Why Dennis Kucinich is Second-Tier

You know, I would love
to live in a place where all people have principles; where no one is judged
based on what they look like; where a person’s qualifications are evaluated
objectively, and where every single human being tries their best to put the best
person in charge, no matter what.


For better for worse,
however, I live in the real world.Kucinich1


I was watching Larry
King the other night, when his guest was Bill Maher. Now Bill Maher, whether I
agree with him or not, is one of the most insightful commentators on
television. Late in the program, a caller asked them why no one takes Dennis
Kucinich seriously. Maher was dumbstruck, and merely suggested that people
should consider people like Kucinich seriously, and left it at that.


I have little doubt
that the caller hung up her phone, sighed heavily, crossed her arms and
muttered "harumph." In conversations with other "true
believer" liberals, she probably referred to the American people as
"sheeple," or otherwise considered the general public as
"stupid." It’s also very possible this woman, who likely thinks of
herself as "politically astute," voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.


The answer to her
question, of course, is deceptively simple, and even she would understand it,
if she allowed herself to think the right way.


Put simply, it’s not
the people who vote for the most popular, most "electable" candidates
who are the "sheeple." It’s the people who can’t understand why
Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have mass appeal.


Oh, my gosh! How can
I, a liberal, possibly say such a thing? As a liberal, shouldn’t I be voting my
"conscience?" Shouldn’t I vote for the candidate who best reflects my


Yes, I should. But
only among those folks who can WIN. That’s why my choice for president in 2008
will be either Clinton, Edwards or Obama (alphabetical order; don’t read
anything into that). They can win. Kucinich cannot. Therefore, even if I agreed
with everything Dennis Kucinich says he stands for, I wouldn’t cast a vote for
him in a primary race.


So, what’s wrong with
Kucinich, you ask? Is it because he’s short and has jug ears? No, not at all.
Ross Perot, if he adn’t gone batshit in 1992, was somewhat electable, and
Kucinich doesn’t look any sillier than him. Kucinich’s looks have nothing to do
with why he’s not electable. He’s unelectable because he doesn’t come off as a
leader. It’s sad but true; when voters are electing a leader, they actually do
tend to assess one’s perceived leadership ability. Kucinich demonstrates none.


I like most of
Kucinich’s stands on the issues. The problem is, he knows he’s going to lose
big, no matter how often he gets on tv and says he’s going to win, so he can
say any damn thing he wants. Seriously; he can hate NAFTA all he wants, and
want to eliminate it, but it’s not happening, because he can’t eliminate it as
president. He can want to eliminate lobbyists from Congress all he wants, but
presidents have no say with regard to lobbyists in Congress. He’s not going to
single-handedly wipe out all health insurance companies and institute a
single-payer health care system, no matter how much he wants one. He can’t
singlehandedly roll back tax rates and eliminate the deficit, either.


Note that the
"top-tier" candidates promise to do much of the above, as well. The
difference is, you get a sense from Clinton, Edwards and Obama that they
actually CAN do much of that. Why? Because they listen. They listen to the
people around the country, and they listen to Congress and its membership.
Kucinich doesn’t.


Kucinich and Nader
both suffer from the same affliction; they think they know better than farmers,
the best way to save the agricultural sector of the economy. They think they
know better than workers what workers need from the government. They think they
are better able to deal with racial issues than black and brown people. Listen
to the rhetoric from both of them; they are anti-corporate, despite the fact
that the vast majority of voters work for corporations and depend on them for
their living.


In short, they’re
arrogant. Being sure of your views is a good thing; being strident in them is
not. Dennis Kucinich is a great guy. He understands the root problems in the
country, and he seems interested in solving them. The problem is, he’s already
chosen one method for solving each one, and has done so without consulting with
the people in any significant way. This is why he’s a second-tier candidate;
even if he’s right on an issue (and he’s right on most of them), he has to
relate the solution to the most people in order to get elected. He has not done
that. It’s not enough to say we need to eliminate NAFTA and stop the
outsourcing of jobs overseas; there are a lot of people who actually make a lot
of money from NAFTA, or who work for companies that depend on NAFTA for their
income. It’s not enough to say we need more community policing and civilian
review boards, and that we have to deny police departments federal funds if
they engage in racial profiling. Besides the obvious fact that most people are
uncomfortable with that level of federal involvement in their local police
department, who gets to decide what constitutes "enough" community
policing, and who gets to decide the make up of the civilian review board? What
if your police department has an exemplary record in all ways without those
things; is the government going to force the issue?


Even on the issue of
Iraq, Kucinich fails to articulate his vision for the region. Yes, I know he
has a 12-point plan, and it’s not just a "blink your eyes and we’re
out" type of plan, but that’s how it’s articulated to the average voter,
whether he means it that way or not. Blurting out that "we have to cut off
funding" is just too simplistic fro the average voter, who wants
desperately to support the troops. First of all, it’s naïve in the extreme to
think that you can just cut off funding now, and suddenly end the war. There
has been enough appropriated already, that it’s likely that Bush could keep
things going for a year or more, even if not one more dime is appropriated for
Iraq. There is also a fear among voters, and it’s not unfounded, that if the
money were cut off, the first thing Bush would cut is troop support, while
fully funding his mercenaries and contractor buddies. So, when you declare that
all funds should be cut off immediately, because you think that’s what should
happen, is seen by many voters as too extreme. A majority of Americans want to
end the "war." They do not, however, want anyone to do anything that
might harm the troops. The top-tier candidates get that, and even a few of the
second-tier candidates get it. Kucinich does not.


Honestly, there is a
plethora of good Democratic candidates this year, and the top three are the
best I’ve seen in years. And I think Dennis Kucinich does a great service by
running for president this year. He represents the conscience of the left side
of the Democratic Party. But if you want to know why he can’t win, it’s because
he does not present himself as a leader. For that matter, a large portion of
the left seems to be clueless about politics, and it’s frustrating as hell.
(More on that in an upcoming column.) For now, understand that it is absolutely
crucial that the right be shut out of the next two or three elections, if not
longer, and it is not time to demand an immediate switch from far right to far
left. It is more important that a good candidate is electable this time, which
is why Clinton, Edwards and Obama are our best hope…

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