Refunding Kucinich

A while back, Firedoglake ran a special fundraiser to benefit Dennis Kucinich as a “reward” for his pledge to stand firm against an increasingly limp and lame health care reform bill. Specifically, he had insisted that the bill include a public option, or he would vote against it. Then, in the 11th hour, Obama descended on his district, showed him how a Chicago boy would deal with a defector — or something like that — and suddenly, Kucinich changed his mind and decided to vote for the final pathetic product of the diseased minds of Konrad, Nelson, Lieberman and the rest of the wankers who, with Obama’s tacit approval, were allowed to derail the opportunity for real.

It didn’t go over real well with the FDL crowd, and they demanded that Dennis issue a refund. Now, your average Democrat would have laughed all the way to the bank and boldly come back asking for more, but Kucinich at least has the courage to do the right thing. So, the other day, I received in the mail a check with a letter from Dennis explaining why he’d changed his vote. It was a very nice gesture, and for a moment I was tempted to say, “well, phoey, I’ll cash it and let you off to swim with the fishies…” but then had a change of heart. And so, this morning, I returned his check uncashed with this letter:

Dear Congressman Kucinich,

Please find enclosed your check refunding the contribution I had made to you in connection with the health care reform vote earlier this year. I greatly respect your integrity and honesty in returning the funds after going back on your promise to vote against health care reform that didn’t include a genuine public option, but I would find it unconscionable to reclaim the contribution, regardless of your final vote.

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to share a couple of observations. Coming as they do from someone outside your district, you may take them for whatever it’s worth. The health care vote put me off political contributions entirely. It seems apparent now that only donors with lobbyists and six figure contributions can really expect to hold politicians to their word, and while progressive politicians in particular have embraced the $5-10 grassroots donations from the likes of myself and seen it as a sign of a revived involvement in the political process, our contributions merely perpetuate this American mockery of true democracy, keeping a fundamentally broken Wurlitzer playing the same sad tune of “give me your money so I may conduct policy on your behalf.” I realize that my refusal to give leaves a campaign like yours hurting, but I will no longer support any politician financially.

In your “Why I Voted ‘Yes’” letter you mention “the expanded vision, the electrifying potential we caught a glimpse of with the election of Barack Obama.” After the embarrassing spectacle that was his administration’s mishandling of health care reform, I think it’s safe to say the vision was little more than a mirage, wishful thinking, a collective hallucination, if you will, brought on by eight years of Bush. Hope that this presidency might be transformational, ushering in an era of accountability and progress – genuine CHANGE, as it were – fades with every passing day, with every mediocre decision that simply perpetuates the status quo of inequality, with every power grab that moves us further away from core tenets of civilization, equality, and true democracy.

And, finally, I can’t help but wonder – and ask – what keeps a true progressive like yourself tethered to a Democratic Party which has so epically failed to further any of the ideals for which you stand? As a Vermonter I’m fortunate enough to be represented in the Senate by Bernie Sanders, personifying the notion of the fully engaged but entirely independent change agent, largely free from the incompetence, hypocrisy and self-serving power games that has come to epitomize the Democratic Party. I would strongly encourage you to explore the option of severing your ties to a party that has utterly failed and disappointed the American people, both during the dark years in opposition during Bush, and now in majority under Obama. They really are not worthy of you, and I think we would all benefit from a Dennis Kucinich soaring free of their misguided interpretation of true American values and our political priorities.

Thank you for all your work, good luck in the years ahead.


Hopefully the next time this Administration needs the vote of a progressive to pass some incredibly pathetic excuse for change, Dennis Kucinich will stand firm a little earlier in the process, so there’s less risk of the whole thing ending up as badly as did health care reform. But I for one wouldn’t bank on it…