Dennis Kucinich: Primary Obama? Not Me, But Progressives Need To Keep The Debate Going

I deeply respect Dennis Kucinich. He is an unapologetic liberal and was an indefatigable Democratic presidential candidate both in 2004 and 2008. His presence--when allowed by the traditional media,who too often ignored or made fun of him--served the necessary purpose of moving the conversation towards more progressive ideals, even as a longshot candidate.

So it's no surprise that Rabbi Michael Lerner brought up the idea of primarying Barack Obama as a way to keep him honest to Democratic ideals, he named Kucinich specifically as the kind of primary candidate we need.

But there is a real way to save the Obama presidency: by challenging him in the 2012 presidential primaries with a candidate who would unequivocally commit to a well-defined progressive agenda and contrast it with the Obama administration's policies. Such a candidacy would be pooh-poohed by the media, but if it gathered enough popular support - as is likely given the level of alienation among many who were the backbone of Obama's 2008 success - this campaign would pressure Obama toward much more progressive positions and make him a more viable 2012 candidate. Far from weakening his chances for reelection, this kind of progressive primary challenge could save Obama if he moves in the desired direction. And if he holds firm to his current track, he's a goner anyway.

I fundamentally disagree with Lerner's thesis, and I think history backs me up. Ask Jimmy Carter how getting primaried by Teddy Kennedy helped him. But either way, this kind of left jab against the President has to go on without Dennis Kucinich, who declined officially on Lawrence O'Donnell's program any interest in primarying the President in 2012.

But Kucinich is not going quietly into that good night. Just because he won't primary Obama does not mean that he thinks liberals should sit quietly by. He recommends that we speak loud and long about helping the middle class, about getting out of Afghanistan, free trade and our monetary system, injecting our values into the debate.

That's a campaign I think we all should get behind.


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