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Interview with Dennis Kucinich

by The Indy Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2004 at 5:32 PM

The Indy ( interviewed Democratic president candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on March 14, 2004, as he campaigned in Normal, Illinois before the Illinois primary

“The Center’s a Mythical Place”: An Interview with Dennis Kucinich

QUESTION: The Associated Press is reporting that John Kerry has reached the majority of delegates he needs for the nomination. What do you hope to accomplish by continuing your campaign?

KUCINICH: We know the direction of the nomination, but what remains to be seen is the direction of the Democratic Party. My candidacy is about influencing the direction of the Democratic Party, not just in this election, but long term. To have a party that stands for peace, for workers rights, human rights, and environmental quality in trade, and for universal health care.

QUESTION: Do you think you’ll have an influence at the Democratic National Convention?

KUCINICH: To me, that’s a secondary question right now. I’m in this election all the way through to the convention. We’ll take one phase at a time. I’m the only other candidate, I think, who is actively campaigning still. I’m going to continue to campaign.

QUESTION: Do you think the media’s going to pay attention to you now that there’s not officially a race?

KUCINICH: Local media has been covering this campaign, and continues to do so. Whatever the national media does, as far as I’m concerned, is irrelevant. This campaign is continuing. I don’t need the permission of the national media to run, I’m not seeking it, I didn’t ask them to get in, whether they cover me or not is their problem, not mine.

QUESTION: The mainstream media seems to vacillate between mocking you and ignoring you. How much damage did the media do to your campaign?

KUCINICH: I think I’m right on track to be an overnight success.

QUESTION: What do you think of Ralph Nader’s independent candidacy?

KUCINICH: Ralph Nader and I have known each other for 30 years. We’ve worked together on a lot of things. Our politics are obviously different. I’m inside the Democratic Party, he’s not. I think that my candidacy has the potential to attract people who would otherwise vote for Ralph Nader. People who are concerned about the undue influence of corporate power in our political agenda, people who are concerned about illegal wars, people who are concerned about protecting the environment, people who are concerned about fair trade, all those people who are attracted to Ralph Nader are also attracted to my candidacy. So what I’m doing is keeping the potential alive to bring people inside the Democratic Party.

QUESTION: On the positions you mentioned, you seem to agree with Nader more than Kerry.

KUCINICH: But just keep something in mind. The Democratic Party cannot win the White House without that constituency.

QUESTION: What would you say to voters in Illinois, and other safe states where a vote for Nader won’t affect the presidential election?

KUCINICH: Just about any Democratic nominee can count on 47%-48% of the vote. This election’s going to be decided by fractions. The question is, in each state, who has the ability to attract progressive voters and mobilize them, and give them a reason to vote. I don’t think people are ready to trade a Republican version of the war in Iraq for a Democratic version of the same. We have a long period of time for this argument to be played out. We’re seven and a half months away from the general election. That’s an eternity in politics. Anything can happen. So I’m staying on this trail right through to the election. So that takes us to July.

QUESTION: Do you plan to endorse John Kerry?

KUCINICH: I’m in an active phase of a candidacy, so it’s inappropriate for anyone to ask me that when I’m campaigning.

QUESTION: But all of the Democratic nominees agreed to endorse the winner.

KUCINICH: We’ve already committed for the nominee.

QUESTION: Your home state of Ohio may be decisive in the fall election.


QUESTION: What do think are the chances that Kerry can defeat Bush in Ohio?

KUCINICH: I’m not going to go there. It’s too soon.

QUESTION: What issues will Ohio voters care about for defeating Bush?

KUCINICH: I think Bush is vulnerable on the war, because his administration lied to get us into a war. He’s vulnerable on trade because we lost three million jobs, and he’s actually accelerating these trade agreements. He’s vulnerable on health care, with 43 million Americans without health care. He’s vulnerable on Social Security. The Democrats are not going to be able to mobilize the support necessary to win the White House unless they have a progressive economic agenda. It’s just not going to happen. It’s not going to be enough to say, “Get rid of Bush.” There’s a point at which you have to offer people something. And there it becomes a question of what the Democrats stand for.

QUESTION: What is your argument against the argument of the DLC and pundits that you have to move to the center to win the election?

KUCINICH: The center’s a mythical place. The center of nowhere is what they’re talking about. It’s very interesting that the kind of academic political analysis based on ideology is insufficient for being able to guide the outcome of this election, because the essential analysis is an economic one, it’s not an ideological one. The economic analysis has to realize that wealth is being redistributed upward at a very quick rate. That the tax cuts have redistributed wealth upwards, that the war in Iraq is a redistribution of wealth upwards, that the 1 billion Pentagon budget is a redistribution of wealth upwards, that global corporate trades facilitates a redistribution of wealth upwards, that concentration of corporate power redistributes wealth upwards, that pollution represents a redistribution of wealth in the society. The way that you mobilize people is to appeal to their practical aspirations for jobs, for housing, for health care, for education, for retirement security, and for peace. That’s the ticket to this election. If the Democrats can do that, we win the White House. If we can’t, we won’t. There are no guarantees here. None at all. There will be a lot of shadow play and image thrusting, but it’s not clear what anyone stands for yet. People really have to know that there’s a crystal clear alternative, it’s too soon to say if that’s going to take shape. That’s why my candidacy gives the Democrats an opportunity, through the debate, an opportunity to assume some clarity about what we stand for. Maybe the Party will decide not to stand for what I’m talking about. But there will be clarify about where they stand because there will be somebody holding up some principles throughout the process of the next three months.

QUESTION: Do you expect John Kerry to continue holding debates with you?

KUCINICH: No, I think that part’s over. I don’t anticipate that. Why would he want to do that?

QUESTION: It seems like this period of time is an opportunity to bring a lot more delegates in.

KUCINICH: We’re working on it. In the last 30 days, we’ve actually had one of the largest gains in delegates over the past 30 days.

QUESTION: What issues do you think will bring you more delegates?

KUCINICH: The war, health care, trade, Patriot Act. Kerry was for the Patriot Act, and for the war, and for NAFTA, and for this corporate-type trade, and corporate-type health care. This, for me, is a demonstration of my commitment. How committed am I to these principles? There have been seven other candidates who have dropped out of the race. Each person has to demonstrate how committed they are. I’m showing how committed I am.

QUESTION: For the fall election, Noam Chomsky has said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Bush pulls Bin Laden out of thin air.

KUCINICH: He might pull Bin Laden out of mid-air, but he’s never going to pull the truth out of mid-air. Because that’s one thing he’s not met. And so that’s one thing that’s quite elusive.

QUESTION: And your intention is to keep your eyes on the prize?

KUCINICH: Absolutely.

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