My last post caught the attention of some Kucinich supporters and quickly garnered the most comments that I have received in a single day…um…4 from 3 different commenters. Obviously, it wasn’t something that was hotly circling the web, but it was a busy post by my standards.
So, as long as I am receiving a trickle of traffic from Kucinich supporters such as this one, I feel that it would be a good idea to explain my reasons for not supporting Dennis Kucinich. That way, the next time a Kucinich supporter such as Tom calls me a “tool of the mass media”, they can actually have substance to back that assertion up.
I will start out by saying that I do not find Kucinich to be outright distasteful and I don’t think that he should be marginalized from the debates as he has been. Candidates for a public office should have an even forum to express their views and share why they think themselves worthy for the job, regardless of their fundraising or current popularity.
But I do think there are some serious issues with Kucinich’s candidacy. The first and most obvious one is tactical: Kucinich would get shredded in a general election. While Kucinich’s positions are favorable to the left-wing of the Democratic Party, they will not appeal to some of the more moderate sections of the Democratic Party and certainly not independents or Republicans. While Bush’s lack of popularity means that the 2008 election is the Democrats’ to lose, the tide would most certainly turn back in the Republicans’ favor if Kucinich were to win the primary election.
If you want a more concrete example of the issues Kucinich would lose on, take some where I agree with him in at least a few ways. He and I both support same-sex marriage. But there is a large swath of the population, some of which are in the Democratic Party, who are strongly opposed to it. According to this CBS News article, a majority of Americans favor an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting gay marriage. So, as it stands now, a candidate favoring same-sex marriage will have difficulty in the general election.
But it’s not just gay marriage that would bring him down in a general election. The fact that he’s a vegan, his single-payer health plan, and that he has consistently voted against funding the Iraq War (something I opposed from the start as well) will further serve the interests of his Republican opponent. Using these positions and his words, Republicans would easily paint Kucinich as a “socialist hippie peacenik”. In fact, they could probably go without running a single dishonest negative ad (which, in reality, they would run vigorously) and still win the election by a landslide, perhaps taking the House and Senate with them. A vote for Kucinich in the primary is a vote for the Republican Party in the general election.
A second aspect that drives me away from supporting Kucinich is that he doesn’t seem to have a pragmatic bone in his body…he is an ardent ideologue. While parts of his ideology may be similar to mine such has his opposition to the War in Iraq, which I remember protesting before it started, and his stance on same-sex marriage as well as his basic view of equal treatment under the law, I know that unless one is willing to compromise, those stances are meaningless, because most of them won’t get past Congress.
He may try to put forward a single-payer universal health plan, but given the colossal failure of a much less radical plan forwarded by Hillary Clinton during the first term of the Clinton administration, which still kept the private insurance business in the picture after being branded by some as “socialist”, it’s hard to see a single-payer plan, which really is socialist (though not necessarily bad), passing through Congress. It is true that there is more need for health care reform than there was during the Clinton years, which means that it is more likely that a compromise plan such as those of Barack Obama or John Edwards will pass, but a single-payer plan would be dead as soon as it was drafted.
A good President should be able to justly represent the whole nation, not just those who voted for him. This is something the Bush administration hasn’t done, and it’s something that I cannot see a Kucinich administration doing either (though Kucinich would probably be listening to the people Bush didn’t). That weakens the faith I have in him as a potential leader.
Lastly, there are issues where I disagree with Kucinich. One of the things he wants to do is withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. This is a rather extreme position that caters to elements in unions, environmentalist groups, and human rights groups. This is not to say that the interest these groups have in bringing down free trade agreements isn’t worth attention, but the idea of withdrawing from NAFTA and the WTO seems to be folly.
We should perhaps modify the terms of NAFTA and change our stances when we go before the WTO, but trade is something that helps both the US economy and the economies of those with whom we trade. Withdrawing from those organizations is not in US interest because it hurts our economy and goes further to weaken the world economy, which makes other countries less stable.
In the end, I think that Kucinich is not running for President…instead he is running his issues before the nation to help promote a discussion of items we have missed as a result of poor campaign finance regulation, lack of government transparency, and lack of voter confidence in government. It’s good that he points out issues such as the wrongful banning of hemp, the non-drug cousin to marijuana, as well as some of this nation’s silly attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
Being a sideline candidate for President in a primary election might not give you a “bully pulpit” as Teddy Roosevelt called it, but it is a good pulpit and I hope that Kucinich continues to use it in the elections to come. However, I will not vote for him because I see a much better candidate in Barack Obama, who has a good chance of winning a general election, has a good pragmatic instinct that gets done what needs to be done, and gives a good showing on the issues that matter to me.
If these issues make me a “tool of the mass media” then so be it.