03 May 2011

Kucinich May Move Even Further Left

Eight term Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH 10th) has often marched to the beat of his own drummer.  Kucinich is the one time “Boy Mayor of Cleveland” who led the Rock and Roll Capital of the World into municipal default in 1978.   After he was defeated after serving for two years, he was hard on his luck.  He moved to Los Angeles to live off of the largess of Shirley McLaine.  Kucinich’s reported income in 1982 was $38.  That is quite a contrast in fortunes. But as Kucinich mused: "When I was growing up in Cleveland, my early experience conditioned me to hang in there and not to quit...”

Kucinich was unsuccessful in being elected to several statewide Ohio office races in the 1980's (Secretary of State, Governor), settling for a Cleveland City Council seat during a special election.   After following a quest for the meaning of life by moving to New Mexico for several years, he won an Ohio State Senate seat in 1994 before landing his current position representing the westside of Cleveland and suburban Cuyahoga county.

Kucinich has conducted two quixotic runs for President in 2004 and 2008, which may have been electorally unsuccessful but these campaigns made him the darling of progressives.  Additionally, Kucinich’s lauded lefty credentials along with his willingness to participate in the “Who Wants to Be First Lady: The Search for Mrs. Dennis Kucinich” in 2004 may have laid the foundation for landing a beautiful British bride as his 3rd wife who is 31 years his junior.   Let me invoke some lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s “Skeletons In the Closet” album which many of his ideological allies would appreciate: “What a long, strange trip it’s been”.

So it should be no surprise that Kucinich is thinking outside of the box and toying with moving even further left. Politically, that may not be possible for Kucinich, who has long championed a Cabinet level Department of Peace and who pushed the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney amongst other things.

Due to demographic declines, Ohio is losing two Congressional seats.  Republicans are in the lead for redistricting in Ohio, but Kucinich is a gadfly amongst Democrat party leadership and only crocodile tears by party Democrats as Kucinich’s district is eliminated.  Kucinich has been publically pondering whether to move to another state to continue his Congressional service.

When the public learned that Kucinich’s  Congressional District might disappear in the Ohio redistricting process, Kucinich’s Press Secretary revealed that the Congressman received entreaties from nearly 20 states urging him to run there.  Recently, Kucinich took a trip to Bainbridge Island Washington, where it is speculated might be location of the new Washington state Congressional District.  Kucinich asked to meet with 250 residents and he also participated in an event with the local  Suquamish Tribe.

In some senses, the Seattle area is a politically progressive hub and would be a better ideological match for Kucinich than his current mainly Middle European-American constituency. But former Democrat Speaker of the House wisely opined that “All politics is local”.  That does not just mean reading the mood of your constituents.  It also implies having connections with the community that you are representing.

Some states, such as New York, have a tradition of accepting carpetbagger candidates. Take for example Senator Robert Kennedy (D-MA NY) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-IL, AR, NY). But that is New York which accepts celebrity candidates for a statewide office that requires lots of fund-raising.  Name recognition may give Kucinich some boost for the primaries, but he has no organization or real ties to the district.  Kucinich might be susceptible to an ad which just shows his telephone listing in a metropolitan Cleveland phone book.

Despite Kucinch’s 8 terms in Congress, he is only the 10th ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee and the 5th ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, behind Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).  So Kucinich’s experience will not give him much pull, especially as the minority party.

If Kucinich is hoping that his moving left will give more media exposure to progressive ideals on the West Coast, he will have to compete with Rep. “Baghdad” Jim McDermott (D-WA 7th). While Washington state Democrats are excited that they will gain a seat from the 2010 Census as it will give them a chance of a bigger slice of the federal fiscal pie, they should be chary about embracing a carpetbagging Congressman who seems to only succeed in quirky comedy appearances.

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