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Kucinich: Vote
for Yourself

Kucinich: Vote
for Yourself


Dennis Kucinich is the politician we've been asking for. So why aren't gays supporting him for president?

If you go by certain polls, Dennis Kucinich is a shoo-in for the presidency of the United States. For instance, in Democracy for America's online poll of more than 150,000 potential voters, the congressman from Ohio took 32% of the vote -- more than Hillary Clinton (4%) and Barack Obama (14%) combined. A staggering 77% of respondents in a nationwide poll by choose him as the best candidate for the job; and, according to a query posed by the Virginia Democratic Party this December, 30% of the democrats in that state would back him if the primary were held today.

Of course there are other polls. Notably, the one last November from Hunter College in New York, which found that 63% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual likely voters will cast their ballots for Clinton in the primaries, followed by 22% for Obama and 7% for John Edwards. Interestingly, when asked to rank the gay rights most important to them, half of the respondents said, "legalizing gay marriage." Not a strong point for these candidates.

Let's review: Of the seven Democratic contenders, only former Alaska senator Mike Gravel and Kucinich support gay marriage. The rest are content with federally recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships. On other important gay issues, Kucinich, like his competitors, supports a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination act, a federal hate-crimes law covering sexual orientation and gender identity, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," access to survivor benefits, equal tax treatment for same-sex couples, unfettered gay adoption, and funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

But let's say you're like the 79% of gays in the Hunter poll who don't consider gay rights the most important issue affecting your vote. In that case it might be important to note that Kucinich is the only Democratic candidate to oppose the Iraq war from the outset, when it was political suicide to do so. He supports not-for-profit universal health care, withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreeement and World Trade Organization until all countries agree to the same environmental and human rights standards, and raising the minimum wage. He's pro-choice and pro-medical marijuana, and he introduced impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney.

In short, he's the candidate we've been asking for. So why aren't you voting for Dennis Kucinich?

We caught up with the candidate in New Hampshire on the eve of the Iowa primaries to ask him what he thought about being the very dark horse in the race for the Democratic nomination.

How intimidating is it to be the long shot in the run for the Democratic nomination?

Not at all. People in the LGBT community understand what it's like to go against the odds. They've been doing that their whole lives. And there are a lot of Americans that face long odds every day as to whether they'll have a job, health insurance, education, housing. So I understand what it's like to be a long shot. But long shots do win, and they win when people stand up for what they believe in.

Like, say, marriage equality.

If the LGBT community doesn't stand for marriage equality and supports a candidate without an established record of supporting it early and consistently, then how can you ever hope to win? If you don't vote your heart, your heart never wins.

Anyone who saw the Logo Forum learned a lot about the different candidates. They can still go to the website because it's still up. They can see how people responded in the moment to the question and see whose heart is open and whose isn't. Hillary Clinton is essentially saying, "It's not time yet." And Senator Edwards is having quite a bit of difficulty with it. Why? What's that about? This issue becomes not only a question of where we are on the issue but where we stand with ourselves--as inevitably any issue that concerns the LGBT community does. Anyone who would have to wring their hands over the issue of marriage equality doesn't get it.

To me it's a very simple question of equal protection of the law. It's a constitutional issue, and as president of the United States, I'm going to make sure that people are not denied equal protection of the law for any reason, including sexual orientation.

What do you say to gays who think you're unelectable and therefore a wasted vote?

People have to know that they can win. It's not about what candidate wins. Will LGBT people be winners in this election? The only way you can win is to have the courage to vote for what you want. A courageous vote is the only vote worth casting. As a community of people with courage, the LGBT community has been able to demonstrate a great deal of courage and authenticity. So why would politics represent something different than what our lives represent?

I'm not disappointed what the people in the community do. It's their right to choose whomever they want. But I think there needs to be a pretty open and candid discussion about how you get to where you want to go if the people you're traveling with don't want what it is you want.

If you want marriage equality and you vote for someone who isn't for marriage equality, then you can't complain later on that you don't have marriage equality. If you want marriage equality, then support someone who stands for it -- because that demonstrates integrity. It's really simple. You want health care, and you vote for a candidate who's in favor of propagating a for-profit system? Then you can't afford health care. You want to end the war in Iraq, and you vote for someone who decides to keep the troops there until 2013 or longer? And the next year you say, "Gee, I wish we were out of Iraq." You know what? You voted for that candidate. You have to take responsibility for the consequences of your vote. This is a moment when people have to take responsibility not just for their decision but the consequences of that decision.

What responsibility do the candidates have?

We are in a period right now when candidates are unlikely to take responsibility for the consequences of their decision. We may say we're wrong, but there's no consequence for that decision. John Edwards can vote for the war. He can say he was wrong. But where is the consequence? And it doesn't show any change in judgment when he says of Iran, all options are on the table.

The most important decision anybody running for president would have to make is whether to send young men and women to battle, to put their lives in danger. If you're wrong, how do you say you're sorry to the parents of a dead soldier? How do you say you're sorry to the millions of innocent Iraqis who have lost their lives to a war based on lies? How do you say you're sorry to taxpayers whose government borrowed money from China to finance this war in Iraq?

If elections are only about voting for the winner, we're going to have a Republican because the Democrats aren't establishing a clear enough difference between who we are and who they are.

Don't Democrats these days essentially think it's safer to play the center line?

Playing it safe means forgoing marriage equality. That's accommodating a system that's ready to deny people fundamental human rights. To me, the minute you stop fighting for your rights is the minute you start losing your rights. That's what's happening in America today. The wiretapping, the eavesdropping, the government going into people's health records and financial records. We've stopped fighting for our rights. The peace movement has basically given up.

So what I represent is courage to stand up for what I believe in and to demonstrate to other people that it's possible to stand up for what they believe in. That's the way to win. Victory isn't measured by what happens on a certain day in New Hampshire or Iowa, Nevada or Michigan or South Carolina. Victory is determined by one's own integrity expressed every moment. The minute we stop doing that, we become something the system describes.

But why should it take courage to vote for what you've been asking for?

I think there's a winner's psychology, which the mass media propels, that promotes a false consensus. And actually it often disenfranchises people, because people keep voting against their own interests.

The one great gift the LGBT community has given to the world is personal authenticity, integrity, and the courage to be who you are in an open and uncompromised way. There's real power there. You're going to give that up to vote for someone because they might win and they don't stand for marriage equality? To me, that's antithetical to the entire movement and counterproductive to the point of being worrisome.

This is the one community that should be strong enough. If you make concessions on the issue of marriage equality, the possibility of it happening is going to diminish. The reason any gains have been made is because people were willing to go out on a limb. And you know what? That's where the fruit is -- out on the limb.

Anyone who has watched the final minutes of a football game only has to look at quarterback's face to realize if he stops believing he can win, the game is lost. Is there a point when you give up the game?

That's a good analogy. OK, let's say it gets to be fourth down with 99 yards to go. I'm not going to punt.

So you're not getting out.

You got it.

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