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The Left Needs to Be Smarter, Part Who Even Knows


Why would Our Revolution, the Bernie Sanders-affiliated political action group, endorse Dennis Kucinich over Richard Cordray in the Democratic nomination for the governor of Ohio? This is a terrible endorsement. Now, you don’t have to endorse Cordray per se. I think he’s fine. He’s close to Elizabeth Warren and was head of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau from 2012-2017. To me, that’s a very solid Democratic choice with good policies, a good background, and key support. People who think like Warren is exactly who we need. But still, there might be other options out there and I’m not here to endorse Richard Cordray. I do however know that Dennis Kucinich is just terrible.

How many times has he gone on Fox News in the last few years? How many times has he expressed sympathy for Donald Trump? How many times has he reinforced right-wing narratives about Russia or Syria? Then there’s his well-known disastrous tenure as mayor of Cleveland, which should make people think about whether one would even want him in an executive position, as opposed to his time in Congress when he could just speak out about various issues, on some of which he was good. Sure, on some things, Kucinich talks a big game. He pledged to ban assault rifles in Ohio, which isn’t going to happen, but OK. He has promised to end the fossil fuel industry in the state too. That’s also not going to happen. These are promises that will make it hard for him to win in a state like Ohio. There are huge numbers of Ohio residents that love assault rifles and work in fossil fuels. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to fight to undermine gun culture and stop drilling, but these are unrealistic promises that might serve to inflame the Democratic base (although probably not the urban black voters who are the real base) but will be tough positions if he were to win the primary. But even taking this out of the equation, it’s good to at least put forward unlikely policy goals. The problem is not in the policy ideas. It’s in the fact of who Kucinich is and how he operates. This is a man who serves on the advisory board for the Ron Paul Institute, for Christ’s sake. I know I can’t wait for more diatribes about the Deep State….

Dennis Kucinich is a clown and a charlatan and it’s extremely disappointing for Bernie’s people to endorse him, although I don’t think this reflects negatively on Sanders at all. He had nothing to do with it, at least to my knowledge. However, I think it’s interesting to consider this primary battle in terms of the different types of Democratic left that are emerging. Cordray and Kucinich are both in at least some ways, quite progressive candidates. So why this divide? Who is attracted to one or the other? I am going to engage in complete speculation here, so forgive me. But this is based on my observations. If we see this battle as a sort of proxy between Warren and Sanders supporters, I think there might be some useful divides here. I think Warren and Cordray fit a class of progressives who tend to be wonky, particularly interested in policy ideas, who are all probably pretty well educated, and that include a lot of women. I feel Bernie and Kucinich appeal to a very different type of progressive, and on this I feel more on solid ground than above. I think they appeal mostly to men, mostly to people who are really pissed off, who are driven more by emotion and anger than by policy, who think that U.S. foreign policy is inherently evil and thus are sympathetic to anyone who attacks it, who also were Ron and Rand Paul curious and maybe even Trump curious under certain circumstances, who care about economic issues, but aren’t so interested in a lot of other justice issues, who skewer both younger and older (with ex-hippies and antiwar protestors a strong constituency) and who are more likely to support third party candidates when their candidate loses the primary because fuck Democrats. I think both groups are largely white, although obviously not exclusively. So it’s hardly surprising, say, to see a joker like Zaid Jilani loving Kucinich.

I’m sure you can poke holes in this dichotomy, but there are obvious divisions on the left that are going to coalesce more concretely between now and the 2020 primaries, so it’s worth trying to think harder about the fault lines.

In any case, Dennis Kucinich is completely unacceptable as a candidate and it’s flat out embarrassing for Our Revolution to endorse him. My revolution avoids candidates who express sympathy for Donald Trump, are cool with Syrian and Russian dictators, and appear on right-wing propaganda outlets routinely. The left simply needs to be a lot smarter in the way in conducts its politics, a point I feel the need to make routinely. But then I am just a neoliberal sellout because I voted for Bernie in the primary but didn’t hate Hillary with enough passion to satisfy some on the internet left.

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