Kucinich a Phony Liberal Leprechaun

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)

Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s St. Patrick Day’s announcement he’d vote for the Democrats’ pending healthcare legislation exposes that this so-called “progressive” is no St. Patrick driving out the snakes of insurance companies, Big Pharma, etc., but in reality just another phony liberal leprechaun. Kucinich had voted against the measure in November and remained a holdout because it didn’t include a single-payer Medicare-for-all system. But Kucinich’s March 17 capitulation two days after flying with President Obama aboard Air Force One to his Ohio district reveals Kucinich’s true colors and shows he’s running true to form. Kucinich’s eyebrow-raising healthcare flip-flop, like his presidential campaigns, raises the question: How Left is Left?

On December 9, 2008, as California’s February 5 Democratic primary neared, candidate Kucinich went to the cash cow Golden State, attending a fundraiser in an upscale Santa Monica home. Gore Vidal, arguably America’s preeminent man of letters, was the event’s celebrity draw. Progressive Democrats of America’s Advisory Board Chair Mimi Kennedy (who played a character named after Abbie Hoffman on ABC’s Dharma & Greg and appeared in 2009’s antiwar satire In the Loop), Lydia Cornell (who co-starred with Ted Knight on the Too Close for Comfort sitcom) and openly gay L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl also attended.

Kucinich, who was then proposing impeaching President Bush, told the crowd: “We understand the urgency… that our democratic principles are being destroyed… and have an obligation to do something about it. My candidacy is really not just a restoration… but it’s really about American evolution, about evolving beyond the conditions which tolerated preemptive war, unilateralism, first strike. Beyond… American imperia or Pax Americana… Human unity is the antithesis of a ‘War on Terror’… We stand for international law… [and] basic rights in a democratic society to healthcare, education and employment.”

Highfaluting words indeed. Towards the end of the fundraiser in the venue’s kitchen I approached the contender and his aide, requesting an interview. After Kucinich agreed, I began: “If your candidacy is not successful and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party –” Like any politician seeking spin control he icily cut me off, asserting: “I’m not going there. I’m not talking about my campaign not being successful.”

During his onstage discussion with Vidal, Kucinich had groused about “This issue of viability. I hear all over the country: ‘Boy, we love you Dennis but you can’t win’… There is this presidential sweepstakes… it’s already occurred in the media, where they’ve anointed two people. And if anyone else tries to break that consensus, shame on you, or you’re a non-person.”

I can understand how annoying it must be to be constantly bombarded with negativism, and to have to constantly defend your constitutional right to run for office, instead of answering questions about the issues. But as a First Amendment stalwart, I hate it when any politico tries to control the press, so I pressed on, asking:

“Would you favor the Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party splitting off and joining with independents to create a new progressive party?” He responded: “Right now, I’m thinking about unity, not division. We need to unite to redefine the Democratic Party, so that it isn’t a party of complicity in war… and destruction of our civil liberties. We need the Democratic Party to be a true second party, instead of a pathetic mimicry of another party. We need the Democratic Party to show up and be Democratic.”

Although Kucinich’s sidekick tried to stop me from asking a follow-up, the candidate did anyway. “You used the phrase ‘a workers’ White House’ in one debate. Do you think there’s any place for… socialism in America?” Kucinich responded: “You know what? I think we need a government that stands for education… healthcare… jobs for all. To me, that’s a Democratic government. I gotta go right now.”

As it turned out, the candidate doth protested too much. Shortly after the Santa Monica fundraiser and before the California primary — around half a year before the Democratic National Convention! — Kucinich dropped out of the presidential race. I don’t know if the 200 Californians at Santa Monica received refunds for their campaign donations.

One of the Democratic faithful, in 2008 Kucinich refused to consider leaving a party he himself condemned, even if its reactionary and centrist elements prevailed. Two years later, once again putting party before progress, principles and the people, this loyal organization man sold out on healthcare. Declining to break with capitalism, Kucinich prefers to reform it. What did Kucinich get in exchange for his backtracking? Reportedly, face time with Obama four times, including twice on Air Force One’s roundtrip to Ohio, and more media coverage than he probably got during his ’08 prez race, when most of the press overlooked his candidacy and Kucinich was even excluded from a presidential debate.

Among Kucinich’s rationalizations for reversing his position and once again not sticking it out is that a defeat of the pending healthcare legislation would weaken the presidency of Obama. You know, the guy who had so much political capital after he won the November 2008 election that deluded buffoons likened him to Abraham Lincoln even before he served a single day in office, and who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after his inauguration.

In those heady days when he was being compared to the Great Emancipator, who kept the Union together and ended slavery, Obama decided to first spend his political capital not on health reform, but instead on escalating the war in Afghanistan. Unlike closing Gitmo, this is the one major campaign pledge Obama has kept, as this military-industrial-complex tool raised the already much bloated Pentagon budget; proposed caps on discretionary spending – except for the military (precisely the most wasteful federal spending), and also spit in the face of the Nobel committee with an acceptance speech at Oslo that justified war and U.S. imperialism. Perhaps, if Obama had focused on healthcare instead of warfare, rather than a year of wrangling about a watered down bill minus even a public option, Americans could receive the universal coverage most civilized peoples afford their citizens.

So, if Kucinich was the Democrats’ most left-leaning presidential candidate (with the possible exception of former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel), how Left is Left? Americans of all stripes are sick and tired of Washington and the tyrannical duopoly governing and controlling our limited political process. Democrats’ inability to provide Americans with the healthcare tiny, underdeveloped Cuba has afforded its citizenry (as well as many overseas nations through aid programs) for 50 years, and Kucinich’s healthcare sellout, are further proof we need to think outside of the two party box. Kucinich denounced the bill even as he announced he was voting for it, but this holding your nose while you vote for the lesser of two evils is precisely what’s wrong with U.S. politics today, and why evil prevails.

Americans on the Right and Left are beginning to go beyond the two-party trap, with the Tea Party and now the Coffee Party, which may become a true people’s alternative. But only if the Coffee Party genuinely remains independent of the Democratic Party, which, as 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb pointed out, and Kucinich’s caving in once again illustrates, is “where progressive ideas go to die.” Anybody who thinks the Democrats will provide any real reform like healthcare is delusional. Kucinich speaks of “American evolution” when what we need is American revolution. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell was named after legendary CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. Rampell is a L.A.-based film critic/historian and author. Michael Moore is on the cover of Rampell’s book Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States.


  1. Antonie Churg says

    Kucinich is the only politician I have ever trusted in my life, so I would hope you could rethink his decision to support the big bill. He has always been principled; he sacrificed his career to save the public electricity company when he was mayor of Cincinnati; in Congress he stands against war, he stands for single payer, and the Democratic Party is always trying to kick him out of Congress. Of course, single-payer activists cannot be happy with the big bill that was passed. But while we wait for single payer, 44,000 people will die each year because they lacked of health insurance. Thoughtful, hard-working, educated people are trapped without health care. Half the recent foreclosures are due to medical issues. Young people cannot find jobs and need to go back under their parents’ roof. How many people’s lives must be sacrificed while we struggle to get single-payer? Sometimes we lefties are so principled that we out of touch with real people’s suffering.

  2. Lee Rowan says

    Mr. Rampell, PLEASE run for office. I doubt that you or anyone could be more of a genuine Liberal than Dennis Kucinich, and I would love to see your opinions on politics when you’re inside the meatgrinder and trying to preserve your no doubt stainless integrity when the system is set up to give us the best government money can buy.

    This healthcare bill sucks, granted. But there was one reason to push it through that I agree with, even though the blue-swine Dems and GOPstructionists managed to denature it ALMOST to the point of uselessness.

    The passage of this bill was a slap in the face to the thugs and teabaggers who decided that if they aired enough lies and screamed like two-year-olds throwing a tantrum, they could make everyone do what they said.

    I have a friend in Ohio who may have had a heart attack. She doesn’t know because she’s one of the 50 million with no coverage–her employer had to drop healthcare because of rising costs and she couldn’t afford a diagnosis, being out of work and subsisting on odd jobs. Now, soon, she may be able to get a diagnosis and treatment. So I want to THANK Dennis Kucinich for helping show the GOP they don’t own Congress and for getting some coverage to people who are dying.

    Instead of attacking Rep. Kucinich, why don’t you do something useful–get behind H.R. 4789 , the bill to allow Americans to fulfill the mandate by buying into Medicare.

    As Rep. Alan Grayson says, “If we can have a Congressional vote on a healthcare bill without a public option, LET’S VOTE ON A PUBLIC OPTION!”

    The petition is here: http://www.wewantmedicare.com

    I think I’m going to get off this blog’s mailing list. You seem to be all bitching and no constructive suggestions.

    • says

      I think I’m going to get off this blog’s mailing list. You seem to be all bitching and no constructive suggestions.

      Don’t do that. You write very well. Contribute.

      • says

        Yes, I support that. Give us your thoughts. Make them constructive. We need directions to go, even as we bitch a bit about the stones in the path that got us to where we are now.

  3. wg2k1 says

    I’m for socialized medicin. I know it can’t happen today. I support single payer, and even the public option. I know it can’t happen today.

    Progressives don’t have it together enough to make those things happen.

    I went to a very liberal town hall meeting to learn about healthcare reform. It was nice and calm, and, totally absent were any of the 40 million uninsured who would be integrated into any all-in-nobody-out system.

    This, in a neighborhood where the average income was around $25,000 a year. This, in a neighborhood where there are few middle class people. This, in a part of the city that lost its public hospital and was only starting to get it back.

    It was different in another nearby meeting, where people were even poorer… but not that much different.

    The millions of uninsured got brought up over and over during discussions of HCR, but, nobody was organizing these people into a political force. They were just being used as a “shocking statistic”.

    The reason why, which took me months to figure out, was because middle class people don’t want to integrate their healthcare with poor people. It’s classism (aka, plain old racism against poor people).

    And most people aren’t even aware of it. They probably would freak out at integration, but they’ve been segregated for their entire life and don’t even think integration is an issue — it’s like white people who aren’t aware of racism, and aren’t racists themselves, and, so think it’s not an issue. These well insured people are living in a middle class bubble – this includes people in the working class who happen to have had insurance through their union.

    BUT, there are some people very aware of it — the Teabaggers. A fair number of them have been saying they don’t want their costs to go up, to pay for other people’s insurance. It’s the same argument they’d make against welfare. And, those arguments are basically arguments against giving welfare to Black people.

    The progressive movement for healthcare reform, for anything ranging from a public option to single payer, to national healthcare like the British NHS, has to be willing to stand up for the poor uninsured. They need to fight against racism and classism.

    And, that’s why we can’t have any of those public systems today. Progressives are not yet ready for that fight. We still need to learn how to organize for, and carry out that fight.

  4. says

    I was going to write something really rude, vulgar, actually. My general political position is probably considerably to the left of Dennis Kucinich, but I was dreading a teabagger victory on HCR. I try not to peg my emotional condition to politics, “try” being the operative term. I’m not exactly elated by the bill that passed. I am relieved at not having to face the depression and anger that would have followed a loss.

    I was 100% with Kucinich all the way. I admired his resistance and I admired his grace in conceding defeat and going to work for the Democratic Party and President Obama.

    The rest of your complaint leaves me utterly cold. Gosh, the United States is a plutocracy! I’m amazed. I never knew that. And this plutocracy selects a new business manager to replace a total dipshit with the reverse Midas touch.

    The new business manager attempts to steer the brand away from a generalized economic and social Kristallnacht. He does not immediately reform the security sector because they have guns (read that in the broadest sense of weapons while repeating after me “JFK, RFK, MLK”) and they do not especially want to be reformed by outsiders, thank you. Despite this, he does make significant progress in other areas.

    One-half of one percent of the United States population owns or controls 95% of its assets. The more charitable — but grotesquely skewed — benchmarks conceal the real ratio by omitting control of capital and only considering income (totally fake figures from known tax evaders) and directly owned assets. The United States government is their administrative agency. The president is CEO. Although he has a big role in shaping the agenda, he ultimately carries out the orders of this inner ring of power. How could it be any other way?

    Frankly, I am just glad that Barack Obama is sane, not a drunk, not suffering from Alzheimer’s. Human compassion and professional competence are welcome, too. At least this guy is not hearing the voice of God telling him to smite the Assyrian. Maybe I am a victim of low expectations. Sometimes reality does that to you.

  5. Donna says

    Kucinich is my congressman, Ed.

    Likewise, I am disappointed the “Public Option” wasn’t included, but as all of us here in District 10 know, that tiger won’t let up. He has gone out on practically every limb you could imagine for the people of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the nation as a whole.

    While you make some interesting points, I think you should reassess what happened this past week. President Lincoln, er, Obama, and liberal Democrats busted their asses to win this aweful game of political tug-of-war with conservatives and right-leaning moderates. It wasn’t pretty, and we didn’t get the plan we’d like, but it was a true display of everyone giving up something.

    Personally, I’m excited that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and whomever else was involved in the back-room deals, made this happen. Not today, and certainly not tomorrow, but in a year or so, when Americans reap the benefits of this plan, and other major changes begin to take effect, we’ll certainly see why Obama received that Nobel. What’s more, as Dennis Kucinich keeps knawling at Moderates’ and Conservatives’ ankles in an attempt to end the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, fights for public option health care programs within various states, and stands firmly for same-sex marriage, we’ll all see that what he did this past March 17 was in the best interest of our nation and for the people of District 10!

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