These days, the idealists are old. With Social Security and health care in jeopardy, the aging baby-boomers have to maintain an often unrealistic idealism. With plans to implement single-payer health universal health care and secure Social Security, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is the presidential candidate of the aging and hopeful.
While the average attendee of the Kucinich rally last Sunday at Benson Polytechnic High School was over 50, the energy of the nearly 500-member audience was youthful. As the 60-year-old Kucinich crossed the stage, people danced in the aisles and bounced in their seats. Cheers erupted, putting the enthusiasm of the high school auditorium's last pep rally to shame.
The petite vegan candidate may have been the third-string quarterback in high school, but last Sunday he was the starter, and his bubbly 29-year-old wife was the head cheerleader.
Yet, amidst the wild cheers, Kucinich reminded the crowd that outside of Oregon, he was still that third-string benchwarmer. "We are finally demonstrating in the national polls—we've gone from nothing to 3 percent. We can prove that we exist!" joked the beaming candidate. Kucinich earned 16 percent of the vote in the 2004 Oregon Democratic Primary, but less than 10 percent in the Democratic primaries of most other states.
"Don't give up, Dennis!" yelled an audience member in response. And give up he won't. When asked by a reporter from FOX News if he was running simply to bring attention to his issues, Kucinich responded with a confident "No. I intend to be the next president of the United States."
No matter his intentions, Kucinich is successfully focusing the Democratic Primary on issues such as universal health care, unemployment, and public kindergarten-though-college education.
Last Sunday, Kucinich set himself apart from other Democratic candidates, citing a willingness to stand up to big business to withdraw from NAFTA and UTO to fight unemployment in the U.S. Kucinich also stands apart as the only candidate that endorses a single-payer healthcare system, one that would require the government to challenge some of its biggest lobbyists: health insurance companies.
Kucinich didn't mention Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York); his biggest opponents are corporations, not other candidates.
While Kucinich is deliberately distant from corporations, there is a remarkable intimacy between him and his supporters. As Kucinich left the stage an older woman embraced him, and salaciously proclaimed that Kucinich was the only congressman that could put his shoes under her bed.