By Chris Hedges
This article was originally published by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I am tired of living in a country where 16-year-old girls die because insurance company profits are more important than human life.
I am tired of a government that runs offshore penal colonies where the detained are tortured and denied the basic protections of the Geneva Convention.
I am tired of living in a state that makes war against countries that do not threaten us.
I am tired of watching basic constitutional rights, such as the right to privacy, taken away from citizens.
Most of all, I am tired of being told every four years that I must vote for candidates who do nothing to stop the brutal and callous assault by corporations on the American working class, sending their jobs overseas and stripping workers of benefits and human dignity.
And so—to be sure that this year my vote goes to someone who does more than pay lip service to the moral and physical deterioration of the nation—I will pull the lever for Dennis Kucinich.
I can hear the collective groan. He won’t win. He has no real following. It is a wasted vote.
But this is the groan of the comfortable, those who have health insurance and a decent job. This is the groan of those who can send their kids to expensive colleges and probably went to one. The groans of the poor in this country, including the increasingly impoverished working class, are no longer audible to most of us. Their lives have been rendered invisible, of little interest to the advertisers who sell us products on television or take out full-page color ads in the newspapers and glossy magazines. And when the corporations write you off in America, everyone else does, too.
Any vote is wasted that does not address the terrible injustices being done to tens of millions of people who have lost the opportunity to earn a living wage. Any vote is wasted that does not, even if it ends up being a protest vote, attempt to halt our transformation into an oligarchic state where a tiny, privileged elite controls our money and our politics.
The irony and tragedy of the Kucinich candidacy is that, in many ways, he is proclaiming the failure of his own party. Again and again, he says what his party should be, but no longer is. He has championed democratic freedoms and defended the interests of the working class, from which he comes, for decades. He was alone among the major candidates to vote against the Patriot Act, against authorizing the war in Iraq, and he wants to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
He has called for the impeachment of the vice president and public financing for elections. If you compare his voting record with that of any of the other major candidates, he is the only one who has steadfastly remained free from corporate control.
I went to see Kucinich in Washington. I asked him during a two-hour interview why the Democratic Party has failed so badly. Why did the party, despite the midterm elections, refuse to cut funding for a war that is probably the worst foreign-policy blunder in U.S. history?
“Lack of commitment to democratic principles,” he said after a long pause. He then began to list the reasons: “No understanding of the period of history we are in ... unwillingness to assert congressional authority in key areas which makes the people’s house paramount to protecting democracy; the institutionalized influence of corporate America through the Democratic Leadership Council.
“Oil runs our politics, corrupt Wall Street interests run our politics, insurance companies run our politics, arms manufacturers run our politics, and the public’s interests are being strangled,” he added.
He stands as a maverick within the party, denouncing the series of trade agreements, many put in place by Bill Clinton, which have devastated U.S. workers.
“What I see is that the Democratic Party abandoned working people and paradoxically they are the ones who hoist the flag of workers every two and four years, only to engender excitement and then turn around and abandon the same constituency. This is now on a level of a practiced ritual.”
Kucinich advocates a full-employment economy, calling for a new version of the 1930s Works Progress Administration (WPA), which employed millions of Americans. He wants to put people to work to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure, from its roads and bridges to its dams, levies, sewer systems, libraries and mass transit. He has introduced, along with Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio, a bill, H.R. 3400, that would provide federal funds for this jobs program. He has called for the government to invest in wind and solar technologies to be retrofitted into tens of millions of U.S. homes and businesses.
Kucinich is the only candidate in the race who advocates a single, not-for-profit health-care system for all citizens, in essence a national Medicare. He coauthored H.R. 676, which would provide universal health coverage. This coverage would, he said, not only assure that people will not suffer or die from lack of medical care, but would also stem the epidemic of personal bankruptcies, half of which are attributed to people who cannot pay their medical bills.
He rails against his party’s refusal to end the war, blaming the Democrats’ decision to continue funding the war on “an implicit understanding of the power of those interests that profit from war and the power of war as an idea.”
I asked him if he was ever frustrated, given his lonely status as an outsider. He was excluded from a Dec. 13 Democratic debate in Iowa sponsored by the Des Moines Register. His lack of corporate money has seen his campaign subsist on $2 million while Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama each raised $100 million in 2007 for their presidential bids.
“What you do in life is you stand up and fight for those things you believe in,” he said, “and you do it without question or pause, to take a phrase in one of my favorite songs. I don’t have any complaints.”
AP photo / Jim Cole