Let’s Talk Hair – Dennis Kucinich And Ron Paul – The Difference Beyond Policy

It was a fluff piece in The American Prospect about the 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary – a ‘get to meet your candidates on the campaign trail’ piece. Written by Garance Franke-Ruta, who I generally respect as a writer, the 1,350 word article, “Presidential hopefuls strut their stuff at Wednesday’s Democratic cattle call,” covered each of the Democratic candidates, including such barely viable candidates in the race as Al Sharpton and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun on the left, and on the far-right Senator Joe Lieberman, who was described as having “no chance of winning the presidency.” What I have remembered in the piece, however, was what Garance said about the candidate she devoted the fewest words to, Congressman Dennis Kucinich. The Senior Editor of The American Prospect gave Dennis Kucinich only these 33 words, 100 fewer than far-right, no chance Joe Lieberman:

“Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, as one member of the press corps put it, got a new haircut ‘so that he doesn’t look so much like a Beatle.’ Or a maybe he meant ‘beetle.'”

I was a supporter of Howard Dean at the time, having judged his chances at election better than those of Dennis Kucinich, but I never forgot the slight. My comment about Garance Franke-Ruta’s article, that I showed to people at the time, was that this was the evidence that there was no left-wing in American Politics. Even The American Prospect dismissed Dennis Kucinich because of his hair.

My, how times have changed. I can’t imagine what Dennis and those of his supporters (and others) who read that article in 2003 now think about the coverage that John Edwards has merited for his hair (and he wasn’t even called a “beetle”!). It is yet another thing, it seems, that John Edwards has borrowed from Dennis Kucinich this run.

While I don’t agree with everything Dennis proposes policy-wise, I agree with a lot of it. Dennis Kucinich was right to vote against the Iraq War from the start – the only presidential candidate then, or now, to do so on the Democratic side (Barack Obama, to be fair, was vocally against the war before it started, although he was not in congress and therefore could not vote against it). Dennis Kucinich is right to advocate for single payer national health care for all Americans – the only person then (in 2003/4) and now the only candidate who has written a bill in congress for it (Mike Gravel, to be fair, also supports single-payer, universal health care, but is not in congress now to produce a bill for it). Dennis believes in universal pre-school and increasing the number of people going to college. He is strong on putting Americans back to work through more reasoned trade, he is strong on civil liberties, the environment, the list goes on (see his issues section). He even has a bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney, which as a matter of tactics progressives may or may not agree with, but as a matter of moral and Constitutional right is obviously the right thing to do. You may think Dennis Kucinich, who grew up homeless at times and rose to be Mayor of Cleveland and then a Congressman doesn’t have much of a chance. You may think that this candidate with the smallest bank account of the entire field, who doesn’t attract (or I believe take) large sums from special interests, won’t attract the money to compete. You’re likely right. What I don’t think you can say, however, is that Dennis doesn’t advocate for and represent progressive policies – ones that put him way ahead of most politicians. For that, if nothing else, you would think a ‘politically progressive’ magazine would hold him in (consistently) high esteem.

Here is The American Prospect’s mission statement:

The American Prospect was founded in 1990 as an authoritative magazine of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics.
….
Our mission, simply put, is to rise to the momentous occasion that confronts all Americans who seek a just society built on our greatest traditions. Contemporary conservatism stands to thwart those traditions; it advances its agenda by way of stealth, fear-mongering, and a massive propaganda apparatus. It is our mission to expose that agenda and the lies that support it.

Rising to our historical occasion also means reviving and rebuilding liberalism, renewing its connections both to American history and to people’s lives in the 21st century, and giving progressive political leaders the weapons they need for battle. Through dogged reporting, cool analysis, witty commentary and passionate argument, the Prospect strives to beat back the right wing and to build a majority of true patriots who understand what really makes America great.
….
We founded the Prospect out of a conviction that the conservative undertow in American political life is profoundly influenced by the dominance of conservative media and think tanks. Our conservative counterparts have played a critical role in pulling the entire national debate to the right. We intend to take it back.”

Given the Prospect’s mission, and the above treatment of Dennis Kucinich, how ironic that just last week it published a glowing piece on Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul (a social conservative libertarian), and in a piece about the lack of GOP ideas in the presidential race today, the one positive reference, however brief, went to the anti-war Paul.

It’s not about giving libertarian and social conservative Ron Paul his due. No less than Dennis Kucinich is quoted in the Prospect’s piece on Paul saying, “Paul has true integrity. His word is good and he has the courage of his convictions.” But Dennis, despite his own “true integrity,” “good word” and “courage of his convictions” (so far as I know) gets short shrift even from the left. It is a perfect example of the rightward tilt in American politics. Progressives, even if they don’t support Dennis for president, ought to think about the message demeaning him sends. Demeaning Dennis doesn’t improve America’s progressive prospects.

Comments 4

  1. David Bright wrote:

    Thank you for this piece.
    What you are witnessing on the part of the Spectator, Daily Kos, and a bunch of other so-called “progressive” media outlets is the recognition by them that they earn their money by living outside electoral politics.
    From that vantage point, they can complain, and whine, and moan and then ask their subscribers and advertisers for money. They organize petitions and urge readers to write letters of protest. These publications (and many organizations) NEED bad people in power. Without bad people in power there is nothing to push against.
    If Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich lived in the White House, they only thing the left would have to say in its petitions would be “thank you.”
    And there’s no money in that.

    Posted 21 Jun 2007 at 5:09 am
  2. Tim wrote:

    I’m a big Ron Paul supporter; but I like Kucinch. I have found that many Ron Paul advocates also hold Kucinich in high regard but don’t agree with his policies. ie: guns, socialized healthcare

    It’s somewhat amusing to run into many “Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinch ticket” posts around message boards. Even though they are completely different policy-wise, it is obvious that people on the internet have begun to support/recognize INTEGRITY rather than party or platform.

    Posted 21 Jun 2007 at 3:52 pm
  3. Hiram Wurf wrote:

    Hi David and Tim,

    Thanks for writing!

    I’m not sure that I agree with what you’ve implied, David, that progressive news media actually want “bad people in power” – although I agree that it is ‘good for business.’

    I’m not advocating a “Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich ticket,” Tim, although I find it interesting (and understandable) that some people would like to see it. It is not unlike the “Unity08” and recent Bloomberg phenomena. While I can see the appeal to avoid disagreement and ‘get government moving’ I think as a practical matter it is mistaken. The problem is not really the Democrats (I think it fair to say that they haven’t had much of an opportunity of late to be a problem) – it fairly rests at the national level on the GOP, which had unprecedented control of this country for six years. We have seen the country reap what the GOP has sown. Democrats are not angels – but Republicans justly deserve the blame now. Any effort that fails to recognize where the blame lies doesn’t understand what has gone wrong with the country (and probably has little chance of fixing it).

    Posted 21 Jun 2007 at 8:31 pm
  4. Ruth wrote:

    Dennis Kucinich is the best that America has to offer. If he is not nominated, there is no incentive for the people to vote.

    If Ron Paul is nominated by the GOP, the only Democrat who can beat him is Dennis Kucinich. This is because people put opposition to the war above all else.

    If Dennis is not running, then it will depend on which party gets people do the polls. Democratic anti-war voters have no incentive to vote for Edwards, Obama, Clinton, Dodd, Biden or Richardson because anti-war voters won’t want to get into a war with Iran. Democrats only have about 40% or fewer of the voters. If half or more don’t vote, who wins? My guess is that, unless the Democrats nominate Kucinich, Fred Thompson wins. So-called progressives who fail to get on board the Kucinich campaign will be responsible for the Republican victory in 2008.

    As for who gets hurt under Thompson or Paul, it will be the elderly, the minorities and the environment. In Thompson’s case, we’re also talking more war and tyranny.

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 10:00 am

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