Dennis Kucinich lost his bid for re-election, and Glenn Greenwald and company aren’t happy about it. In their articles about it, they show they miss the point. (More)
It’s dispiriting, to say the least, that such a stalwart liberal losing his office is celebrated with even more gusto than the defeat of your average Blue Dog, but there it is.
Reading through those posts, you might think that the seat switched to a Republican. You’d have to look hard and long to figure out that he lost a primary to another Democrat!
Yes, you don’t see Digby mention it at all, and Greenwald mentions it in passing and then proceeds to ignore it. Instead, they spend a lot of words bemoaning what a great progressive voice Kucinich is, and how it’s awful that “establishment Democrats” are happy that he’s gone. They attribute it to his “wackiness,” but Angry Black Lady points out the real reason: It’s not his wackiness, it’s his fecklessness. In terms of “effective” and “reliable,” Kucinich was not a “good progressive.” But that’s not all they missed.
Here’s the first one: He lost a primary. This was not a general election, this was a Democrat versus Democrat ballot. He was up against another incumbent, having lost his district to redistricting. So you have two incumbents going against each other for their party’s nomination. Why is that a key point? Because primaries are base elections. You’re not talking about persuading Republicans or Independents. You’re persuading the people who belong to your party that you will best represent their views in Congress. The reality of the matter is that the Democratic voters in that district decided that Marcy Kaptur would do a better job of that than Dennis Kucinich. No, it wasn’t close, either.
Which is what they are avoiding. You see, like it or not, and they don’t, it doesn’t matter how popular Dennis Kucinich is with Digby, Greenwald, others of the professional left, and various bloggers and commenters on “purity sites.” They do not vote in Ohio, and in particular, they don’t vote in the 9’th Congressional District. All politics are local, and no matter how popular someone is everywhere else, it’s the people who elect him or her that they have to pay attention to. That’s a lesson that various progressive “heroes” have learned the hard way, including Alan Grayson. Why are they avoiding that? Because it goes against their belief that they speak for progressives, that they are the voices of the “true Democratic Party.” The reality is that they are not the base, and most Democrats – actual voters, mind you – aren’t listening to them.
The final point they’re missing about Kucinich? The thing they’re complaining about, that many Democrats are rather happy he lost. There are reasons why they’re happy. First, they have a very strong candidate who is an effective member of Congress, who is going to hold the seat. She’s running against Samuel Wurzelbacher, also known as “Joe the Plumber.”
Second, from a progressive and party standpoint, Kucinich wasn’t that progressive or a particularly good Democrat. Quoting Nate Silver:
The original version of the ratings built in an exception for what I termed “liberal nos”: votes that a Democratic member cast against his party’s agenda, but which he justified by stating that the policy under consideration was not liberal enough. We did not count the liberal no votes as yes votes – we just threw them out, treating them as non-votes instead.
But what if we don’t build in an exception for the so-called “liberal no’s” – that is, simply take every vote at face value? It turns out, then, that Davis is no longer the least valuable Democrat. Instead, it is Dennis Kucinich, who voted against health care, the hate crimes bill, the budget, the cap-and-trade bill, and financial regulation – all ostensibly from the left – in spite of coming from from the strongly Democratic Ohio 10th district near Cleveland.
In other words, regardless of his “reasons,” he voted against a number of key Democratic agenda bills. He wasn’t from a “red” district, he was from a district with a strong Democratic majority. While various people in the purity faction are excusing that as “standing for principle,” the harsh truth is that once the bill was done, he stood with the Republicans. That might have been excused, if he’d been effective at getting progressive legislation enacted.
For all of his advocacy for liberal issues, Kucinich got almost nothing accomplished. He’s one of those legislators who becomes a favorite of the base – this happens on both sides; look at Michele Bachmann – by talking a lot while doing very little. Effective legislators build coalitions, they work to persuade their colleagues, they even compromise, if that’s what’s necessary to get legislation passed (or blocked, if that’s the goal). Not Kucinich.
But that doesn’t matter to Glenn and Digby. You see, they’re valuing “talking about it” over “doing something,” as long as the talk is what they want to hear. That’s the big point they miss. The reason Kucinich isn’t going to be missed is because all he did was talk. He wasn’t reliable, and he didn’t accomplish anything. The Democratic voters of the 9th District decided that wasn’t good enough for them, and it definitely shouldn’t have been enough for progressives.