Rural North Carolina Sets Example for Nation

April 19, 2004

Senator Kerry has the Democratic nomination wrapped up. I and many others for whom he was not the first choice are now working as hard as we can to win him votes. So is Dennis Kucinich. While most people never knew Kucinich was in the race, those who follow progressive politics closely know that he is STILL in it, pushing to make Kerry’s platform more progressive. What many progressives understand is that this is the politically smart move for the Democratic party.

Surveys suggest that the number of people who will register and vote for a candidate who takes a clear position for any one of the following outweighs the number who will be drawn away from Bush by quasi-Republican equivocating: 1. Ending the occupation through UN involvement and a halt to war profiteering, 2. Creating universal single-payer health care, 3. Repealing the “PATRIOT Act,” 4. Replacing NAFTA and the WTO with fair trade agreements, 5. Taxing corporations more and working people less, or 6. Creating free preschool and college. If Kucinich can push Kerry to one or more of those positions, he will have done Kerry a tremendous favor.

Kucinich can’t do that alone. He needs the help of people who understand our political system. This means not just refusing to treat the general election like a primary by voting for Nader or another third party candidate, but also refusing to treat the primaries (as most Americans have already done) like a general election by voting for whoever won the previous primary in order to show a united front. Primaries – and there are still primaries to be held, still states where people have not had a chance to speak – are the time for voting for the strongest platform. A vote for Kerry in the remaining primaries means nothing. A vote for Kucinich sends Kerry a message.

Rural North Carolina this weekend sent a message to Kerry and to those in Oregon and other states that have not yet had their say. Kucinich won Saturday’s caucus in Orange, Buncombe, and Watauga Counties, N.C. Statewide, according to unofficial early reports, Senator Edwards won his home state, followed by Kerry, Kucinich, Dean, and Sharpton. Kerry received 27 percent, but 73 percent of North Carolinian primary voters seized the opportunity to say something else. Most of those 73 percent will probably back Kerry from now on. Many of them want to also do what they can to make sure they are backing a winning candidate. The Democratic Party is not the you’re-with-me-or-you’re-with-the-terrorists party. This is the party in which people’s voices must be heard.

The Ashville Citizen-Times reports:

“Buncombe County Democrats participating in the state’s first presidential caucus Saturday came out big for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich won 643 votes, while Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina garnered 507 votes and presumptive presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts took 257. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean won 149 votes, while 15 went to the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York