Kucinich for President
February 5 Election Endorsements
by MARK GABRISH CONLAN, Editor
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
It’s hard to believe that California is actually going to have three elections this year — a February 5 Presidential primary (whose ballot has also been loaded up with seven, count ’em, seven propositions), a regular primary for state and local offices in June and the general election in November. (Is it really that far away?) Jealous that tiny states like Iowa and New Hampshire have such a disproportionate impact in who gets the major-party Presidential nominations, California and a lot of other states moved their votes to February 5 — only all that accomplished was to stretch out the entire process, to the point where we will almost certainly know who both the Republican and Democratic candidates are on February 6 and we will probably be excruciatingly bored with both of them by the time we finally get a chance to choose between them nine months later. It’s amazing that France can elect its president in two months, and it takes us two years.
Meanwhile, we’ve been subjected to so many televised “debates” between the candidates of each major party that one editorial cartoonist joked that a good, nonviolent way to torture the detainees at Guantánamo would be to force them to watch them all. The Republican debates in particular have been bizarre spectacles that if nothing else have shown just how far this country has moved to the Right since Richard Nixon and George Wallace got 57 percent of the vote between them in the 1968 election and established the modern conservative majority that has won all but three of the Presidential elections since. The candidates have fallen over themselves trying to see who can be tougher on “illegal” immigration, who can cut more taxes and who can pledge more loyal support to whatever the U.S. is trying to do in the Iraq war. The fact that one of these people might well be the next President is getting scarier and scarier with each debate.
There’s a basic difference in the attitude of national Republicans and national Democrats towards their parties’ bases: the hard-core supporters who generally turn out most of the volunteers, small contributions and word-of-mouth for their candidates. The Republicans coddle their base while the Democrats all too often give theirs the finger, abandoning liberal or progressive principles at the drop of a poll point and insisting that we have to be “reasonable,” “realistic,” “moderate” and realize that “the country has moved Right” — as if America’s political tendencies were like tectonic plates slipping and sliding over each other independent of human influence or activity.
America did not “move Right.” It was moved Right by a determined cadre of conservative activists and their funders, who mounted a campaign right after Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964 to transform the American electorate and make it possible for someone with Goldwater’s politics and ideology to win. They achieved that 16 years later with Ronald Reagan, and their ideas and platforms have dominated American politics ever since. No progressive turnaround will ever occur until people on our side show the same level of dedication, determination and persistence as the Right’s activists have, and until we get at least a competitive level of funding to them, and until the Right’s bad stewardship of the state generates a catastrophe at least at the level of the economic collapse in 1929.
This isn’t a time for progressives, liberals and Leftists to continue ‘compromising” in the name of finding “electable” candidates. It’s a time for us to state our ideas boldly, unashamedly, proudly. That’s why, as we did in 2004, Zenger’s is endorsing Dennis Kucinich for President: because he’s spent his entire political career doing just that. On every significant issue except one, Kucinich has been on the progressive side since he first emerged as a Cleveland city councilmember and then as its youngest-ever mayor in the 1970’s — and on that one, women’s right to reproductive choice, he changed to a pro-choice position in the early 2000’s after (I think) realizing that his previous opposition to abortion was inconsistent with the rest of his agenda.
I’m not interested in conditioning my primary vote on “electability.” The fact is, despite President Bush’s low poll numbers and the Democratic Congressional victories in 2006, this remains a profoundly conservative country and the Democrats will have an uphill battle to regain the White House and keep Congress next year. The worst candidate the Democrats could possibly nominate, Hillary Clinton, would still be better than the best candidate the Republicans could nominate, Ron Paul. All three of the so-called “top-tier” Democratic candidates — Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards — have significant faults that will hinder them in a general election:
Hillary Clinton. I already discussed her flaws extensively two months ago in my November 2007 editorial, “Hillary: Democrats’ Death Wish.” Since then, polls have listed her negative ratings with the American people as between 46 and 50 percent; and, even more ominously, in one poll 40 percent of the respondents said she was the candidate they would most want to prevent from becoming President. With those kinds of negatives, it will be almost impossible for her to be elected — or, even if by some fluke she is elected, she won’t be able to govern effectively with so much of the population viscerally hating her.
Barack Obama. I don’t mind his inexperience — that was what they said about John Kennedy as well. (Technically, Kennedy had been in the U.S. Senate longer than Obama has when he ran for President in 1960, but he’d been ill through so much of his term they had about the same amount of “face time” on the floor.) What concerns me about him is his willingness to “compromise,” to look for “common ground,” to attempt to appease his Republican enemies. He’s even broached the possibility of appointing a Republican as his running mate. That’s not what I want in a Democratic nominee; I want a Democrat who’ll be our side’s version of George W. Bush — implacable, determined, willing to settle for half a loaf but not to offer to give up half the loaf in the first place. Republicans play politics as a blood sport; Democrats still think the Marquis of Queensbury rules are in effect — and that’s why Republicans keep winning elections and, even if they don’t, still run the agenda the way President Bush has been able to get just about everything he wanted in 2007 just as he did the past six years when his own party controlled Congress.
John Edwards. Of the three “top-tier” candidates, he’s at least vocally the most progressive — he’s willing to address poverty and class as issues while the other major candidates in both parties pretend they don’t exist — and he’s a Southerner, like the last three Democrats who actually won Presidential elections (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton). But the Right-wing attack machine has already done such a heavy number on him that when I watch him on TV it’s hard for me to concentrate on what he’s saying because I’m too busy looking at his hair — and his connections with tax-evading, job-destroying hedge funds makes it hard for him to do his neo-populist tribune-of-the-people act.
There are some fascinating people in the rest of the Democratic field. I liked the way Bill Richardson handled the non-issue of drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants — stating forthrightly that as governor of New Mexico, he’d pushed through that issue at the recommendation of his law-enforcement people, and it had been good for public safety just like his police people had said it would be. I’m also surprised that the people who are embracing Hillary Clinton for her “experience” in foreign policy aren’t looking harder at Joe Biden, who’s had far more experience — 26 years in the Senate, including chairing the Foreign Relations Committee — and what’s more, he’s actually made decisions himself instead of simply being around while his spouse was making them. And the almost un-discussed Mike Gravel has been a hero of mine since he courageously stepped up to read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record in 1971.
But I’m sticking with Dennis Kucinich because he’s on the right side of virtually every issue I care about, from Queer rights (after a lifetime of support for our community, he voted against the corrupt “compromise” version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that eliminated protection for Transgender people) to health care (his support for a single-payer system indicates that he, unlike the so-called “major” candidates, realizes that the only way we’re ever going to afford universal coverage in this country is to take the money for it out of the swollen profits of the health insurance industry) to his support of impeachment proceedings against both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney at a time when the Democrats at the head of Congress were proclaiming impeachment “off the table.” He’s not going to be President any more than his opposite number on the Republican side, Ron Paul, is; but the more votes Kucinich gets in the primaries, the more progressive delegates there will be on the floor of the Democratic convention to hold the party to account and keep it from its destructive practice of trying to be Republican lite.
The California Propositions
No fewer than seven ballot measures will be on the ballot in California along with the Presidential primary. One, Proposition 91, offers the bizarre spectacle of the original sponsors using the “argument for” section in the ballot pamphlet to urge people to vote against it on the ground that last year’s Proposition 1A (which we opposed) did the same thing: it restricted California gas taxes to transportation-related projects. Given the meltdown of the California housing market, which has taken the state budget with it, the last thing we need is more restrictions on the governor and legislature as to what money can be spent on what. Vote NO.
Also vote NO — albeit more reluctantly — on Proposition 92, which would give community colleges the same kind of guaranteed slice of the state budget K-12 schools have now. It was a bad idea then and it still is. Proposition 92 has sparked a food fight between the teachers’ unions, but the main reason to vote against it is that ballot-box budgeting is a bad idea and needs to stop.
A reluctant NO on Proposition 93 as well. This is a sneaky device by the Democratic leadership in the legislature to get around term limits by slicing the number of years a state legislator can serve from 14 to 12 — but allowing them all to be in the same house. For the people who wrote it, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (who’s recently reminded us, in case we ever doubted it, that Democrats can be just as corrupt as Republicans in taking money and favors from corporate special interests), it’ll actually allow them to serve longer than they would have under current law.
Proposition 93 was put on the ballot as part of a deal by which the Democrats agreed to put a redistricting reform on the ballot as well. The last time legislative districts were redrawn in California, they were designed so meticulously to protect incumbents that virtually no district ever changes its representative from a Republican to a Democrat, or vice versa. This is not democracy; it’s a two-party oligarchy that (among other things) allows a small cabal of Republicans in the legislature to hold the state budget hostage for nearly two months without fear of retribution from the voters. The fact that Democrats reneged on redistricting reform and put this self-serving measure on the ballot anyway shows where their real priorities are — not the welfare of California but keeping themselves in power. It deserves to be rejected on both practical and moral grounds.
A reluctant YES on Propositions 94 through 97, which would expand Indian gaming in California by allowing four new casinos to open. Yes, there are problems with the expansion of Indian gaming — not only that it encourages compulsive gambling but environmental and labor issues as well (and the fact that the tribes with casinos haven’t always lived up to their initial promise that some of their profits would go to help out the tribes without them), but these measures will bring badly needed money into the state’s coffers, and in a time of severe budget crisis we need all the help we can get.