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Dennis Kucinich, The Telecommuter's Candidate

As someone who works from a home office--and who, at this moment, is actually working from a coffee shop due to the fact that my family is in the midst of moving apartments and my home office doesn't currently exist--I probably should be upset that The Des Moines Register has decided to exclude Dennis Kucinich from tomorrow's debate on the grounds that his Iowa field director works out of his home. But I'm not.

As I wrote in a profile of Kucinich a few months back:

Kucinich's '08 gambit is less a presidential campaign than it is an elaborate fiction.That's because, aside from participating in the debates, he does virtually none of the things a presidential candidate does.

Yes, Kucinich goes out and campaigns, but only in the narrowest slice of America--generally confining his stumping to vegan restaurants, small colleges, and other places that one finds within the listening area of a community radio station that broadcasts"Democracy Now!" And, as he hopscotches across this Pacifica archipelago, Kucinich doesn't offer much in the way of traditional presidential campaign rhetoric. While he does talk about de-funding the war in Iraq and instituting single-payer health insurance, he spends much of his time dishing out gooey, New Age sentiments--telling people about how "we are interconnected and interdependent" and that "the call for human unity is the call to save the planet and save the world and the universe, and we imbue all of our citizens with the sense of love for each other."

Even the straightforward task of public relations--which, for a money-strapped candidate like Kucinich, is crucial, since his campaign's lifeblood is free media--seems to be an afterthought. A reporter trying to reach the Kucinich campaign gets routed to press secretary David Bright's cell phone--which Bright rarely answers, because, as he explains in his outgoing message, he lives in "rural Maine," where cell phone coverage is spotty.


[H]is candidacy seems mostly an ego trip and a much-needed diversion. As Brent Larkin, the editorial pageeditor of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer who has been covering Kucinich for 37 years, puts it: "It's got to be more fun for him than doing the serious work of being a congressman in a Rust Belt city that's got a lot of issues."

So Kucinich wages a Potemkin campaign. He declares that he expects to be president while he does nothing that would make that possibility, remote as it already is, closer to being a reality. Every politician, to be sure, lives in a bubble; but Kucinich's campaign exists in its own biosphere. 

That the Des Moines Register is finally calling Kucinich's bluff--"It was our determination that a person working out of his home did not meet our criteria for a campaign office and full-time paid staff in Iowa," the paper said in a statement--is all for the good. I just don't understand why the DMR felt the need to extend an invitation to Alan Keyes to participate in today's GOP debate.

--Jason Zengerle