Iowa ’04: Kuchinich pumps up the stump

By Art Kimball-Stanley

GRINNELL—In the dwindling hours before the Iowa caucus, two Grinnell College students performed a Hopi prayer for peace to a crowd of roughly 200 students and local residents on Sunday. The musical chant provided a fitting introduction to the stump speech of long-shot presidential nominee Dennis Kucinich, whose platform emphasizes the need to bring American troops in Iraq home, and to get the Bush administration out of the White House.

Unlike most of the Democratic nominees, Kucinich was only a few minutes late, and, upon arriving, was not introduced by a host of local officials. Jumping right into his speech, Kucinich spoke for about 30 minutes, focusing on what he believes to be the key issues of this year’s election: the war and world opinion. “We have to get the United States to join a larger movement, to create a world where peace is sustainable,” Kucinich said. According to him, the only way to do this is to rejoin the international community, by participating in the International Criminal Court, signing the Kyoto accords, and creating a treaty that would move towards the banning of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. He went on to say that “we need to reconnect with the world community through the U.N.”

Countering the arguments of many of Bush’s policy writers, Kucinich challenged the ideology of the Bush administration. “It’s a whole new world,” he said. “It’s not nation-state against nation-state; it’s about watching individual non-state actors.” He emphasized that it is only through international cooperation and unity that a safer world can be built. “We need to see the world the way others see the world so we can have a further understanding,” he said.

Once he had finished making his points, Kucinich launched into a question-and-answer period, an exchange that no other candidate seems to be taking part in so close to the caucuses. Kucinich fielded questions about farm policy and pledged to go after big agriculture corporations to make it easier for the small family farm to survive. He also responded to questions about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and said he would bring the two sides together on equal footing.

He left that his campaign “was not based on anger, it was based on hope.”

The crowd cheered, and Kucinich made his way out, while shaking hands and smiling. Jared Swanson, a senior at Grinnell, had already seen Kucinich speak once, but came again because he enjoyed listening to him. “On an issue by issue basis, I agree with Kucinich,” Swanson said. “He’s a great speaker. Better than all the others except for Sharpton.”

However, Swanson is not going to caucus for Kucinich because he feels the candidate doesn’t have a chance. “I’m going for Kerry because I think he’s a more viable candidate,” Swanson said.

Asked if he believed that a candidate like Kucinich could implement his ideas if he ever won the presidency, Swanson said that he didn’t. According to Swanson, “It would take a lot more than the presidency to really change this country.”

Laura Blubaugh, an intern for the Kucinich campaign, is more optimistic. Despite the negative polls, she believes that Kucinich really has a chance for the presidency. “Our definition of realist candidates is created by the media. Dennis doesn’t get a lot of coverage and so nobody thinks he’ll win,” Blubaugh said. “So many people you talk to say, ‘I love Dennis, but I’m going to vote for someone else because I don’t think he has a chance.’ If they would just vote with their hearts, we could really change things.”

Blubaugh was right about the miniscule coverage of Kucinich by the media. There were only four reporters in the crowded audience; two of them were from the MAROON.