By David Swanson
Congressman Dennis Kucinich is facing a tough primary in five weeks in his working class district in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s up against better funded opponents and the concerted effort of the corporate and media powers of Cleveland that have opposed him since long before he took that seat away from a Republican.
Kucinich is a progressive candidate who inspires passionate support from many in Cleveland who might not turn out to vote for a DLC Democrat. If he loses his primary, the Democrats may lose the seat. And if he loses the primary, the Democrats will, without any doubt, have lost something more valuable: their spine.
Kucinich fared poorly in the presidential primaries. But he tended to win surveys that asked about issues and then matched you up with the closest candidate. He often won post-debate polls following those debates that the corporate media allowed him to participate in. He usually finished first or second in polls conducted by progressive activist groups. And quite often, just as four years ago, his speeches won the loudest and longest applause. But, rightly or wrongly, most people who agreed with Kucinich more than any other candidate, tended (at least in the few states that decide these things) to back another candidate for president.
Whether we’re glad that Kucinich’s voice was a part of the Eternal Campaign for many months, or not, we can agree that off the election circuit for many years now Kucinich has had our backs. He has stood alone or in rare company on Capitol Hill for positions backed by 90 percent of Democrats outside the Beltway. He has been there for working people, for labor rights, for the poor, for minorities. He has been there for immigrants, for the sick, for the homeless. When he’s asked to bash immigrants, he quotes the words from the Statue of Liberty. And when he was asked to support the erosion of our rights and the build up to a fraudulent war in Iraq, he sued the President in court, published a report showing White House claims about Iraq to be lies, and organized two-thirds of the Democrats in the House to vote No.
“What would it be like,” Kucinich asked in the presidential debates, in reference to his opponents’ shifting positions on NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the invasion of Iraq, the bankruptcy bill, etc., “to have a president who is right the first time?”
Now, we have to ask ourselves what it would be like to have a Congress without anyone who is right the first time. There are other leaders in Congress, of course. There are mavericks on the right like Ron Paul, whose pro-peace supporters will understand the need to keep Kucinich in Congress and can be counted on to help with it. And there are leaders on the left. Barbara Lee stood alone against attacking Afghanistan. But no member of Congress has been as reliable a leader as Kucinich. None has come close. If the peace movement spends 2008 distracted from real action by an obsession with presidential politics, but does not get behind Kucinich’s congressional race in a national way, then we truly will have lost our bearings.
The impeachment movement has developed new leaders, including members of the House Judiciary Committee like Robert Wexler. But, as Wexler will tell you himself, Kucinich showed the way. Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney in April 2007, and again in November. Only after that second effort did others begin pushing for hearings on the topic. On Monday, the day of Bush’s last State of the Union address, Kucinich planned to introduce articles of impeachment against Bush. In fact, he has prepared a lengthy resolution containing some 50 articles of impeachment. (We can hope someone will do the same for Cheney soon, to cover the full range of his abuses as well. But it’s hard to imagine even hoping such things in a world where there is no Dennis Kucinich in Congress.)
Kucinich did not introduce the new resolution against Bush on Monday. He told me that he had been to a meeting with Chairman John Conyers and members of the Judiciary Committee last week, and that he was encouraged that they would hold hearings soon. He was choosing, he said, to give them a few weeks before pushing forward. I’m much less encouraged than Dennis is that the committee will hold hearings that will amount to anything. Whether the hearings amount to anything, I think, will depend entirely on whether they use the I word. And I think a further push from Kucinich or anyone else could only help to make that happen.
At the same time, there are concerns that go unsaid that we should be aware of. What might lead the most courageous and principled member of Congress to hesitate in taking an incredibly popular step? His party’s leadership is fiercely against it, but that’s never seemed to stop him before. What’s new, I think, is this: In five weeks Kucinich is up against a corporate funded and corporate media driven campaign to knock him out of his position, a campaign attacking his national efforts as being somehow in opposition to the needs of Clevelanders. (Try asking Clevelanders if they want impeachment, and then say that!) And, after having our backs for all these years, after being the first and sometimes only voice to speak for us in Washington, Dennis Kucinich is probably unsure whether we in turn are going to back him up. I don’t know, and this is all speculation, but I’m guessing that if any sizable fraction of the 70 percent of us who think the nation is headed in the wrong direction under Bush and Cheney were to go make a contribution at http://kucinich.us we’d be seeing articles of impeachment on the floor of the House sooner rather than later.
Or maybe Dennis is right. Many times, I know, he has been right when I was wrong. Maybe Conyers will start moving on impeachment in the next couple of weeks. Rob Kall, editor of OpEdNews.com, tells me that he asked Conyers today about impeachment, and Conyers said “Impeachment is not off the table.” Asked who was blocking it, Conyers told Kall it was not Pelosi or anyone else, it was just Conyers himself. Of course, Conyers has said both of those things for years, and they’ve meant nothing. But maybe that will change, and if it does, part of the credit has to go to the congressman who led the way.
John Conyers, like Dennis Kucinich, stood by his constituents and the people of this country for years, and was reelected time and again. Now, of course, he’s willing, like Nancy Pelosi, to refuse the cries of his voters for impeachment (Detroit and San Franciso have both passed resolutions demanding it), but many of the members of Conyers’ committee with less seniority would be doing nothing more than he is were they the chairman or chairwoman. One thing we all need to consider nationally is how we can elect someone enough times to give them enough seniority to make the key decisions in our government, and yet not allow that person to lose their integrity along the way. One easy partial answer is to keep electing those who show the most resiliency, and that means making sure Dennis Kucinich stays in Washington another two years.
Recently MSNBC rewrote its criteria specifically to exclude Kucinich from a presidential debate. Doing so exposed the pretense that such decisions are always based on cold hard numbers. Five years ago, the media’s attack on Kucinich’s first presidential run began before the candidates could be differentiated by polls or money. Kucinich has been the fiercest opponent of media conglomeration on Capitol Hill, and the media has responded in kind. He’s also been one of the most effective challengers of the corporate media’s corruption of political discourse. The loudest applause I recall in any presidential debate during the 2004 campaign came when Kucinich told Ted Koppel:
“I can tell you, Ted, you know, we started at the beginning of this evening, talking about an endorsement. Well, I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country. To start with endorsements…
“We start talking about endorsements, now we’re talking about polls, and then we’re talking about money. Well, you know, when you do that, you don’t have to talk about what’s important to the American people. Ted, I’m the only one up here that actually…
“… I’m the only up here on the stage that actually voted against the PATRIOT Act and voted against the war-the only one on this stage. I’m also…
“… I’m also one of the few candidates up here who’s talking about taking our health-care system from this for-profit system to a not-for-profit, single-payer universal health care for all.
“I’m also the only one who has talked about getting out of NAFTA and the WTO and going back to bilateral trade…
“… conditioned on workers’ rights, human rights, and the environment. Now…”
KUCINICH: … I may be inconvenient for some of those in the media, but, you know, I’m sorry about that.
(THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE, and Koppel looking like he’d swallowed a lizard).
I can hear you applauding again, brothers and sisters. Let’s not be springtime patriots. Let’s not just cheer for good lines and go home. Let’s not accept the transference of all power to the executive branch and look only at the presidential race, forgetting the leading defender of the power that the Constitution gave to the legislature.
If you care about keeping in Congress someone with the vision needed to reverse global warming, if you care about peace, if you care about jobs or health care, if you care about the rule of law, if you care about the freedoms established by the Bill of Rights, give what you can today to http://kucinich.us