WASHINGTON, D.C.—Cleveland Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich, the last standing opponent of John Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination, is going to Boston next week with high hopes that Kerry will ask him to address the party’s convention later this month. In the meantime, Kucinich is planning a full week of alternative events for his supporters. The question is whether Kerry will be willing to stomach Kucinich’s flat-out campaign to get the U.S. to leave Iraq when Kerry’s own position is so nuanced you need an interpreter to figure out what’s going on.
“I’m going to continue my opposition to the war and occupation,” Kucinich told the Voice in an interview this morning.
Howard Dean has already been asked to speak the first night of the convention (July 26), along with former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In all likelihood, Dean’s speech will have to go through a Kerry cleansing process before the former Vermont governor will be allowed on stage. Despite the antagonism of the primaries, Dean has been campaigning hard for Kerry and recently took on the thankless job of debating Ralph Nader.
Kucinich, while technically still an opponent of Kerry, announced last spring his intention to back Kerry, and he came out for John Edwards on July 6, saying, “John Edwards is a friend and a colleague. He is an excellent choice and will be a tremendous asset to Democrats from the top of the ticket on down.”
Despite that show of harmony, there’s no doubt that Kucinich and Kerry are far apart on Iraq. According to published reports, the party adopted a platform amendment last week calling for the U.S. to reduce its military presence in Iraq and push for NATO and other countries to take on more duties there. Depending on where you are coming from, this might be taken to indicate a slight softening of Kerry’s hawkish position on Iraq, a stance that on paper isn’t all that different from that of President Bush. Kucinich said his forces at the platform meetings couldn’t get enough votes to put out a minority report that certainly would’ve been more dovish; his website reports that he could only count eight hard votes for the Kucinich position. Fifteen were needed for a debate and 38 to write a minority report.
Kucinich said his main goal in running for president was to create an “alternative” core within the party. In his campaign, he said, people were mostly interested in health care, (he’s for universal health care), trade (he’s against NAFTA), the Patriot Act (against), and the war, which he has been against from the beginning.
Kucinich won 31 percent of the delegate vote in Hawaii and 26.5 percent in Alaska. States in which he got 10 percent or more of the vote include Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, and Kansas, as well as America Samoa.
The Cleveland congressman is in the enviable position of having established a national political organization as the result of his presidential run. When it comes to Kerry’s campaign, Kucinich, as the former mayor of Cleveland, should be of considerable help in a crucial state like Ohio.