Dennis Kucinich Is Likely to Be Ousted From Congress

The colorful legislator was defeated Tuesday in a Democratic primary after representing his district for 16 years.

When Cleveland voters decided in 1979 that they no longer wanted Dennis Kucinich to be their mayor, political observers assumed that the 33-year-old's political career was over. Nope. Nearly two decades later - after a stint living in Los Angeles with actress Shirley MacClaine and reportedly seeing a UFO - he won an Ohio Congressional seat running as a pro-life Democrat, and though his politics changed over the years from socially conservative to staunchly progressive, the eight term legislator didn't lose another election until Tuesday, when a 15-term congresswoman thrust in his path by redistricting won the primary for the seat they cannot share.  

The 65-year old Kucinich hasn't said what he'll do next, though he's speculated about moving to Washington state to run in a friendly district. His opponent attacked him during the race for flirting with the Pacific Northwest by comparing him to LeBron James, who enraged Cleveland residents when he took his talents to South Beach. A Kucinich departure may still happen, for the Washington state filing deadline for candidates isn't until May 18. Says the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "All he'd have to do is obtain an address there by then, and file the necessary paperwork."
CBS Politics reports that the race he just lost came down to an electorate focused on the economy. "During the campaign, Kucinich -- an outspoken anti-war liberal -- attacked Kaptur for voting to fund 'Bush's wars,' voting for the Patriot Act, backing the Keystone XL pipeline and opposing gay marriage," the news organization stated. "Kaptur, meanwhile, slammed Kucinich for voting against bills that would have brought in funds for new manufacturing jobs and veterans' care."

Kucinich earned his reputation as a figure in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party by being an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War and the Patriot Act - he attempted to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for invading Iraq on false pretenses, and has objected to the militarism that has lately characterized American foreign policy, a theme he stressed during his presidential runs in 2004 and 2008, when he first gained a national profile. Widely mocked for ideas like wanting to start a cabinet level Department of Peace, his foreign policy critique is seldom taken seriously, despite the fact that he was a lonely voice opposing a war that a majority of Americans now regard to have been a wasteful mistake.

During Barack Obama's term, he became one of the few Democrats to be consistent in his criticism of waging wars of choice, going so far as to assert that the president's violation of the War Powers Resolution and failure to get congressional approval for the Libya campaign was an impeachable offense.

As TPM reported:

A number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are concerned about the White House's air assault on Libya, but Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) raised the rhetoric to 11 on Monday, suggesting President Obama should be impeached. "President Obama moved forward without Congress approving. He didn't have Congressional authorization, he has gone against the Constitution, and that's got to be said," Kucinich said in an interview with Raw Story. "It's not even disputable, this isn't even a close question. Such an action -- that involves putting America's service men and women into harm's way, whether they're in the Air Force or the Navy -- is a grave decision that cannot be made by the president alone."

According to Kucinich, Obama's decision "would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense," though he questioned whether Congress would ever move forward with a trial in practice.

It's no wonder that he'd be considered for a cabinet post in a Ron Paul administration, or so the libertarian candidate has said in the past. Given the election results elsewhere on Super Tuesday, he's more likely to return to Washington D.C. as a congressman from Washington state. The odds are long, but it wouldn't be the first time that he mounted an improbable comeback.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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