Dennis Kucinich: The Democratic Party Has No Soul

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Dennis Kucinich speaking at an SEIU event. Photo credit: SEIU International.

Nearly four years after the 2016 election, tensions that arose within the Democratic Party during the last primaries remain largely unresolved. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is partly to blame as she recently opened old wounds with comments about Bernie Sanders, one of the Democrats’ current frontrunners. Telling the Hollywood Reporter that “nobody likes” her former opponent, she also criticized his supporters and refused to commit to backing him were he to win the nomination. The comments led to a much-needed conversation about the Democratic Party’s direction and whether it’s possible for the progressive wing of the party, led by Sanders, to reform a party that’s largely controlled by an elitist establishment. 

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” former Congressmember Dennis Kucinich, a lifelong progressive, speaks with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer about the conflicts tearing at the Democrats as they enter the final months in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. 

“I want to begin with sort of a basic question,” says Scheer. “Is this battle between Hillary and Bernie Sanders---which of course was the subject of the last Democratic primary, in 2016---is this really the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party?”

“Well, that assumes that the Democratic Party has a soul,” responds Kucinich, who has himself run for president twice. “I don't know if we could grant that. But I would say it is certainly a battle for what the Democratic Party ought to stand for. 

“Bernie Sanders has been able to delineate some very progressive points of view and policies during his time as a member of the House and as a member of the Senate,” the progressive figure continues. “His campaign would take the Democratic Party in a new direction with respect to healthcare and education, hopefully a new direction in foreign policy. And Hillary Clinton, you have to remember, has been a singular spokeswoman for the national security state and for war.” 

To the former Congress member, who served alongside many of the Democrats currently running for president, his party began to lose its direction quite a long time ago. 

At its apex [the Democratic Party has] been, for the last 30 years, the party of plutocracy,” he asserts. Kucinich goes on to highlight policy failings that have spanned recent decades, including  the Financial Services Modernization Act, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, NAFTA, and perhaps most importantly, the bailout of banks after the 2008 financial crash, all of which left communities across the U.S. economically devastated. 

“You know, I'm talking to you from Cleveland, Ohio, which was the epicenter of the subprime meltdown, where no-doc and low-doc loans were circulated primarily in African American communities, and in poor white neighborhoods. And the whole place looks like a bomb hit it, because you have neighborhoods that are just destroyed. And this was a bipartisan effort, by the way.  So the Democratic Party has failed to distinguish itself since the days of, since the policies of FDR.” 

Pointing to a controversial point in Kucinich’s career, Scheer asks about his decision to support President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. 

“I remember a moment when you had a kind of decisive vote on Obamacare, and that had to do with a public option,” asks the Truthdig Editor in Chief. “Do you want to discuss that a little bit? Because that really goes to what the party can do when it demands loyalty.” 

“Though I had many misgivings about the bill that President Obama was supporting,” Kucinich explains, “and I made it very clear it was not in any way to be confused with single-payer healthcare, I voted for it---not only because of my constituents, but also because I saw it as holding a space, at least, for healthcare reform on a much larger scale, for the reform that I continue to push for, which is single-payer, not-for-profit. 

“But look, I never had any illusions about what was going to happen once that passed, and that the insurance companies would cash in, and that the pharmaceutical companies would continue to cash in, as they had under [George W.] Bush.”

“I think healthcare ought to be a defining issue in this election,” Kucinich concludes. Despite his progressive credentials, however, the Democrat seems to agree with Noam Chomsky’s statement in a recent episode of “Scheer Intelligence” regarding the 2020 election and the lesser of two evils. Listen to the full discussion between Scheer and Kucinich as the former Congressmember offers an insider’s view of the Democratic party he’s worked in for much of life. 



Joshua Scheer