I spent a good part of the past week following Dennis Kucinich around the state of New Hampshire in a tizzy because I was angry and frustrated with him and with the media and with all things American presidential election 2008. I wanted some answers and some reasons to become and stay a true believer in the Kucinich campaign and I wanted him to change stripes and become someone he is not in order to satisfy what I think a candidate should be.
If you are with me so far then you, too, are a Dennis Kucinich want-to-believer and would have done as I did. You, too, would have gone to New Hampshire and followed the Congressman around as he gave his speeches, signed his book, talked endlessly to everyone about a wide range of topics from global warming to his Cleveland roots to his belief in a single-payer not for profit health care system and his determination to end the illegal war in Iraq, make sure the country does not go to war with Iran by impeaching the vice president and on and on. It becomes a form of mesmerism. We all agree on these topics; we know them to be of such importance that we cannot stop thinking and talking about them for fear that if we stop, the world will definitely implode of its own evil intentions.
Traveling with the Kucinich campaign was a civics lesson because I had no idea what it takes to be a contender for the presidency of the United States. I was willing, though, to get in my car and follow him around. It was a way to see him at his best and at his worst. I met the folks running the campaign and watched them making sure he got from place to place on time and with all his notes in order and with food in the belly and fire in the heart.
I watched and I saw things that I have to admit made me re-think what it is about this country that could make it great. I don't know if it ever truly was as great as Kucinich seems to think it was. I don't even know if he believes it once was so great, but I do know that he thinks it can be great. Not out of some chauvinistic need to be the best, but out of a strong belief that the constitution is a secular document of the highest order that must be obeyed and fulfilled. He is serious about his oath of office that charges him with the duty to defend and protect the constitution. He does not joke about this or use it as a campaign slogan or as a position to give him traction. In fact, his belief in the constitution as a document that takes us to our highest level is what makes him see how we need to behave as moral and legal people in the world. He does not practice Orwellian doublespeak. By defending the constitution he has put his campaign on the line by going after the impeachment of the vice president for lying to this country in order to take us into a war, among many other impeachable offenses listed in the articles of impeachment.
Oratory comes in waves to the Congressman. He can be incredibly brilliant and inspiring and when he is on, he brings out of people this kind of rah-rah feeling that is unlike anything I have ever seen. But he does not promise pie in the sky and he does not push the buttons that usually make Americans feel all gooey inside. He actually asks us to think.
He believes in all of us in a way, to be honest, that I don't. I don't believe that all of us really want to be great, to be held accountable for seeing the world as if we are all one and the same, that we are of the same fabric. I can feel it intermittently. I agree too often with those who say he cannot win for the shallowest of reasons, and repeat ad nauseum the mantra of the media that he is unelectable because he is too far to the left or too short or has a boyish haircut.
But then a voice says to me, "Do you really want someone telling you at this point in our history for whom to vote? Are you going to cast a ballot for a candidate you don't want as president because someone else tells you that he or she is electable?"
Those questions kept nagging to be answered as I listened to Kucinich in a variety of settings. I asked these questions: Should the electorate vote for a presidential candidate based on character and intellect? Should we be voting for someone who has fully stated the solutions he would apply to the problems the country and the world face? And finally should we be voting for the candidate who is committed to defending and protecting the constitution and to restoring the rights and liberties the present administration has curtailed?
I left New Hampshire with answers to my questions. The answers didn't answer the original questions that had motivated my trip. Now I can envision a Kucinich presidency, one in which he and the country will hold themselves to the highest standards. On a more personal level, I witnessed how approachable Kucinich is and how willing to talk to anyone about their specific concerns. That is the candidate I found in New Hampshire.