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"Stop this war!"
A little more than five months after 9-11, on February 17, 2002, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) delivered a speech, "A Prayer for America," to the Southern California chapter of Americans for Democratic Action.  He asserted the need to "challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act" and warned that the United States stood "upon the threshold of a permanent war economy."   The speech resonated through progressive circles, generating a groundswell of support, and almost exactly a year later, on February 18, 2003, the Cleveland congressman filed papers to establish a presidential exploratory committee.

Kucinich has emerged as the peace candidate.  In July 2001 he introduced a bill in Congress to establish a Department of Peace.  On October 10, 2002, he led 126 of 208 Democrats in voting against the Iraq war resolution.  And on April 1, 2003, as the war in Iraq continued for its second week, he took to the floor of the House to urge his colleagues, "Stop the war now."

Kucinich is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is the largest caucus of Democrats in the House.  He advocates universal health care, calling for "a new Medicare, Part E (for Everyone) which will relieve the suffering and uncertainty of 44,000,000 Americans who currently have no health coverage and the economic pain of those who are paying exorbitant rates for their health insurance."  He has warned against the potentially crippling effects of America's trade deficit, and states, "I will cancel NAFTA and the WTO.  The only trade agreements we will enter into will be bilateral trade agreements where countries agree to buy as much from the U.S. as they sell to us."  Kucinich has authored legislation to regulate genetically engineered food.

Cleveland Chic
Kucinich's service in the Congress marks a second act in his political career.  In 1977 he was elected mayor of Cleveland.  The "boy mayor" had a rough couple of years as he fought to prevent the municipally owned Muny Light from being taken over.  He survived a recall but was defeated in his bid for re-election.  Thereafter, he went out West, taking a variety of jobs in five different states, until in 1994 he was elected to the Ohio Senate.  Two years later he won a seat in the U.S. Congress.  Now, with his eyes on the White House, Kucinich vows, "We will replace Crawford Texas' square dancing, tractor pulls and pork rinds with Cleveland's polka, bowling and kielbasa.  Cleveland, the new face of America.  Kucinich.US.  Think about it." 

"A Candidate Who Speaks to the Activists"
In the opening months of the campaign Kucinich appears to have been relegated to second tier status whether because of his limited national recognition, his late start, his less than top tier fundraising prospects, or concerns about electability.  But Kucinich is demonstrating cross party appeal.  In a March 18, 2003 e-mail update Dr. John Hagelin, the Natural Law Party's three-time presidential candidate, noted that Kucinich and he have worked "very closely together" on a number of issues.  Hagelin stated, "I strongly support Rep. Kucinich in his bid for the presidency."   Kucinich's holistic approach--he is one of few vegans in Congress--is also very much in synchrony with Green Party views.  Indeed, in Iowa the Green Party's candidate for Secretary of Agriculture in 2002, Brian Depew, signed on to work for Kucinich. 

Readings and Resources
Jonathan Allen.  "Kucinich Strives to Beat The Unbeatable Foe."  CQ Weekly.  July 19, 2003, pages 1812-17.

David Lamb.  "Dennis Kucinich: The Onetime Boy Mayor of Cleveland Is Still a Maverick After All These Years and Proudly Wears the Liberal Label."  Los Angeles Times.  July 13, 2003.  [Eighth in weekly series].

Juliet Eilperin.  "Campaign Pulls Bright Spot From Dark Story."  Washington Post.  June 22, 2003.  [Fourth in weekly series]. >

Bob Edwards.  "The Candidates: Dennis Kucinich."  NPR Morning Edition interview.  May 14, 2003 >

Carl Hulse.  "A Dark Horse Fights the Odds Again."  New York Times.  April 23, 2003.  [Ninth in a series on presidential prospects].

California Democratic Party Convention, Sacramento, CA, March 16, 2003.
Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting, Washington, DC, February 22, 2003.

(updated April 2005) A Draft Kucinich site appeared before Kucinich launched his campaign.  The site was ostensibly by Mike Swickey of Oklahoma City.  Swickey had run a political site, swickey.com, for a number of years.  In a March 21, 2005 e-mail Swickey wrote to correct the record:

"I am a privacy consultant in Oklahoma City and an old political enemy thought it would be cute to run this Kucinich site under my name. He hacked my swickey.com site and changed my "About Mike" page and ran the draftkucinich site using my name! All of this happened for quite some time before I even knew this was going on. I actually found out about this quite sometime ago when someone called and told me that they had read an Associated Press story about the Kucinich site and it had quotes, ostensibly, from me! It was not me and was all a big practical joke. The site was, in fact, a true "Draft Kucinich" site. The only thing amiss was the name of the person doing the pushing of Kucinich. He claimed to be me, said he was a privacy consultant in Oklahoma City and, well, let's just say it was a pretty clever trick. One that has actually proved to be quite useful to me in my talks on social engineering and ID theft. I address various security and privacy groups and use my experience as an example of "ID theft" that was used for purposes other than financial gain. Much of the information this individual obtained, he got by using clever social engineering with my ISP, web hosting service, among other things."

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action