I went to Phoenix Saturday the 28th to a "meet the candidate" gathering with Dennis Kucinich. He is the former mayor of Cleveland, current U.S. Congressman from Ohio, and candidate for the Democratic presidential primary. He and other candidates were at a conference with Hispanic leaders. Afterward he met with a group of supporters.


Kucinich is by far the candidate who is doing the best job of promoting true-to-Democratic stands on a variety of issues: A single-payer health plan; withdrawal from international trade agreements embodied in NAFTA and the WTO because they are tilted against workers, small farmers, and the environment; repeal of the "Patriot Act" because of its infringements on rights; promotion of unions, and others.


His detractors like to claim he let Cleveland fall into bankruptcy. Actually the banks wanted to force Kucinich to privatize power in Cleveland. He had promised in his campaign to keep the power company municipal, and so refused to yield to the bankers' threats. The bankers retaliated by not allowing the city's debt to roll over as it normally would. Years later, when other areas were hit with outrageous utility bills because of the games of power players like Enron, it became clear that he had saved the people of Cleveland a great deal of money.


He recently came in second in a vote taken by members of MoveOn.org. There were over 300,000 votes. That's a lot of interest. The votes were each submitted with the member's logon name so people couldn't give multiple votes. The winner was Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, who has stirred a lot of interest with recent statements against the Iraq war. Of course, because he is not a member of Congress, we have no record of how he would have actually voted. I suspect a lot of casual Dean supporters will have second thoughts as they get more familiar with his very conservative record as governor.


Kucinich voted against the "Patriot Act" (the only candidate to do so), and against the Iraq war.


As far as electability is concerned, each office that he has gained mayor, state senator, and U. S. congressman he has gained by beating an incumbent Republican. The power brokers in the Democratic Party, the DNC (Democratic National Committee), and the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) want someone who's just a little left of Bush. They think that's what it takes to be electable. They apparently still haven't gotten the message that Ralph Nader so clearly made for us, that there is a huge pool of voters and would-be voters out there who are eagerly waiting for someone truly Democratic to put their support behind.


After Kucinich's talk I asked him about what would take the place of NAFTA. Ending the bias against workers and small farmers and the environment is great, but something has to take its place. He said the solution was simple: return to bilateral trade agreements. That is, negotiate with each nation an open trade agreement, but condition them on proper care of workers and the environment.


If you'd like to learn more about Kucinich his web page is www.kucinich.us, and if you'd like to get involved the local Kucinich group meets at Democratic Party headquarters. You can get the details from George Karsa at 771-9426.