans who are now losers. Maybe it is time to bring the party back to where it used to be. Kucinich might be that candidate to accomplish this.

No comments: