Friday, January 25, 2008

Adieu, Kucinich

I don't really know why Dennis Kucinich was running for President this go-around. I can understand the rationale behind his quixotic '04 effort, but this time ... not so much. John Edwards' shift to a more firebrand mode of progressive populism really pushed whatever Kucinich had to say off into the wings and away from the media spotlight. He never really had much of a ground operation -- or any, really -- and I haven't seen a single commercial on TV or the web, which basically meant his campaign was about one thing and one thing only: using the debates to promote his agenda. So when Kucinich started getting barred from the debates, there was wasn't really any reason to continue.

All of which begs the question: is this the last we'll see of Dennis Kucinich? Almost certainly, at least on such a high profile national stage:

Kucinich didn't say so, but the real reason he's dropping out now (instead of hanging around through the convention, as he did in '04) is because his Congressional seat is now imperiled. He faces four primary challengers on March 4, but one of them stands out from the rest: Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who has some name recognition, lots of money, and some key machine support. Not coincidentally, it was just a week ago that Frank Jackson, the mayor of Cleveland, endorsed Cimperman over Kucinich in the primary.

Kucinich has earned the wrath of many voters and establishment Democratic figures in Cleveland for spending so much time pursuing—with very limited success—a role on the national stage while clinging to his day job as the city's voice in the U.S. House. His second White House bid has been particularly detrimental on the local level because he promised in his '06 re-election campaign not to run for president in 2008.

All politics is local, am I right?

Kucinich will likely survive this current challenge, but as penance he will have to focus on Cleveland for a while.

As well-intentioned as Kucinich may be his solutions for some of the country's most profound problems tend to be, well, problematic. Take his perfectly reasonable desire to enhance the United States' image abroad. Great idea -- now, how do go about doing that? With the creation of cabinet-level Department of Peace ...

Ahhhh, no.

The U.S. already has a massive bureaucracy in place to do that sort of thing, only the rest of the country calls it the Department of State. It's one thing to re-jigger*** reconfigure an existing organization, it's another thing all together to bring forth a new Department from thin air. Just ask the fine folks at DHS ... if you can find them.

Last time around Kucinich parlayed his fame into getting remarried. This time around he's given the American public the genuinely priceless UFO moment. I'm sure he enjoyed 2004 much more. I'd like to say that Kucinich ran his campaign with more heart than either brains, brawn or money, but, really, he didn't run much of a campaign at all this cycle. To the best of my knowledge, Kucinich's campaign coffers were used primarily for an expensive New Hampshire primary recount that did him good at all (to the tune of $27,000) and suing NBC for excluding him from the Nevada debates. I'm sure he needed airplane tickets and hotel accommodations for the debates he was actually invited to, as well ...

There's no question Kucinich cared deeply for what he was fighting for, but his departure does not diminish the Democratic debate, as John Nichols says. The recount, the debate lawsuit were the last gasps of a campaign desperately trying to stay relevant and when those didn't work it became clear that Kucinich needed to get his ass back to Cleveland and put his house in order.

MORE: Kucinich is already putting more into his congressional race than he did his Presidential one.


CORRECTION: *** I just found out that this is an inappropriate choice of words (1/27/08, 7:45 PM). My apologies. I did not know differently.

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