Dennis Kucinich | Ethically Driven Politics

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Climate change and energy crises are on everyone’s lips these days. And every politician, it seems, finds a way to slip a paragraph or two on these topics into every speech. But as we know, words don’t necessarily equal green. And ideas don’t always lead to change.

While all politicians talk the talk, many only speculate about walking the walk – usually sometime in the distant future. “By 2050, we hope to see…” Obviously we can’t say that about Al Gore. He’s been very clear on where he stands planet-wise. But he’s not running for president.

So, of the candidates, who’s green and who’s not? Which of our future presidents have real green policies and ideas on how to change the world now?

It’s a topic G Living is more than happy to explore.

Dennis Kucinich

Starting with the 2004 presidential election, Dennis Kucinich has been unfavorably compared to Don Quixote, Cervante’s myopic, wind-mill-charging idealist. But the giants Kucinich is charging are real: a bloated private bureaucracy (health care, military contractors), a secretive, monarchial administration, and a country that has seemingly lost its way in the world.

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Humble Beginnings

The oldest of 7 children, Dennis Kucinich was born in 1946 to a Croatian father and an Irish mother in Cleveland. The family was poor and moved 21 times before Dennis was 17, occasionally living in the family car. At 17, Kucinich left home to work and go to school. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 1974 with a BA and MA in Speech and Communication. At 23, he was elected to Cleveland’s city council, starting his political career. In 1977 he was elected Cleveland’s mayor, becoming the youngest mayor of a major American city. After a period of political hibernation in the 1980s Kucinich was elected to the House of Representatives for Ohio’s 10th District in 1996, where he has served since.

What doesn’t kill you…

Kucinich has consistently placed his progressive principals above partisan politics. He won Cleveland’s mayoral election based on a promise to not sell the city’s electric utility to a private company (a.k.a. deregulation). He held true to that promise, despite strong pressure from the business sector and even an assassination attempt. Ultimately, this decision proved politically catastrophic. He handily lost the next election, and he is still listed as one of the 10 worst big-city mayors of all time. Kucinich spent the 1980s “drifting” between Cleveland and the Southwest, often depending on the charity of friends. It was not until 1998 that he was recognized for his courage as mayor, saving Cleveland’s residents $195 million in utilities between 1985 and 1995.

In Congress, Kucinich has continued to vote his conscience, something the other candidates have been back-pedaling on since 2002. He voted against the USA PATRIOT act, against the authorization of force in Iraq, and has consistently voted against continued war funding. Kucinich voted for a resolution to investigate the Monica Lewinsky matter (breaking with most Democrats in the Clinton era), he continues to support legislation to provide a single-source health care system accessible to all Americans, and he has consistently supported human rights at home and abroad.

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Dennis the Idealist

Besides the trademark peace sign that he waves, perhaps Kucinich’s most out-there idea is to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Non-Violence. Although it sounds a bit Orwellian, the department “would serve to promote non-violence as an organizing principle in our society, and help to create the conditions for a more peaceful world.” The DOP would have both a domestic and international focus and would shine light on human rights issues that transcend political boundaries. Personally I’m not sure the U.S. is ready for this idea (though it seems overdue), but the DOP would act as a fine counterbalance to the DOD.

The “Flip-Flop” flap

Kucinich has changed his mind on some important issues, the most significant of which is abortion. His early voting record in Congress suggests a pro-life stance and he admits that his early views leaned in that direction. During the 2004 presidential campaign, however, he officially came out as pro-choice, stating women wouldn’t “truly be free” without the right to choose.

Is he “G”? If you want to vote for a grassroots vegan, Dennis is your guy. If you want to vote for the most progressive candidate on clean water, clean air, renewable energy and sustainability, Kucinich is your man. He is the only one from the two major parties giving these issues more than lip-service. Unfortunately (and this is a real American political problem), Kucinich’s image does not equate to electability. He’s simply not a popular “brand,” like Hilary and Barack, he does not present as a flashy, well-coiffed, ex-quarterback and (although it shouldn’t make a difference to anyone who takes voting seriously) his wife Elizabeth (30 years younger than he) often stands head and shoulders above him when they are together in public.

In the end, Kucinich’s working-class, ethical-driven brand of politics well represents his Midwestern constituency, and with some strong spin on his image he just may come out on top next summer. Like Quixote, Dennis remains ethical and chivalrous, yet vulnerable in a popular culture that focuses on the veneer instead of what lies at the heart.

In any modern presidential campaign, news about the candidates is all over the web. For accurate info, the best places to start are Kucinich’s website and his portal in Congress where you can access his voting record, his ideas, and his stance on important issues.

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