by Laura Snedeker
What does it say about American politics when the people with the most integrity flop fantastically? Ohio Congressman and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich reduced the number of palatable Democrats when he officially dropped out of the race last week after predictably poor primary results and low poll numbers.*
“There is a point at which you just realize that you, look, you accept it, that it isn’t going to happen and you move on,” Kucinich said.
Amidst the orgy of fundraising and childish sniping between the two media-appointed front-runners, Kucinich’s long-shot campaign provided an alternative voice in a country overrun by national security hawks whose plan for change encompasses only the oval office.
It is sign of how conditioned Americans have become to destructive and deceptive politics when the candidate with the boldest vision of change is marginalized by the mainstream media and treated as an object of curiosity and scorn: “In this cage we have the pinko-feathered peacenik….”
The lack of initial media coverage predetermined Kucinich's eventual exclusion as commentators lined up behind the three least radical Democrats. The Des Moines Register excluded Kucinich and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel from the debate before the Iowa caucuses because neither had a campaign office in the state before the deadline. ABC News excluded both candidates, as well as Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter from the debate hosted by St. Anselm College in New Hampshire; the candidates were excluded for not meeting arbitrary polling benchmarks. The Nevada Supreme Court upheld CNN’s right to exclude Kucinich from the Nevada caucuses debate.
In early debates, Kucinich’s only widely-reported statements were also widely ridiculed in the mainstream media. In a debate hosted by NBC News in October, moderator Tim Russert was compelled to ask the candidate to respond to a claim that he had once seen a UFO in the skies over Washington State.
“I did. And the rest of the account — I didn’t — I — it was unidentified flying object, okay. It’s like — it’s unidentified. I saw something,” Kucinich replied, undoubtedly well aware of the intent behind Russert’s obnoxious question.
Kucinich’s subsequent shunning may have had as much to do with his irreverent observations about the mainstream media as with his unsettling political views. After slamming the Democrats for their willingness to go along with the war in Iraq and urging people to “adamantly reject any kind of a move towards war with Iran,” he took a shot at Tim Russert and his cohorts.
“The media did play a role in taking us into war in Iraq, and I’m urging the members of the media to urge restraint upon you and our president, whose rhetoric is out of control,” Kucinich said.
The media have been painfully slow to acknowledge their role in cheerleading for the Iraq War. They displayed almost criminal negligence in failing to examine the so-called facts presented by the Bush administration, for fear of being called unpatriotic and un-American. They beat the drums hard and fast, abandoning notions of objectivity to become the president’s personal propaganda machine. That a politician should have to lecture the media on self-restraint and accountability is shameful.
Those who criticized Kucinich and his supporters for being too idealistic, while embracing empty rhetoric about change, miss the point. Change is about being idealistic and angry enough to go against the prevailing political wisdom; cynicism is the bastard child of idealism denied in favor of limited possibilities.
*Kucinich was attracting support from about one percent of the electorate in many polls.
For those who want more background on the campaign, please check these archival posts:
- "South Carolina Primary Preview;"
- "Iowa: Stopping Hillary Clinton's Juggernaut;"
- "New Hampshire: Barack Obama's Latest Hope;"
- "So Long Bill Richardson;"
- "Mike Huckabee, Texas Ranger;" and
- "Giuliani, Obama & the Politics of Fear."
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