February 03, 2008

Sticking with Kucinich

Congressman Dennis Kucinich dropped out of the Democratic race for President last month. But that doesn't mean that his campaign is dead. I'm sticking with him going into the caucus here in Washington on February 9, and the primary February 19, and there are plenty of others who will also be voting for him in primaries and caucuses. In fact, supporting him is more important than ever. In my town, lawn signs for Kucinich outnumber all other candidates. Ron Paul has some and I have seen one Obama sign.

Conventional Wisdom, this week, is that the Democratic Race for President is down to Obama and Clinton and we had better choose one or the other because it will be all over soon. With many of us voting in primaries or caucuses this week, we are told that the only way to have a say in the matter is to jump on one of their bandwagons. I disagree. I think it is more important to influence the policies that the winning candidate and the party will campaign on and enact if they are elected.

In those terms, I don't see much difference in substance between the two of them. Sure Obama radiates charisma and talks of change but he seems awfully vague when it comes to specifics. Likewise Clinton has shown herself to be malleable when it comes to policy positions, drifting left and right depending on where the political advantage lies at any moment. They both fall short when they criticize aspects of the war but repeatedly vote to fund it; and in their support for NAFTA and the WTO. The funny thing is that they run counter to public opinion on both of these issues. Perhaps this is a case of the political donor class having more clout than the rest of us. Kucinich, on the other hand, represents my views very well. He favors a quick and total withdrawal from Iraq and an end to free trade agreements that send jobs overseas to countries that allow exploitation of workers and degradation of the environment for the profit of megacorporations.

I know, its a lost cause, it has always been a lost cause, but I'm not just interested in backing a winner. I want to send a message to the politicians. I may be deluded but I think that a lot of people agree with me. This country is in bad shape. We all know that. The Bush regime has screwed things up so badly that the country is desperate for an alternative. That is why the motto of the month is "Change".

Danny Westneat, writing in the Seattle Times put it succinctly, "More than any I can remember, this year's presidential race seems less about issues or actual governing than it is a mass cry for help."

So lets look at the situation. In Washington, all the Democratic delegates are chosen through caucuses. There is also a primary, but it doesn't actual determine anything, except maybe the mood of the voters. In the precinct caucuses, people divide into groups for each candidate. If there are enough Kucinich supporters there they can elect one or more delegates. Then everybody gets a chance to persuade each other to switch sides in order to achieve the best outcome possible. Any Kucinich delegates will carry a strong message of support for the issues that he has been talking about to the County Conventions, where the same process will repeat to send delegates to the State and then the National Conventions. If the race is really decided at the Convention, then Kucinich delegates may be able to use their leverage to promote their issues. In any case, support for Kucinich at all levels will be seen as support for a strong, populist, progressive stance.

The same reasoning holds for the primary. A vote for Kucinich is a vote for his positions. I fear for a Democratic party that skirts the issues the way that it has been doing. They run the risk of angering voters who put them in power in 2006 with a mandate to end the war and repudiate the Bush administration's policies. In that they have been inexplicable timid. Who could blame the voters for either turning to a so called straight shooter like McCain, or just staying home in disgust. With the country up in arms against Bush, this election is the Democrats to win, or lose.

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