I cut my political teeth as a campus coordinator for Dennis Kucinich’s quixotic primary challenge to Mary Rose Oakar in 1988.? He lost 75-25.? There were like 4 people at the election night party, two of whom were me and my fellow CSU student intern friend.? It was one of the earliest formative experiences of my political career.? I spent a lot of time around Dennis, and those close to him.? Dennis has been my congressman for most of the years he’s been in Congress.? He was my mayor when I was a kid.
So I know what kind of politician Dennis Kucinich is.? When Dennis decides what he believes in, he acts in pursuit of that belief forever, taking every logical step that conclusion requires.? The Cleveland default, while Dennis was mayor, was the first manifestation.? That default gave rise to George Voinovich, a Republican mayor of a Democratic city, and that gift kept on giving to Ohio Republicans for decades.
Consequences are consequences, Dennis would say, of acting on what you believe in.? It’s an honorable, even noble way to conduct your public service, but it is very messy, and often counterproductive. You do have the luxury of always being right.? History is Dennis’ judge, he’d say.
Dennis has decided that the only health care reform that makes sense is a single payer system that eliminates private health insurance companies forever.? A lot of us agree, including myself.? The difference between Dennis and the rest of us is that Dennis will only act in a manner which will immediately bring single payer to reality, while the rest of us fight to get the best we can out of a political system designed by the framers for compromise.
The problem for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi is that Dennis thus subtracts one vote from every whip count, to account for Dennis’ eventual “no” vote.? Dennis has decided that he doesn’t care.? When Dennis thinks he’s right, he will follow his logic to its bitter end, for the sake of being right.? See his presidential follies.? I admire this in Dennis, to a point.
I don’t know if Dennis will change his vote on final passage if the entire thing comes down to one vote.? He may.? But this is not Boccieri-style preening, it’s Kucinich-style crusading.? Dennis is in the safest seat this side of Tim Ryan and Marcia Fudge, but it’s even safer, because Dennis is so beloved on Cleveland’s west side.? There are parents who were not born when Dennis began his career with kids in college today, and both parent and child think of Dennis as the single most perfected manifestation of all that is good about a dying city.? Nothing is going to ever change that.? So Dennis can afford his crusades.
I’m hopeful that we won’t need Dennis’ vote for final passage, because I actually like that Dennis is this committed to single payer.? Someone has to be.? Someday, generations from now, single payer may become a reality thanks to people like Dennis.? But if it comes down to Dennis’ vote on health care reform in 2009, and Dennis does flip flop, he has nothing to fear.? Dennis may have to choose between single payer crusading and this historic presidency.? In that equation, I think Dennis will choose this presidency.