Tuesday, August 15, 2000
Kucinich defiantly liberal
LOS ANGELES Dennis Kucinich never seems to be able to get with the program.
When the Democratic party zigs, Dennis Kucinich zags. When the winds of Democratic politics blow toward the middle, Dennis Kucinich ties himself to the mast and heaves port-side.
Dennis Kucinich one-time boy mayor of Cleveland, now the mature congressman from the Cleveland suburbs is what he has always been: an unrepen-
tant, good old-fashioned liberal who sees nothing wrong with a government willing to take on whatever ills this society has.
And, being what he is, the 53-year-old congressman seems oddly out of place here in Los Angeles, where the party faithful crow all day long about how moderate, sensible and centrist they have become and how good they are at winning elections.
If politics is only about winning offices, it is a very barren profession, Mr. Kucinich said Monday, standing outside the breakfast meeting of the Ohio delegation, greeting delegates and old friends from Cleveland politics. I believe in a politics that is meaningful.
He has the same bubbling enthusiasm and intensity that he had in the late 1970s, when he stunned the political world by becoming the mayor of Cleveland at a time when the city was foundering economically, spiritually and otherwise.
A year later, he was in hot water when the city went bankrupt after a year of Mr. Kucinich battling the Cleveland utility companies and the rest of the city's business establishment.
A recall vote bounced him from office. He was followed by Republican George Voinovich, who spearheaded the city's economic boom of the 1980s and used the mayorship as a steppingstone to the governor's mansion.
Mr. Kucinich wandered through the wilderness of Ohio politics throughout the 1980s, making a comeback when he was elected to a state Senate seat 10 years ago.
In 1996, he completed his comeback by knocking off an incumbent Republican congressman, Martin Hoke, in the suburban Cleveland congressional district that is home to thousands of conservative Reagan Democrat voters.
He won preaching the same liberal sermon of activist government that he has always preached.
This week in Los Angeles, the new Democrats led by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council that spawned Bill Clinton and produced Joe Lieberman is clearly in charge.
But Mr. Kucinich has not backed off. He gave a rousing speech Monday about how the Democrats need to help those who need them most and had the crowd new Democrat and old cheering madly.
All you have to do is talk about what it means to be a Democrat, Mr. Kucinich said later. People respond. The spirit is not dead.