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A Wider Lens: The candidates of no opportunity

Aaron Okin
By Aaron Okin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
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The race among the Democrats has, thus far, been an interesting one to watch, and even more so with the drastic change in the political climate over the past couple of weeks that actual vote-casting has brought. There is no doubt that, as sad as it may be for Democrats that their party has been unable to come to a unified position, the race has nevertheless been entertaining thanks to the candidates who don't stand a chance now, and never did, but still find themselves in the pack.

As the primary season intensifies, Democratic candidates are going to start dropping out and throwing their support behind the front-runner, as custom and party unity dictate. Irrespective of the amount of funding still in their possession, rational candidates will step aside when the delegate counts show they have no chance. The obligatory optimistic statements that candidates toss around about how they are going all the way to the convention are hollow in all cases, except for three people in this field - whomever the nominee is, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton. The last two candidates are not in the race to win - they're there to get attention as long as funds allow.

In December, I came into contact with a Kucinich for President volunteer who was passing out pictures of the candidate with the main tenets of his candidacy on the back. Since then, I've carried the photo in my wallet in case I needed some cheering up. It's not because I think he has good ideas, the leadership potential that the United States needs at this time or even the competence to act as mayor of a small Great Basin town after what happened in Cleveland (a record that earned him the nickname "Dennis the Menace"). I carry the picture because his candidacy is such a joke that I cannot help but laugh.

Kucinich's position on the war in Iraq is that American troops should be pulled out. When? Within 90 days of his taking office. Thankfully, he'll never get into office. Besides, whether or not one agrees with the decision to eliminate the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, anyone should realize that it is logically impossible to pull out and leave the country in its current position.

For a person who wants to achieve "world leadership through peace," it seems foolish to leave a chunk of land infested with terrorists under the control of the United Nations. Let us not forget that the United Nations' tough stand against terrorism involves allowing Syria, a state that has terrorist group headquarters in its capital city, to sit on the Security Council.

If you aren't comfortable with his Iraq policy, he has several other revolutionary initiatives. Cutting defense spending in favor of a Department of Peace to add to the federal bureaucracy and make America less secure, creating an ineffective and costly universal health care system and withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization so the United States is removed from the global market at a time of necessary international trade are all cornerstones of the Kucinich for President effort.

For Sharpton supporters, his time may be shorter than that of Kucinich in terms of running out of money - the Federal Elections Commission reported that his campaign had a total of $7,535 on hand at the end of 2003. Although the quarterly update has yet to occur, it's probably a safe bet that the momentum that Al Sharpton has been working on hasn't scored him the money needed to stick out the race.

His official message consists, basically, of three proposed constitutional amendments to ensure voting rights, education and health care. It is interesting how Sharpton tries to derive validity for his amendments by invoking Attorney General John Ashcroft's claim that one has a right to own a gun. This takes the form of resorting to, "If Americans had a choice between the right to a gun and the right to health care, it would be nearly unanimous," on his campaign Web site.

Beyond the written platform, there is also a racially charged offensive that is readily evident in debates and that will not appeal to the broad base of voters in America. There are many questions surrounding his credibility in light of past statements, and his inability to formulate a coherent, broad-based platform is indicative of the seriousness of the campaign.

That so many people have donated their efforts, money and, most tragically, their votes to campaigns like these is quite disheartening. People may say that candidates such as these are the ones who truly represent the spirit of American democracy. But, in fact, it is the rejection of the realities of the functioning system and the support of no-chance candidates that helps undermine the effective American democratic framework.

Aaron Okin is a regional development and political science junior. He can be reached at

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