Political Animal


March 07, 2012 11:45 AM End of an Era

By Ed Kilgore

It wasn’t a big surprise, since he was facing another incumbent Democrat (Marcy Kaptur) who had represented a larger share of a new district, but it was still a bit of a shock to hear that Dennis Kucinich had lost his seat in Congress. The man is everybody’s favorite hard-core lefty, almost impossible to dislike, and with a political career that sometimes defied belief.

My own brief moment with Kucinich was at the 2004 Democratic Convention when he showed up in the rehearsal room I was working in. He arrived with a large entourage, including a couple of Hollywood celebrities who were determined to cheer him up (he wasn’t happy that Kerry’s people had forced him to formally endorse the nominee before giving him a speaking slot) by making strange simulations of cheering crowds. He didn’t sing “America the Beautiful” or spin around and exclaim “No Strings!” But his intensity was impressive. After listening carefully to all our advice about voice modulation and pacing and controlled hand-gestures, he eventually went into the convention hall and shouted and waved his way through his speech just like he always had.

There’s been some talk that Kucinich might move to Washington State and run for an open seat there, but this isn’t the United Kingdom where constituency-shopping is traditional, so he’s probably done in Congress. I personally hope he writes up his memoirs, or better yet, makes a movie; his Hollywood friends could all show up.

Kucinich wasn’t the only incumbent Member of Congress to lose a primary in Ohio last night; he was joined by the notoriously abrasive Cincinnati-area conservative Jean Schmidt. It’s a sign of the times that Schmidt’s opponent, Brad Wenstrup, attacked her for being an insufficiently rigorous ideologue.

Dennis Kucinich rarely had that problem, but I suspect he’ll be missed by his colleagues, left and right, a lot more than Ms. Schmidt.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Todd for VT House on March 07, 2012 12:15 PM:

    I'm gonna miss Dennis, but Marcy's been a good Rep for a long time and I've always liked her (despite her being no friend to NARAL).

  • Jeff In Ohio on March 07, 2012 12:18 PM:

    You know it's the end times when someone can out asshole Mean Jean.

    Dennis...his wife is hot, other then that the guy is crazy pants.

  • Nathan on March 07, 2012 12:24 PM:

    Not my favorite hard-core lefty, not since I heard him speak about his dreams. Cloud cuckoo-land.

  • Peter C on March 07, 2012 12:45 PM:

    Dennis may be a dreamer (Department of Peace, etc.), but his are nice dreams.

    I think it is telling that the extreme on our side pales in comparison to Newt (Lunar Colony in 8 years), or Bachmann or Palin or Inhofe or West or Santorum or Burton or ...

    We needn't fall into false equivalency here.

  • hwyl on March 07, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Yeah, in the USA he seems to be a kind of a semi-stalinist freak, so far out of the mainstream that just affectionate jokes are in order. In Finland he would be in the sober mainstream, supporting policies that really have made the Nordic model the peak of human civilization so far achieved. I don't know, your political system is definitely not my cup of tea...

  • Wilco on March 07, 2012 1:34 PM:

    And Joe the Plumber won the Republican Primary! Thankfully, he should lose handily in the General.

  • MuddyLee on March 07, 2012 1:53 PM:

    Thank you Dennis Kucinich for sponsoring a bill to impeach Dick Cheney. This was not crazy - it should have gotten mainstream support much like the condemnations of Rush Limbaugh for his slut/prostitute statements - because Cheney manipulated the country into the Iraq War: now THAT was crazy.

  • Andrew J. Lazarus on March 07, 2012 1:55 PM:

    I quite doubt if Kucinich will be missed by colleagues. I don't think he was ever in contention for a "Plays Well with Others" award. And it's not a question of leftness, because Barney Frank and Bernie Sanders manage to do better.

  • SecularAnimist on March 07, 2012 2:12 PM:

    I volunteered for Kucinich's primary campaign in 2004, in which capacity I spent hours walking around knocking on doors, distributing Kucinich campaign literature and talking to people about the progressive issues that were the focus of Kucinich's campaign. I've never done that for any other candidate in the 40 years since I first cast a vote in a presidential election.

    I watched innumerable Democratic candidate forums on C-Span during that cycle, at various venues around the country. Kucinich was articulate, eloquent and passionate and would invariably get standing ovations from grassroots Democrats. Then John Kerry would speak and suck all the air out of the room, reducing everyone to somnolence within minutes.

    I believe to this day that if Dennis Kucinich looked like Robert Redford, he would have been elected president in 2004.

  • Rich on March 07, 2012 2:27 PM:

    Kucinich was a lousy legislator. No one will miss him other than his fans who've mostly ignored the substance of his history. He started out as a race baiting city councilman and as mayor, he surrounded himself with sychophants. His current fans seem to follow the sychophant theme. he's no Russ Feingold,so I think good riddance is in order. I've also followed Kaptur from the beginning of her career and she's far from perfect, but she actually does things, unlike Dennis.

  • June on March 07, 2012 3:17 PM:

    Years ago, I never thought it'd come to this, but I'm in the "Kooch-won't-be-missed" camp. His concession speech last night to Kaptor was an ungracious load of sour grapes. Dennis lost my admiration long ago with his relentlessly destructive approach to criticising his fellow Democrats, rather a constructive, empowering form of criticism that would be worthy of a long-term congressman.

  • JS on March 07, 2012 3:58 PM:

    So long "Mr. Perfect-is-the-Enemy-of-the-Good". All I remember is Kucinich playing tug-o-war on Nancy Pelosi's left arm, as she was struggling with Bart Stupak and the Holy Blue Dogs on her right arm during crunch time for the ACA.

    I do respect Congressman Kucinich's views, but he wasn't an effect voice for his positions as a gadfly backbencher in Congress. I don't know, maybe he was great for his district while running national campaigns, but I think it was a case of where the mission didn't fit the job Kucinich had. Perhaps a show on Current would give him a better platform to move the country more to the left.