Promoting universal healthcare, more peaceful foreign policies and stronger environmental protection, the Congressman from Ohio would be classified as a social democrat in Europe – but is denounced as a dangerously radical lefty by the US political establishment.
Kucinich’s determination to invest more in constructive diplomacy and reign in the military makes him an ideal candidate for many foreigners worried about US unilateralism and belligerence.
But the teetotal, non-smoking vegan’s image as a far left eccentric at home, plus his lack of political support within the establishment, make his nomination an unlikely prospect.
Dennis John Kucinich was born, raised and educated in Cleveland, Ohio. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1973.
Politically active from the age of 21, Kucinich first ran for Congress in 1972 aged just 26. The attempt failed but he became the youngest elected mayor of a major US city in 1977 when he took the office in Cleveland aged 31.
The young mayor resisted pressure from local banks and big business to privatise Cleveland’s publicly-owned electricity company, despite the city’s drift towards bankruptcy. His stance made him many powerful enemies. Kucinich once had to wear a bullet proof jacket – but he stuck to his guns, even though it cost him his job in 1979.
He failed twice more to enter the House of Representatives in 1988 and 1992 but did serve in the Ohio state senate from 1995 to 1996. Persistence finally paid off when he was elected to the House in 1997.
Kucinich is chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, reportedly the largest such faction in Congress.
Phasing out privately-insured health schemes, Kucinich would move towards a European-style state-funded healthcare system, paid for through a new health insurance tax.
Veteran fighters: Kucinich with
He would improve worker and trade union rights, stimulate the economy with a public works programme, and break up the corporate agricultural giants, which he sees as monopolistic.
He voted against the Patriot Act and has criticised its impact on civil liberties and the Arab-American community. “Arab-Americans are our brothers and our sisters, and we have the responsibility to stand up for them,” he said in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Kucinich would promote non-violence through a cabinet-level Department for Peace, targeting domestic abuse, gang violence etc. And he would cut back military spending, take missiles off alert and stop nuclear development.
Kucinich has been staunchly opposed to the attack on Iraq, accusing the Bush administration of invading the country for its oil. He says US troops should be brought home as soon as possible and the task of rebuilding the shattered country should be handed over to the United Nations.
He goes further than Howard Dean’s scepticism of an Iraqi nuclear arsenal, saying he doubts Iraq had any viable chemical and biological programme either.
Through his Department for Peace, Kucinich would promote non-violence abroad, work towards nuclear disarmament and ban weapons from space. He would ratify international agreements the Bush administration has rejected or broken, such as the Kyoto climate treaty and the International Criminal Court.
The congressman wants a more
Like fellow Democrat candidate Richard Gephardt, Kucinich sees unregulated “free trade” as bad for workers and the environment, preferring managed “fair trade”.
Kucinich urges a more even-handed approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, saying Palestinian suffering must be recognised, not just that of Israelis. He wants Israel to tear down its controversial separation wall and stop building illegal settlements.
He says Washington needs to work with Arab governments more constructively and avoid using “perpetual war and poisonous rhetoric”.
“While others discuss incremental change, only Dennis Kucinich advocates changing the way our government is run in order to reflect the values of America’s people.”
– Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream
“He’s raised relatively little money, gets almost no support among the Democratic Party establishment and registers as an asterisk in most polls of primary voters.”
– Time magazine
Kucinich entertains some spiritual beliefs that draw a mixture of alarm and ridicule from some quarters – he reportedly once believed he had met actress Shirley MacLaine in a previous life. His advertising for a wife recently was dismissed by some as a stunt.