Feisty presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich is a national figure in the US; a thorn in the side of president George W. Bush and powerful right-wingers in his own Democratic Party alike. The 60-year-old former Mayor of Cleveland, who now represents much of the city in Congress, is a bitter opponent of the war in Iraq and a champion of working class people. He also opposes the death penalty and supports tough gun control and gay rights.
As Cleveland mayor, Kucinich won acclaim for standing up to big business and refusing to sell the city's Muny Light utility company to a private firm. The brave move saved Cleveland an estimated $195 million between 1985 and 1995. Kucinich, a Roman Catholic, was criticised during his 2004 failed campaign to become US president for allegedly changing his stance on abortion from for to against. In Britain, flamboyant socialist MP George Galloway, also a Catholic, takes the same line which rankles with most fellow progressives.
During Kucinich's 2004 campaign to become president, leading US Green campaigner Ralph Nader praised him as "a genuine progressive". But Kucinich was unable to carry any of the 50 US states in the Democratic Primaries, and John Kerry eventually won the nomination at the party's national convention. Kerry went on to lose to Bush.
In the 2008 campaign Kucinich looks likely to suffer the same fate, leading some critics to denounce his candidature as based on no more than 'vanity' because it stands virtually no chance of succeeding.
Kucinch is unrepentant. He says: "The American people should know that there's at least one person running for president who wants to reconnect America with its goodness, with its greatness, with its highest principles, which currently are not being reflected by those who are in the White House."
In April, he bravely though unsuccessfully attempted to get rid of US president Dick Cheney, the billionaire businessman and architect of the Iraq invasion, by having him impeached by Congress.
Kucinich's trade union, civil liberties and anti-war allies believe he is doing an important job putting progressive social and foreign policy issues, shunned by Democratic front-runners and darlings of the liberal establishment, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, on the US national agenda. Kucinich's platform for 2008 includes:
- Creating a single-payer system of universal health care that provides full coverage for all Americans.
- Guaranteed quality education for all, including free pre-kindergarten and college for all who want it.
- Immediate withdrawal from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
- Repealing the USA Patriot Act (the equivalent of Britain draconian anti-terrorism laws).
- Fostering a world of international cooperation.
- Abolishing the death penalty.
- Environmental renewal and clean energy.
- Preventing the privatisation of social security.
- Providing full social security benefits at age 65.
- Creating a cabinet-level Department of Peace.
- Ratifying the environment-friendly ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.
- Introducing reforms to bring about instant-run-off voting.
- Protecting a woman's right to choose while decreasing the number of abortions performed in the U.S.
- Ending the war on drugs.
- Legalising same-sex marriage.
- Creating a balance between workers and corporations.
- Restoring rural communities and family farms.
- Strengthening gun control.
- Ending of a US visa programme aimed at attracting migrants who have special information technology skills, and thereby undercutting US IT workers.
The 12-point Kucinich Plan For Iraq, greatly differs from the position of Clinton and Obama who favour some US troops being left behind after a withdrawal. Kucinich says as president he would:
- Immediately withdraw all US forces from Iraq and replace them with an international security force.
- Announce that existing funds will be used to bring the troops and the necessary equipment home.
- Order a simultaneous return of all US contractors to the United States and turn over the contracting work to the Iraqi government
- Convene a regional conference for the purpose of developing a security and stabilization force for Iraq.
- Prepare an international security peacekeeping force to move in, replacing US troops, who then return home.
- Develop and fund a process of national reconciliation.
- Restart programmes for reconstruction and creating jobs for the Iraqi people.
- Provide reparations for the damage that has been done to the lives of Iraqis.
- Assure the political sovereignty of Iraq and making sure that their oil isn't stolen.
- Repair the Iraqi economy.
- Guarantee economic sovereignty for Iraq
- Start an international truth and reconciliation process, which establishes a policy of truth and reconciliation between the people of the United States and Iraq.