Home > 2008 elections, The Left > Democratic Candidates: Dennis Kucinich

Democratic Candidates: Dennis Kucinich

September 15, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Disclaimer: I know Kucinich isn’t a viable candidate, so there’s no need to point that out.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. I agree with Kucinich on a lot of the issues and he’s the only Democratic candidate to take the correct position on some issues.

1. He’s opposed the war in Iraq since the beginning.
2. He supports gay marriage.
3. He opposed the flag burning amendment.
4. He supports universal health care.
5. He wants to end the drug war.

Of course, there are other points of agreement, as he’s a Democrat. Those are some highlights that make him stand out a bit.

He has a lot of negatives, though. This post on Daily Kos does a good job summarizing the main negatives:

1. His record on abortion is sketchy. Up until 2003, he was pro-life and had quite an anti-choice voting record. I’m skeptical of Romney’s flip and I feel the same way about Kucinich.
2. He did a poor job as Cleveland’s mayor. I can’t say I know much about this, but the quote in the Kos article is pretty stunning. It doesn’t sound like someone I want in office from a non-political competence standpoint.
3. The department of peace. This one deserves a little more comment, as it’s his most unique proposal.

Here’s the description from his website.

We can conceive of peace as not simply the absence of violence but the presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of human awareness, of respect, trust, and integrity. We can conceive of peace as a tool to tap the infinite capabilities of humanity to transform consciousness and conditions that impel or compel violence at a personal, group, or national level toward creating understanding, compassion, and love. We can bring forth new understandings where peace, not war, becomes inevitable. We can move from wars to end all wars to peace to end all wars.

Citizens across the United States are now uniting in a great cause to establish a Department of Peace, seeking nothing less than the transformation of our society, to make nonviolence an organizing principle, to make war archaic through creating a paradigm shift in our culture for human development for economic and political justice and for violence control. Its work in violence control will be to support disarmament, treaties, peaceful coexistence and peaceful consensus building. Its focus on economic and political justice will examine and enhance resource distribution, human and economic rights and strengthen democratic values.

That first paragraph is gibberish, more or less. The idea that some kind of peaceful utopia is possible and we can transform human consciousness to make it happen is absurdly unrealistic. We’re people, we’re going to fight. What need are institutions to help us be the most peaceful we can be. Longing for a full-sale transformation of society is best left to Marxists who still cling to failed utopian philosophies. Is a “Department of Peace” useful in that respect? It’s hard to see how.

A Department of Peace can look at the domestic issues that our society faces and often ignores as we focus on matters internationally. We have a problem with violence in our own society, and we need to look at it and address it in a structured way. Domestically, the Department of Peace would address violence in the home, spousal abuse, child abuse, gangs, and police-community relations conflicts, and would work with individuals and groups to achieve changes in attitudes that examine the mythologies of cherished world views, such as “violence is inevitable” or “war is inevitable.” Thus, it will help with the discovery of new selves and new paths toward peaceful consensus.

Internationally, the State Department is the proper place for what he wants. There’s no reason he couldn’t pursue his initiatives through it. Domestically, I don’t see what’s new here. We have programs to address the things he’s talking about, but they aren’t unified under and focused on by one department. I don’t buy organizing them that way, either. Kucinich sees all violence as related, but I don’t think you can really say that gang violence and spousal abuse have the same causes and can be addressed the same way. I wouldn’t mind an administration focusing more on these issues, but Kucinich’s way doesn’t seem that useful and it’s based on New Age-y nonsense.

4. Terrorism. Here’s his view:

The roots of terrorism lie in desperation. People with no hope resort to acts of indiscriminate violence. People with futures don’t typically strap on bombs to kill others. We must all refrain from condoning some acts of violence as justified while similar actions by others are dismissed as “terrorism.”

We cannot hope to end terrorism by killing terrorists. Hatred feeds on violence and killing. I understand this and am here to offer a more practical approach: to reduce poverty worldwide with bold changes in current U.S. policy. NAFTA and the World Trade Organizations have only served to increase global poverty, thus deepening one of the most virulent causes of terrorism. This is why I am calling for immediate cancellation of NAFTA and U.S. withdrawal from the WTO. For the sake of justice and wellbeing, it is time we established bilateral fair trade agreements that contain strict provisions for workers’ rights, human rights, and environmental principles.

This is flat out wrong. Studies of suicide terrorism and suicide terrorists consistently shows they commit suicided more in the altruistic mode than anything resembling desperation. They also aren’t typically poor, by their region’s standards. Some of the 9/11 hijackers were studying engineering in major universities, which isn’t really a desperate life choice.

5. Less serious negatives include his signing of a letter of solidarity with Hugo Chavez. Chavez’s commitment to liberalism is less than impressive and his economic policy is not working so well. Chavez is no monster, but I don’t think he’s someone we should be praising.

6. I’m a bit unsure of how to evaluate some other negatives he has. For example, he’s a New Ager and a Vegan. I don’t see anything egregiously wrong in his animal rights issue section, though I think that’s because he’s kinda vague. I can’t say I agree with incentives for farmers to turn to organic farming, which doesn’t appear to viable on the necessary scale and unnecessarily sacrifices perfectly safe and useful technology in the name of being natural. His religious beliefs seem to be the root of his Department of Peace proposal, which is disconcerting. His odd beliefs seem to be pushing him towards bad policy proposals.

Anyway, that’s my assessment of him. He is the farthest left of the candidates, but he has a lot of negatives that make me leery of supporting him.

Categories: 2008 elections, The Left
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