(Originally published for a national audience at OpEdnews. Washington State readers may want to skip the first half.)

Dennis Kucinich’s Ohio congressional district is being redistricted, so Kucinich has been visiting Washington State over the last several months, testing the waters to see whether he can run for a seat here. See this, this, this, this, and this.

The problem is, Kucinich may be unable to run in Washington State. Unless progressive members of the Democratic Party in Washington State push hard for him, I fear that he will have to try his luck elsewhere and may be unable to run at all.

The chair of the Democratic Party in Washington State, Dwight Pelz, has come out against Kucinich running here. And the mainstream press reports I’ve seen are generally hostile.  For example, this article repeatedly taunts Kucinich’s positions.  Another major newspaper had an even more hostile article about Kucinich. (I won’t even bother linking to it, because the newspaper should close shop.)   They say he’s too left wing and New Age, or they complain that he’s a carpetbagger who would be trying to steal seats from the homegrown candidates.

Another problem is that, outside Seattle and a couple other cities, Washington State is actually quite centrist or even conservative. East of the Cascade Mountains, congressional seats are held by Republicans. And last year voters voted overwhelmingly (64%) for a horribly regressive anti-tax initiative, I-1053, that will worsen Washington’s already regressive tax system. (There is no state income tax here.) According to Andrew Villeneuve of Northwest Progressive Institute, a main reason voters approved I-1053 so overwhelmingly was that the opposition campaign started late and more or less gave up, knowing that polling showed it was going to win. Progressives shouldn’t have let it win by such a wide margin.

In fact, the state Democratic Party has been drifting to the right in recent years. Unions in Washington State are angry at the Democratic Governor (Christine Gregoire) for promoting some anti-labor bills in the last session. And neither the Governor nor the Democratic legislators fight to educate the public about the importance of fair taxation. There’s a “centrist” faction of Road Kill (Blue Dog) Democrats who often vote with Republicans to defeat progressive bills. See also this..

Due to population growth, Washington State is gaining an extra congressional seat. Washington does have a strong progressive constituency. The 1999 globalization protests and riots were in Seattle.


Kucinich at NW Roots conference by Don Smith

Yesterday at the NW Roots conference of progressive activists and bloggers in Seattle, Kucinich spoke again.  This is the third time I’ve heard him in about as many months. He roused the crowd with his calls for withdrawal from wars and fair taxation. He said he marched with Teamsters and the Turtles  in Seattle in 1999. The crowd cheered for him and Kucinich was in form. I agreed with his policy statements but even I felt uncomfortable with some of his sentimental musings.They may have validity, but most people don’t want to hear them.

Here’s a sample of what he said: My life belongs not to me but to the country. There is human unity and interdependence. We are One. I challenge the notion of war. Unemployment is a national tragedy. We need a second New Deal. We need $3 trillion in infrastructure work. Government has a moral obligation to create jobs. Social Security is solid; they should raise the contribution cap. They say there’s not enough money, but they didn’t ask how to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The banks profited hugely from the bailout but aren’t lending money because there is no demand from unemployed workers. The Fed is private, and that’s contrary to the Constitution. It works for Wall Street. It should be part of the Treasury Department. Why does America have to borrow money from banks? … We act when our hearts are touched, he said; courage is etymologically related to coeur (heart) and love. We need a Department of Peace. Some people may say that idea is airy-fairy, but it is really needed, to quell violence through society and in foreign dealings.

During the question and answer period, someone asked him if he plans to run for President in 2012. He responded, “I am hopeful to run in 2012, but not for president.”

Maybe I’m reading more into that statement than it deserves, but I hear a plea for help. He was among his core supporters — Northwest progressives — and if we don’t help him, nobody will.

I shouted out “What should we do about Obama and his sellouts?” Kucinich smiled and shot back, “Next question.” (I’m sure he doesn’t want to go on record as being too critical of Obama.) A bit later he said that the national policies are being dictated by Wall Street and Obama isn’t really in control. (Wow, what are the mechanics of that?) So don’t overdo the blame on Obama, he said.  Rep. Jim McDermott, who spoke afterwards, echoed Kucinich’s sentiments and said he thinks the country may be headed for even worse economic conditions.