Takes a Whole Lot O' Tryin'
by Daniel Patrick Welch
October 25, 2003
I got a note from a supporter of Dennis Kucinich, expressing shock and disbelief that the Congressman who would be President had dared to turn down a second interview with Chris Matthews. What -- the Dean of Hardball dissed by that pipsqueak from Cleveland? Okay, so it's a little more complicated than that, and it goes without saying that the campaign needs to take full advantage of every opportunity.
But it did raise, for me, some larger questions about a grassroots campaign and its response to Big Media. This is especially poignant in light of Kucinich's demand that stations stop airing a Dean ad, citing false statements about opponents. It also occurred to me that I do some of my best thinking when I am responding directly to a friend: it gives the reader a sense of urgency and intimacy other forums do not. Of course, it's also like peeking into someone else's convo, and who can resist that? So here, without adornment, is my attempt to cheer up this friend:
I don't think this will cheer you up, but I don't think it's an incompetent decision. It takes guts not to play this game, and I disagree with the article's lead that Kucinich has "forfeited the chance to reach millions." If Dennis can win -- and we all agree this is still a big if -- it will be from the ground up, not by fighting the gateway gladiators who anoint and condemn candidates.
The announcement tour strategy was, in a word, brilliant. The national media have ignored the campaign. Not so with local media, who really have nothing better to do when a candidate comes to town; coverage poured in from all sources in states where Dennis has been: from Hawaii to Austin to Manchester to Cleveland, local and state coverage has been excellent, and, I think, the correct antidote to the mocking behemoths who, lacking any seriousness themselves, would rather go off the air than take Dennis' campaign seriously.
Sure, it means more flying time and more traveling -- but Kucinich's people don't stay in hotels. Sure we work harder for every victory -- but we are all used to that. I know that it takes time, and it's a double-edged sword. The national media won't take us seriously until the first surprising votes roll in. And without exposure, we worry that the momentum will ever reach critical mass. But make no mistake: the permanent branding of Dennis the Also Ran, with Kucinich himself laying his own head on the block, has equal power to shape this exposure in a way that will permanently set him in the back of the pack. Unless he has an affair with Gennifer Flowers and the media are all over him all of a sudden, I don't think there is much good that can come from submitting to Matthews' crap.
Just last night my wife read the Rolling Stone interview, and woke me up in the middle of the night to share just "one more reason to love Dennis." Yes, it's a big leap from cult hero to serious candidate, but a recent Nation article put it best: "The press refuses to take Kucinich seriously precisely because he is serious." I'm really not big on the whole Zen trip, to tell you the truth, but there is something to the simple confidence that the truth is the truth, and everything else is just, well, crap. The Guy Who Shunned the Media might be a better story than Man Bites Dog.
As far as reaching millions, we still have our work to do. We are the ones who will be reaching millions. I know it's hard work, but Kucinich is right when he says a grassroots campaign is worth millions. Just last weekend, we passed out over 1000 flyers at a fair in little downtown Salem; sure many people said "who is Dennis Kucinich," but there were no other campaigns even in sight. A more important indication than number -- especially at this point -- may be the passion of Kucinich supporters. In this context, trends among the micromedia of friends talking to each other may yet trump the national media octopus.
Anyone who has email can't have missed the growing phenomenon of little inspirational signatures that grace almost every note. Those of 'Kucitizens' begin to take on the timbre of a rising chorus of distinct but united voices: from Chavez' Si se puede! to the Man of La Mancha: "To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause." King, Gandhi, Franklin, Lincoln: it's an inspiring experience just to read a whole email these days. Even if we must "read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps," we know all too well what we are in this for. Hope is dangerous: truth does not always triumph. But King's optimism still informs as well as inspires:
"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlisle is right: No lie can live forever. We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right: Truth crushed to earth will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right: Truth forever on the scaffold/ wrong forever on the throne/ yet that scaffold sways the future/ and behind the dim unknown/ standeth God within the shadows/ keeping watch above his own."
And one of my favorites, inspired by the Matrix, "It's hard work taking the red pill." Keep on keepin' on, folks -- We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. He has appeared on radio [interview available here]. Past articles and translations are available at www.danielpwelch.com. © 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted.