Kucinich – a Democratic canary

To many, Dennis Kucinich’s campaign is a joke, even more so than Ralph Nader’s. I know he won’t win, he knows he won’t win, and most importantly, most voters know he won’t win. Yet, the speech he gave Wednesday night at USF’s Special Events Center was an event that, along with his campaign, will have a positive effect on the democratic process in this country.

The more than 400 audience members present, many of them donning Kucinich T-shirts and buttons, seemed to connect with him. “Finally,” their applause and cheers said, ” a guy that speaks what’s been on our mind for years.” The upbeat crowd agreed with his stances, but Kucinich might have been preaching to the choir as the few audience members holding up Bush/Cheney ’04 signs winced and even laughed out loud a few times during his speech.

And while many may shrug him off as “not standing a chance,” his admittedly very liberal ideas will be a blessing for the Democratic Party.

Answering a question on gay rights, he said that coal miners often took canaries into the mine with them to see if there was gas present. If the bird died, they knew they had to get out in order to survive. Kucinich may very well prove to be such a canary for the Democratic Party, serving as an indicator on how far to the left the party should go.

He later added votes from registered Democrats will only get the party so far, but it may very well be “green liberals” like him that could attract independents and “Greens to the party,” which may prove instrumental in taking it “the last few yards” and winning the election.

Naturally, Nader’s campaign always comes up in such discussion as some accuse him of stealing the election from Al Gore in 2000 and may do so again.

When I asked him how he felt about Nader’s campaign he said, “I am hoping my campaign will give him less of a reason to run” but was quick to correct me when I asked if that meant he was hoping for him to drop out of the race.

Kucinich later said he was “open for debate and the process of democracy,” and that he was working on making “the Democratic Party a viable second party.”

While he is aware that “the process of change is glacial” and any such change will take time, he stands unwavering on some issues. For example, he said ” I am not interested in exchanging four years of war under Bush for four years of war under Kerry,” apparently uninterested in trading his beliefs for success in the primaries.

The man may know he does not stand much of a chance, but at least he is willing to give it a fighting chance.

Or maybe fighting is the wrong word to describe Kucinich’s approach. As his campaign is mainly based on an understanding and collegial exchange of ideas, he seems to embody the bleeding-heart Democrat that the Bush administration wants us to believe is so prevalent in the Democratic Party.

“Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Kucinich said in his speech, and “fear creates paralysis.” He blamed the Bush administration for constantly instilling such fear in the American public, thereby frightening them into voting for the Republican Party.

But this pacifist attitude may be deceptive and Kucinich may not be as easily shoved to the sidelines as the Republican Party hopes.

Kucinich told me that while he was not for fighting fire with fire, he is of the opinion that “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” suggesting that Kerry, “or whoever wins the nomination,” should use Bush’s record against him.

He may not be as vocal about it as John Kerry, who declared in his victory speech Tuesday night he was “a fighter” and would take on Bush, but he is not out of touch.

As Kucinich intends to “support whoever wins the (Democratic) nomination” he is not the joke many dismiss him as, but rather an integral part in the democratic process of not only selecting a nominee for the Democratic Party, but also the stance that he will take in the name of the party he represents.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental science and an Oracle opinion editor. spmeyer@mail.usf.edu