I’ve gotten a bit of flack for the excessive amount of focus we’ve had on leading presidential contenders — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in particular.
They have a point. Not one vote has been cast. The dynamics of the race could still change.
And then there is Dennis Kucinich, whose odds are longer than long, but who has nevertheless gathered such spirited supporters as director Paul Haggis. Earlier this year, Joaquin Phoenix turned out on Capitol Hill in support of Kucinich’s plan for a Department of Peace. And Sean Penn recently gave to his campaign, in addition to that of John Edwards. In the most recent quarter, Kucinich raised $27,455 from entertainment sources, actually better than Chris Dodd and Joe Biden did.
One of Kucinich’s key supporters in Hollywood, both this year and in 2004, is Shelley Morrison, perhaps best known recently as Rosario Salazar on “Will & Grace.”
Not only have she and her husband helped him raise money, they serve as unofficial “secret service” for him, guiding him along Los Angeles campaign events. They put off a special 34th wedding anniversary celebration and instead used the money to donate to Kucinich’s effort.
“Everything he says is right on the money,” she says. “He knows what is going on. He knows government, he has concrete solutions to the problems that are facing us.”
Why invest so much time that most people say, “Not a chance.” Or even worse, don’t know who he is? At the recent Logo/Human Rights Campaign forum on gay issues, Kucinich drew some of the strongest cheers from the studio audience, in part because he, along with Mike Gravel, are the only two candidates who support same sex marriage.
Panelist Melissa Etheridge said something on the order of, “You may be too advanced for us.” And yet most of the focus was on the major candidates, because Kucinich’s chances are so easily dismissed.
“Whenever people ask me why we work so hard for him and can’t be elected, I say ‘Have you heard him speak?'” Morrison says. “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”
Every campaign has a candidate like Kucinich — the gadfly who challenges the thinking of the front runners, who make the most entertaining moments out of the debate, who raise issues that others avoid. If you’re against the war in Iraq, why not simply cut off funding for the war? If you want health care for all, why not universal, single-payer coverage, ala Michael Moore? If you are for gay rights, why not gay marriage? As unrealistic as it is to think that Kucinich and other long shots even have a chance to make a showing, they are actually what the primaries are all about: a full airing of the issues.
“I think the lobbies are afraid of him because what he is saying in on point, what he is saying makes sense,” Morrison says.
As for why Kucinich, then, isn’t getting more coverage, Morrison quips, “Someone said if he were tall, he would have more attention.”