The people’s candidate—Dennis K.

“My concept of the American dream? It’s not the America of IBM, ITT and Exxon. It’s the America of Paine and Jefferson and Samuel Adams. There are increasingly two Americas: the America of multinationals dictating decisions in Washington, and the America of neighborhoods and rural areas, who feel left out.”

–Dennis Kucinich as quoted by Studs Terkel in The Nation’s “Kucinich Is the One”

It’s too early to start in with the negatives about the mostly male candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. One of them will end up running as the Anti-Bush in 2004.

For my part, Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the man with a plan. That’s why I’ll be heading over to the Washoe County Registrar of Voters to change my voter registration from “non-partisan” to “Democrat.”

Kucinich (koo-CIN-itch) grew up as one of seven kids in an impoverished working family. He observed other struggling families and wondered why these hard workers weren’t getting ahead while others, with far less effort but plenty of dough, made immense sums. He was elected to the Cleveland City Council at age 23 after running a campaign on a shoestring, knocking on doors and talking to people who felt disenfranchised. He did the same at age 31, when he was elected as the youngest mayor ever to run a city the size of Cleveland.

It didn’t take long before the new mayor realized that the city had messy debts. Several banks agreed to help the city with a plan to work its way out of debt. All but one bank, in fact, which wanted to help a private company (whose largest stockholder was, in fact, the bank itself) purchase the city’s municipally owned power system, Muny Light. Kucinich faced a dilemma: Sell the utility and lead his citizens into a new era of ever-increasing power rates or refuse to sell and reap the fury of a powerful corporate entity. (By the way, this is the same kind of choice—privatize or go broke!—forced on developing nations who’ve become indebted to the International Monetary Fund. Workers grubbing for a living receive no benefit from utility privatization, which results in their paying more for such basic needs as water.)

In Ohio, Kucinich chose to stand up for his beliefs. But the bankers—who failed to make the expected millions when the deal fell through—crucified Kucinich. His political resurrection took about a decade, a time during which observers noted that Kucinich had made a good-for-the-people decision. Muny Light had saved utility customers about $195 million over a few years with its lower rates.

In 1996, Kucinich won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the other Democratic candidates holding congressional offices, he was the only one to vote against going to war in Iraq last fall.

He’s not an anti-business hippie. He’s crusaded to save Cleveland’s steel industry from death by multinational interests. He’s worked to reopen neighborhood hospitals in his community. At the same time, he is a tireless advocate for the working poor—and a national voice for the homeless.

He was an early critic of nuclear power, one who wondered what the heck the industry was going to do with its radioactive waste products well before Yucca Mountain was conceived as a glowing goo-yard.

He believes in democracy but worries about our nation’s future.

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Kucinich says: “There’s a great gap in our society, and it’s widening. You see what’s happening in our corporations, where executives are paid hundreds of times what workers are paid. … The maldistribution of wealth in this society, the intensification of it, is a threat to our democracy. As wealth accelerates to the top, democracy is led to the scaffold.”

But you say he doesn’t really have a snowball’s chance. I’ve said this myself, but no more. Kucinich told Rolling Stone that he’s got some experience in dealing with situations that “everyone says are impossible.” His deeds bear this out.