Dean or Kucinich?

Both candidates have their strengths

| January 2004 Issue

Like many progressives, I've felt torn between Howard Dean's and Dennis Kucinich's respective strengths. I've resolved this conflict so far by embracing my indecision and giving money to both. Kucinich has spoken out, eloquently and thoughtfully, taking stands that challenge the conventional wisdom of our time, and point toward powerful long-term alternatives. Dean's stands are more cautious, but he's revived the Democratic Party by being willing to challenge Bush on a host of key issues, and brought more ordinary citizens into electoral politics than any Democratic politician in years. When Dean says, "America is not Rome," it contrasts starkly with an administration that's tried its best to make us the world's imperial policeman.

A year ago, a surging global peace movement offered hope, but I saw little to cheer me on the U.S. electoral front. The most prominent Democratic candidates -- Kerry, Gephardt, and Lieberman -- had just finished helping give Bush his victory on the war vote. In Gephardt's case, he helped write the resolution, line up the House votes, and take the political postures (literally standing with Bush in a supportive photo op) that made resistance from the Senate far more difficult. Kerry lambasted Bush's unilateral policies, then turned around and supported them-a piece of political calculation based solely, as far as I can tell, on some astonishingly craven notion of Presidential electability. If possible, Lieberman was more hawkish than Bush on Iraq from the beginning -- which shouldn't surprise us, since Lieberman gained his Senate seat by using the financial support of William F. Buckley to bait moderate Republican Lowell Weickert for being soft on Cuba, and no Democratic Senator north of the Mason-Dixon line has a more conservative record than Lieberman. Although Edwards seemed a decent new face, he also voted for the war and belongs to the Democratic Leadership Council, which has counseled endless accommodation ever since Bush was handed the White House.