Cillizza lists Dennis Kucinich as one of the winners of the AFL-CIO debate and writes:
Give Kucinich his due: he was great last night. Of course, unlike the rest of the candidates on stage, Kucinich is not bound by concerns over saying something that might make him unelectable in a primary or general election. His miniscule chance of winning frees him to speak his mind on the war in Iraq, NAFTA, health care and anything else he is asked about. Kucinich continues to play the happy warrior in this race, delivering his plans and criticisms of his rivals with a smile on his face. Also, you’ve gotta love a candidate who eggs the crowd on repeatedly at the end of his answers.
Now, Cillizza doesn’t specify what was great about Kucinich. Did Kucinich’s positions (none of which differed from the positions he’s held and expressed for years) please Cillizza or the crowd or both? The one thing we do know is that they pleased the crowd. Kucinich didn’t get asked as many questions as the media’s preferred candidates, but he did receive as much applause, probably the most applause of any of them. This was aided by Keith Olbermann actually asking a direct question of all the candidates (would they scrap NAFTA or keep it). Kucinich was the only candidate who said he’d pull the United States out of NAFTA. He’s been saying this for years, although a number of TV commentators appeared to hear it for the first time. The crowd went nuts, a crowd of the sort of people who vote in Democratic primaries and general elections. Moreover, getting out of NAFTA is a majority position or close to it, depending on which poll you believe. If you break it down by party, getting out of NAFTA is a strong majority position for Democrats. And Democrats are, believe it or not, the people who vote for Democratic candidates in general elections as well as primaries.
So, what has Cillizza done? He’s taken a candidate who intends to be elected president and who is as high in the polls as some of the other more corporate friendly candidates on the stage, and pretended that he doesn’t really want to win. Then when Kucinich says something that the crowd cheers for, but that the acceptable candidates, by definition, won’t say, Cillizza claims that Kucinich could only say this because he is (at least in Cillizza’s fantasy) not a serious candidate. And Cillizza argues, by implication, that what a crowd cheers for is what voters will not vote for, even though the crowd is made up of Democratic voters. In fact a quarter of US voters, and closer to half of Democratic voters, are union members and their families. The insult to them in Cillizza’s twisted thinking is more severe than that to Kucinich.