I understand why MSNBC, ABC, or the Des Moines Register would not want Dennis Kucinich onstage: he does not make for good television. He is not a handsome trial lawyer with a Southern drawl, a black man or a woman. Nor does he poll higher than 3-4%. The pundits, the networks, the sponsors, the donors, the ones calling the shots have decided: It’s a made-for-TV three man race where one of the men is a woman (albeit barely). No one else must be allowed to crash the party. Particularly, not a candidate who might, directly or indirectly, remind viewers of what interests are at stake, for media and their advertisers. A candidate who would lay the blame for the healthcare crisis squarely where it belongs, on the shoulder of insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and of the politicians that allowed themselves to be bought is not welcome. A candidate who would remind front-runners of their responsibility in abetting a criminal foreign policy cannot be allowed on stage. A candidate who voted against the Patriot Act, in defense of the Constitution, cannot be allowed to debate. A candidate who, if elected, would repeal NAFTA and withdraw from the WTO cannot be allowed to speak. A candidate who voted against every war-funding measure since 2002 cannot be allowed to voice his opposition to a war which fattens GE, MSNBC’s parent, with military contracts.
I don’t blame the media, advertisers, pundits, or the other candidates and their campaigns, for wanting to shrink the field. They all benefit. But I do blame the Democratic Party for its complicity in denying an audience to one of its candidates. When the Democratic Party leadership chooses not to fight for Dennis Kucinich, it is essentially saying that it, too, like MSNBC and ABC, does not want to alienate the corporate interests it has come to serve and protect. What the Democratic Party is saying is that, in spite of its proclaims of being a big tent which hosts a variety of equally legitimate viewpoints, it demands that its representatives toe the Party line. What the Democratic Party is ultimately saying is that it is more interested in the preservation of power for power’s sake than for the sake of the people it represents.
Back in July, in one of the early debates in which he was still allowed to appear, Dennis Kucinich listened for two hours to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards apologizing for being misled by the administration, for voting to authorize the war in Iraq, for voting for a resolution naming the Iranian Guard a terrorist organization, for helping pass NAFTA and CAFTA, and on and on. Then, in one of the rare opportunities he was given by the moderator to speak, he delivered one of the best lines of the campaign season so far: "Imagine having a president that got it right the first time."
Later, Senators Edwards and Clinton were overheard discussing the need to limit the number of participants in Democratic debates. No kidding! The network and debate organizers happily obliged, with the complicity of the Democratic Party. Together, they have accomplished the goal of telling you who the viable candidates are, the ones that must get your vote based not on the merit of their ideas but on their ability to satisfy those they serve. Not you, but the powers that helped them to get where they are. Together, they have managed to convince you that a vote for your conscience, a vote for Dennis Kucinich, is a wasted vote, so you can vote instead for one of the corporation-endorsed candidates. Remember that, the next time one of them lectures you on the value of democracy and asks you for your donation. Reply to them and the Party with a note explaining why you sent no donation. Most of all, think how different things might be if you went with your conscience and voted for a candidate that got it right the first time around. You still can.