many times have you heard someone say: "I love Kucinich ... but I just
don't think he's electable"? I often encounter staffers for other
candidates out here in Los Angeles where I'm based, and even they often
say these words to me. Saul Landau recently said on National Public
Radio that Dennis's name has apparently been changed to the hyphenated
"Kucinich-ButHeCan'tWin." The Congressman himself has been asked about
the phenomenon repeatedly in the presidential debates.
Our campaign's overarching theme is 'Fear Ends / Hope
Begins.' Over and over again, people say to us: "Dennis stands for so
many of my hopes and dreams. But I so intensely fear George Bush's
re-election ... that I will not vote for Dennis, or donate to Dennis, or
volunteer for Dennis. I will support instead some other, lesser
candidate who does not really reflect my aspirations for the human
community, but who has a better chance of winning on November 2nd."
At the Kucinich campaign, we believe our single most
effective strategy now to gain new votes is to move these individuals to
change their minds.
Now that the cold primary season has commenced, there
is little doubt that this as our most fertile garden to till. This is
about mobilizing support from those who are already with us! These are
votes that are already rightfully ours! This is about persuading people
to defy their fears, and to vote their hopes and dreams.
NUMBER TEN: The Democratic Primaries Are Far From
Over. The Nomination Could Still Be Seized By Anyone.
The results in Iowa left the presidential race more
muddled and uncertain that at any time in recent memory. Most normal
Americans (i.e., those who don't obsess about politics as much as the
people probably reading this essay) have just since the New Year started
paying any attention to the Democratic presidential contest at all. All
winter long, the polls forecast a Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt battle
for victory ... only to have John Kerry and John Edwards emerge suddenly
ascendant. All the remaining seven candidates have significant strengths
that are bound to translate into significant vote totals. All have
weaknesses ' a shortage of money and organization here, a shortage of
experience or a shortage of charisma there. Many of the multiple
February 3rd states, at least as they are polling today, are simply too
close to call. It is difficult to imagine any alternative to numerous
candidates garnering numerous delegates in the primaries over the next
six weeks. We are not even close to a 'presumptive nominee' ' not even
John Kerry if he wins New Hampshire as well as Iowa.
We at the Kucinich campaign would not wish ourselves
to be so far behind today in money, endorsements, and poll numbers. But
because that is where we find ourselves at the dawn of 2004, the
'expectations' for our candidacy among the pundits and the party
establishment are extremely low. If we simply do 'better than expected'
in Iowa and New Hampshire, it could unleash a tidal wave of new
endorsements, new donations, and new voter support ' precisely from the
'I love Dennis but he can't win' crowd. The enormous amount of dormant
support out there for Dennis is our secret weapon! If the first 7 or 8
primaries both see Dennis do 'better than expected' and leave the race
quite muddled and uncertain, Dennis could emerge as no less than the new
media darling of the presidential contest.
NUMBER NINE: Dennis Is The Most Electable
Candidate In A Face-Off Against George Bush.
We believe that Dennis may well be the candidate best
equipped to ensure that George Bush emulates his father - and rides off
into the sunset as another failed one-term president. What was the
consensus verdict after the 2002 Congressional election debacle for the
Democrats - That if Democrats run like Republicans, Republicans will
surely win. That the Democrats need to present voters with a clear
distinction, a clear choice, and a clear alternative vision. "It's
Democrats above all who need big ideas," says former Clinton and Gore
pollster Stanley Greenberg, "who need to create an election that is
about something." The lesson of 2002 is that the candidate with the best
chance to beat George Bush will be the candidate who offers the starkest
contrast to George Bush. And no one can dispute that that candidate is
Is there any Democrat who would better motivate our
liberal and progressive base in November 2004 - generating not just
votes, but midnight oil and shoe leather? One of the central theses of
both John Judis and Ruy Teixeira's 2003 book
The Emerging Democratic Majority and E.J. Dionne's 1997 book
They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political
Era is that broad demographic, geographic, economic, and political
changes are making us more and more a Democratic country. But
historically among voters of color -- who become a greater proportion of
the electorate with every election cycle -- the more progressive the
candidate the greater the turnout on Election Day. Dennis, indeed, is
the candidate who can best mobilize this "emerging Democratic majority."
In addition, no one could secure the allegiance of
more Ralph Nader voters than Dennis Kucinich. Al Gore and Nader together
received 3.5 million more votes than George Bush in November 2000. But
not ALL those Nader voters will likely vote for ANY Democratic nominee
in November 2004. Surely, more of them would turn out to support Dennis
than they would any other Democratic candidate. And given how many
states would have swung the other way but for the Nader candidacy (he
received 99,000 votes in Florida), these voters could make absolutely
the decisive difference in the 2004 election.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Dennis has a great
many weapons to wield in the national security debate. Dennis can make a
comprehensive case that George Bush's foreign policies have generated
new foreign enemies. That George Bush's defense policies have weakened
our defenses. That George Bush's responses to 9/11 have made future
9/11s far more likely to occur. (So much for Republicans being "strong
on defense.") And our man has a comprehensive alternative to offer.
Dennis Kucinich will accommodate rather than alienate, employ carrots
far more than sticks, and dry up the swamps of hopelessness and
humiliation that cause insecure youth to head down the terrorist road.
Dennis Kucinich will be both tough on terror and tough on the causes of
terror. In Dennis Kucinich's America our nation will abide by Lincoln's
precept: "The only lasting way to eliminate an enemy is to make him your
friend." And that is a winning message for the post 9/11 world.
Also contrary to the conventional wisdom that sees
Dennis as 'too far left' to attract swing voters, Dennis has a history
of winning votes from blue collar 'Reagan Democrats' - because no one
better illuminates how Bush's policies favor the rich and leave them out
in the cold. Dennis has a track record in building broad ethnic
coalitions. And Dennis is an experienced and seasoned politician, having
fought and won grueling political battles as a city council member, a
mayor, a state senator, and a member of the U.S. Congress.
Finally, Dennis is from Ohio, a key Midwestern
battleground swing state with 20 electoral votes. Dennis has defeated
Republican incumbents three times in Ohio. No Republican in the history
of this nation has ever been elected President without carrying Ohio.
Dennis can win Ohio for the Democrats. And as Ohio goes, so goes the
NUMBER EIGHT: If Voters Believe Dennis Truly Has
'No Chance Of Winning the Nomination' Then For Them There's No Danger In
Voting For Him In The Primary!
When people say, 'Dennis cannot win,' they themselves
are often unclear about what they mean. Do they mean Dennis cannot win
the nomination? Or do they mean that if Dennis does in fact win the
nomination, he cannot win the general election? These two very different
propositions lead to very different conclusions.
If Voter Vanessa likes Dennis but believes Dennis
would lose to George Bush on November 2nd, then a decision to vote for
someone else in the primaries might make sense if Dennis was a
frontrunner, if Vanessa believes that Dennis has a real shot at the
nomination, if the pundits thought Dennis had any chance at all of
becoming the Democratic candidate for president.
But they don't.
Most voters and most of the punditocracy have written
off any possibility that Dennis can win the nomination. Here in my town
the mighty Los Angeles Times never refers to our man as anything other
than 'long shot candidate Dennis Kucinich.' Ted Koppel famously
dismissed him as a 'vanity candidate.' If Vanessa believes that Dennis
has no chance of emerging as the nominee, then a primary vote for Dennis
carries no danger of anointing the wrong candidate to face-off against
George Bush. For Vanessa, there is no risk that she will help choose a
candidate who is going to get blown out in the general. There is no
There is no worst-case scenario.
NUMBER SEVEN: Dennis Will Support The Nominee.
Dennis is unalterably committed to supporting whoever
emerges as the Democratic nominee for president, and to working
tirelessly this fall to defeat George Bush. Dennis toiled arduously in
2000 to win Ohio for Al Gore. There is no 'Nader scenario' regarding
Dennis Kucinich, because Dennis Kucinich is a Democrat, not a Green. A
vote for Dennis in January or February or March will not take a single
vote away from the Democratic nominee in November. How does a dollar or
a day or a vote devoted to Dennis in early 2004 adversely affect the
prospects of the eventual nominee in November 2004?
NUMBER SIX: The Nominee May Adopt Some Of Dennis's
Ideas if Dennis Gets Enough Votes.
The more support Dennis generates this winter and
spring, the more likely it will be that the eventual nominee - if it is
not Dennis - will choose to incorporate some of Dennis's important
ideas. If Dennis does better than expected in money, in volunteers, and
in votes, the Democratic candidate who emerges may conclude that there
is indeed support for things like the abolition of nuclear weapons, a
great crusade for economic justice, and the conviction that an expanded
ethic of human unity will be no less than the Great Story of the 21st
Century. The nominee, consequently, may embrace some of these ideas and
explicitly campaign upon them.
This phenomenon has already played out in the
campaign. For example, after Dennis strongly rejected Bush's request for
$87 billion for Iraq, both John Kerry and John Edwards followed his
lead. Dennis's unapologetic opposition to NAFTA and the WTO has caused
all the candidates to talk more about fair trade.
And consider the other, bleaker scenario. If all the
'I love Kucinich -- but he can't win' crowd support someone else, the
2004 Democratic nominee AND the Democratic Party establishment AND the
chattering classes will conclude that there is not much support for the
things our candidacy is about. "Gee," they will say, "there's not much
interest in withdrawing from NAFTA and the WTO, for putting the brakes
on the PATRIOT Act, for creating a Department of Peace to stand
alongside the Department of Defense, is there - After all, Dennis
Kucinich ran for president on that stuff - and he never did better than
"Win or lose the nomination," says Kucinich endorser
Ben Cohen, "his grassroots presidential campaign is the vehicle for
expanding the party, moving it in a progressive direction, bringing in
new voters, and reaching out in a serious way to bring back disaffected
voters." The more votes Dennis receives this winter and spring, the more
power progressives will exercise to shape the character of the
Democratic platform in the summer of 2004, and of the Democratic
Administration which we fervently hope will take office on January 20,
NUMBER FIVE: At A Brokered Convention, Dennis
Could Play A Crucial Role.
Several pundits have raised the possibility that 2004
might see the first brokered Democratic convention since 1960. That
means that the Democratic primaries may not decisively settle on a
candidate, and that the decision will have to be hammered out at the
convention itself - with delegates as the currency of negotiation. And
that means that Dennis's influence could be quite tangible and quite
Many factors point to a real possibility of the first
brokered convention in a generation. The rise of proportional voting
over the previous winner-take-all systems in state primaries. The
importance of the nearly 800 party honcho 'super-delegates' (which means
that a candidate cannot guarantee the nomination unless he wins more
than 60% of the elected delegates). The accelerated front-loading of the
process (which means that by the morning of March 3rd nearly half of the
delegates will already have been chosen, making it simply mathematically
more difficult for any presumptive frontrunner to achieve victory after
If the brokered convention scenario does come to
pass, every single vote cast for Dennis in January, February, and March
will translate into delegates that Dennis will wield in Boston in July.
Those delegates will enable Dennis to tangibly influence the platform
and positions that the Democratic candidate adopts. Those delegates
could enable Dennis to decisively influence who the Democratic candidate
will be. And who knows' At a brokered convention, the Democratic Party
just may conclude that the candidate with the best chance to defeat
George Bush is the one who poses the most striking alternative to George
Bush - Dennis Kucinich.
NUMBER FOUR: Electoral Outcomes In 10 Months -- Or
A Better World In 10 Years?
Mother Jones writer George Packer recently quoted D.H.
Lawrence: "The ideas of one generation," wrote Lawrence in Making
Love to Music, "become the instincts of the next." "There is
something worse than losing," continues Packer, "and that is losing
pointlessly. ... The way for the party not to lose pointlessly is to
proceed incautiously. The most attractive candidate will be the one who
airs ideas that risk alienating ... because the ideas might be good
ones, and might catch the public pulse ... and might make future
Has there been any political candidate since Bobby
Kennedy and Gene McCarthy more capable of mobilizing the fires in the
bellies of committed activists than Dennis Kucinich? If voters support
Dennis with their money and their sweat and their votes, it will stoke
the engines of social change - far beyond the fate of Kucinich for
"Victory," says the inestimable Jonathan Schell,
"does not come through the ballot box alone. It sometimes comes by
circuitous paths. ... Changing hearts and minds can at times be as
important as changing the President. ... When in doubt, it's best to err
on the side of speaking the truth."
Must we resign ourselves only to vote for a candidate
who can rescue us from a dismal present? Or can we free ourselves to
vote for a candidate who can lead us toward a brighter future? Are we
concerned solely and exclusively about what is going to happen in
America in 10 months? Or can we interest ourselves in the human
condition and the fate of the earth in 10 years and beyond? There is
much more at stake here than simply choosing a candidate for president.
A vote for Dennis Kucinich is a vote for the American dream, for the
promise of what America can become. As the poet Langston Hughes so
eloquently put it: "America, you've never been America to me; and I
swear this oath: you will be!"
NUMBER THREE: The Left, The Right, And The Center
... Can Change.
We reject the notion that the American electorate is
set in stone - e.g., 45% hard left, 45% hard right, and an all-coveted
10% "in the center." We know that the center has moved over time. A
great many ideas and initiatives that were once considered hard left -
women's rights, civil rights, human rights, gay rights, labor
protections, environmental protections - are now much more in the
mainstream, much more "moderate,'" much more "centrist." The anti-war,
anti-corporate, and anti-globalization movements of recent years -
manifesting in some of the largest demonstrations in history - are
surely not far behind.
We believe that many Kucinich proposals now
considered hard left will one distant day be similarly considered as
mainstream, centrist, and broadly accepted by most of the right-thinking
people of the time. One of the best vehicles for accomplishing that
shift in the center of American politics is a liberal and progressive
presidential campaign. And Dennis Kucinich is the most liberal and
progressive candidate American voters have had the opportunity to
embrace in quite a long time. A vote for Dennis Kucinich is a vote to
shift the center of gravity of the American political debate. For 2004
NUMBER TWO: Living Up To Your Own Ideals.
"If it feels good -- do it" said one of the mottos of
the 1960s. While one might debate whether that guidance is optimal for
all of life's scenarios, it certainly is for the great democratic act of
voting. We believe that it simply feels better to walk out of the voting
booth knowing that you were true to yourself, that you stood up for what
you believe. Demonstrating support for the things you support is the
essence of what voting is all about. We believe that the whole point of
democracy is to vote for the world you aspire to create. Election Day is
a day to let go of doubts and fears. Election Day is a day to reach for
our hopes, to cleave to our dreams, and to stand up for the America we
can become. That is the only way to be fully a citizen of any political
A vote for Dennis today is a vote for what the
Democratic Party OUGHT to stand for at the dawn of the 21st Century. And
it's a vote for what the Democratic Party CAN stand for - if only the
people who believe in Dennis actually have the courage and integrity to
vote for Dennis.
Especially now. There will be plenty of time to
choose between the lesser of two evils in the general election. As the
Texas sage Molly Ivins exhorts us: Vote with your head on the first
Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But in the caucuses and
primaries, vote with your heart.
NUMBER ONE: Moving History Forward - Like Other
Noble Presidential Candidacies Of The Past.
Presidential campaigns in American history have often
been about much more than winning and losing. Presidential campaigns can
be about driving the engines of history. Consider Bruce Babbitt and
Jesse Jackson and Paul Simon in 1988, Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson and
Alan Cranston in 1984, John Anderson in 1980, Eugene McCarthy and Bobby
Kennedy in 1968, Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 (laying the groundwork
for both John Kennedy and the 1960s), Norman Thomas and Eugene Debs in
the first decades of the 20th century (without whom Franklin D.
Roosevelt's New Deal would have been inconceivable), Teddy Roosevelt's
Progressive campaign of 1912. None of these efforts resulted in triumph
at the ballot box. Yet all of them broadened the public conversation.
They pressured the structures of power. They inspired new generations of
progressive activists. They were beacons in the political night. They
served to generate debate, to inject new ideas into the public arena,
and to accelerate our progress toward a brighter morning.
And so too will be the presidential candidacy of
Dennis Kucinich. BUT NOT VERY MUCH ... unless those who believe in him
actually vote for him.
Victor Hugo famously said: "No army can withstand the
strength of an idea whose time has come." Many of Dennis's ideas, we
might admit, are ideas whose time has perhaps not quite yet come. Our
job is to bring their time ever closer, to hasten their arrival in the
train station of history. How will the time for such ideas ever come, if
we do not choose to vote for those with the vision and integrity to
articulate them? A vote for Dennis Kucinich is the quintessential
exercise of what Thomas Jefferson liked to call "practical idealism." If
politics, as every undergraduate knows, is the art of the possible, then
a vote for Dennis Kucinich is a mechanism for expanding the parameters
of political possibility.
Tad Daley is National Issues
Director and Senior Policy Advisor to the presidential campaign of
Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio. He can be reached at: