Saturday, February 22, 2003

At Case Western Reserve University, I had the option of taking a class with Dennis Kucinich. I didn't take advantage of that opportunity. At the time, he seemed like just another two-bit local politician. I was unprepared for his rise to prominence.

I've always found Kucinich interesting. Here was a rather left-of-center Democrat who still was anti-abortion, as a result of his Catholic faith. Now, he's running for president. And now, he's changed his stance on abortion.

On the one hand, it takes a certain degree courage to be willing to change a policy stance in the public eye. On the other hand, does anyone doubt that this wasn't done to make himself more appealing to primary and caucus voters?

For at least a year, the peace wing of the left (a wing of the left of which I am not a part) has been calling for a "Draft Kucinich" campaign. It's not like these people didn't know he was pro-life before he declared for the presidency. Yet, they accepted him, loved him, adored him.

Kucinich thinks he has the killer issue with peace. While Howard Dean also appeals to the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party (and Bob Graham also has credentials in that area), only Kucinich speaks in a way that appeals to the outright pacifists. And now, Kucinich is moving forward with this quixotic quest. His shift on abortion signals that he actually believes that he can win something. He's not just doing this to draw attention to his pet issues, to energize the pacifists into political action, or to position himself for a potential Cabinet position. Well, possibly the latter. But this is a man who led the city of Cleveland into default as a matter of principle, refusing the corporate establishment's insistence that he sell the municipal power. His principled obstinance led a bank to refuse the customary refinancing of loans. . . a custom as common as the Congress raising the national debt ceiling everytime we come up against it.

There are two thoughts in my mind about the Kucinich switch. One is that he's decided that abortion is the lesser of two evils and he is deadset against war. In this scenario, he finds that he can handle his personal objection to abortion in the name of stopping war.

The other thought is that Kucinich is planning an eventual shift to the Green Party. This scares me. He's already the recipient of kind words from Ralph Nader. I have a feeling that if the Democrats are competitive in 2004, it will still be a close race. And a Green Party candidate who energizes the same base that Ralph Nader does could cause problems.

Mostly though, I am dismayed that we'll never get to see how an anti-abortion candidate in a Democratic primary would fare. Then, again, we had the joys of seeing a pro-abortion Arlen Specter founder in the 1996 Republican primaries.

Still, I attribute part of the Democratic Party's downfall to be making abortion the litmus test. Anyone who doesn't toe the line on abortion feels less than welcome in the party, even when they agree on a great majority of all other issues. I suspect the Green Party has become a home to quite a few disaffected liberals who are pro-life, or at least not unabashedly pro-choice.

Stay tuned. . . .
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