Last Wednesday, Dennis Kucinich, Representative for Ohio’s 10th Congressional district, announced that he is retiring after his 16-year congressional career. Today we remember some of the political highlights of a representative known by many as “the strongest liberal.”
Kucinich made his liberal perspective known through several significant acts. He brought articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in 2008. He was also the only candidate in the 2008 presidential election to have voted against invading Iraq. Kucinich described his views in 2008, saying, "I'm from the universal-health-care wing of the Democratic Party. I'm from the Roe v. Wade-litmus-test wing of the Democratic Party. I'm from the abolish-the-death-penalty wing of the Democratic Party." Regardless of one’s views on these matters, it was refreshing to see a representative taking a firm stance on complex issues instead of pandering to voters.
Kucinich gained notoriety for his vocal pacifism. His foreign policy record is consistent with his desire for the creation of a "Department of Peace." He was a strong advocate of Hamas and Israeli peace talks in the Middle East. He was the only member of the House to condemn U.S. interference in Venezuela. He even mentioned that air strikes in Libya might be considered an impeachable act. He also voted against the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and the Violent Radicalization of Homegrown Terrorism Act.
Domestically, Kucinich maintains a stellar civil liberties record. The ACLU gave Kucinich a 100% rating on civil liberties for the 2006-2007 legislative session. As one would expect, he also has been active in preserving the environment, receiving another 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters between 2005 and 2006. He also advocated universal health care as a human right. Kucinich consistently receives an “F” from the NRA and a 100% lifetime rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, proving that liberty seems to be in the eye of the beholder.
The Daily Show ran the following piece on Kucinich’s improbable success in a blue-collar state. (It also highlights some of Kucinich’s loveable quirks). The piece ran in 2011, when the re-districting of Ohio was a looming possibility, but not yet a reality. He says that if his seat were to disappear, he would run again in another district.
After his Ohio seat was indeed redistricted, he was pitted against Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a fellow Democrat. He briefly considered running for Congress in Washington state, urged on by Democratic activists. But after losing to the Ohio primaries, he has decided to instead retire. He issued the following statement to signal the end of his career: “Because of my love of public service, I have given a great deal of time and much thought to the advice and encouragement I have received from so many people of good will in Washington State. I certainly want to continue to be of service to our country and to the workingmen and women who have built it. After careful consideration and discussions with Elizabeth and my closest friends, I have decided that, at this time, I can best serve from outside the Congress. My commitments to peace, to workers' rights and to social and economic justice are constant and are not dependent upon holding an office.”
With Congress’ approval rating at 17%, according to the Gallup Poll, perhaps Americans need more Representatives with strong values who stick to their guns (irony intended) like Kucinich did throughout his six terms. He will undoubtedly continue to serve the American left outside of a life in office.