The following piece was produced through OffTheBus, a citizen journalism project hosted at the Huffington Post and launched in partnership with NewAssignment.Net. For more information, read Arianna Huffington's project introduction. If you'd like to join our blogging team, sign up here.
Who is this guy, this Dennis Kucinich? Just a few weeks ago no one took him seriously, with the exception of a few volunteers in places like Yellow Springs, Ohio. Around the local saloon he was the butt of jokes, Ohio's answer to "Governor Moonbeam."
He likens himself to "Seabiscuit" the slow starting, come from behind "Horse of the Year" of 1938 who was described at the time as "undersized, knobby-kneed, and not much to look at" by his trainer "Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons."
Recently I printed a graphic on my website depicting the results of an unscientific ABC News online poll which showed Kucinich winning the August 19th Iowa Democratic debate by a margin of nearly 20 percent over Obama and several thousand votes over Hillary who placed third (that is, for as long as the poll was allowed to stay up). In winning Kucinich received over ten thousand votes. I don't remember seeing that many volunteers in Yellow Springs.
This unscientific poll inspired me to sniff around a bit, and uncovered something that might explain that swell on ABC's poll. Striking up conversations at my usual local haunts, I found that many people feel Kucinich, unlike the rest of the Democratic field, shows suspicious signs of being a vertebrate.
I admit that nobody used those exact words; the inference is mine. What I actually heard was, "he's got balls" or "he tells it like it is" or, my favorite "He's the only guy running who knows how to answer a yes or no question with a yes or no." The last comment was delivered by a former neighbor of many years (a Reagan Republican) while waiting at the deli counter at Dot's Market, a neighborhood minimart with a great butcher shop and deli.
When the Dot's sale ad comes out on Monday, all the neighborhood geriatric cases like myself line up three deep. There's usually a ten minute wait we spend in conversation, about high prices or the Reds, the Bengals or the the Crooks (government at any level), while leaning on our walkers or grocery carts, (high speed walkers).
The possession of a spine carries with it a certain amount of "political capital" or "street cred" here in the Heartland. Visiting with my neighbors at the local watering hole, a smoky old pool hall and saloon where I misspent my youth, the gas station where I bought gas for a quarter before Elizabeth Kucinich was born, or the neighborhood coffee shop, I've heard Kucinich's name mentioned favorably much more often since the last Sunday's debate than I have since he announced his candidacy.
He has consistently stuck to his central message points: get out of Iraq, extract the country from trade alliances he feels are crippling our middle class, and establish a national health care program that is run on a not-for- profit basis. Those points and his emphasis on education seem to resonate with my neighbors.
Kucinich is getting very little financial support from the captains of industry and, so far, has raised less money than everyone in the race except Mike Gravel and the now defunct Tommy Thompson campaign. Yet he has plodded along, despite being pushed into the wings of the various debate stages by the squad of mega million dollar "top tier" candidates who receive all the main stream media's attention and most of the questions.
He made light of that fact, when moderator George Stephanopoulos asked him what role prayer played in his life, he answered, "George, I have been standing up here for 45 minutes praying that you would ask me a question."
Kucinich is a long shot. But, like our famous thoroughbred, with the infusion of obscene amounts of money, he may outlive being the butt of jokes and surprise everyone by shoving the first nose over the finish line in the primaries, simply because, like the the old "Horse of The Year," he has a spine.
The above piece was produced through OffTheBus, a citizen journalism project hosted at the Huffington Post and launched in partnership with NewAssignment.Net. For more information, read Arianna Huffington's project introduction. If you'd like to join our blogging team, sign up here.