End of an Era

It wasn’t a big surprise, since he was facing another incumbent Democrat (Marcy Kaptur) who had represented a larger share of a new district, but it was still a bit of a shock to hear that Dennis Kucinich had lost his seat in Congress. The man is everybody’s favorite hard-core lefty, almost impossible to dislike, and with a political career that sometimes defied belief.

My own brief moment with Kucinich was at the 2004 Democratic Convention when he showed up in the rehearsal room I was working in. He arrived with a large entourage, including a couple of Hollywood celebrities who were determined to cheer him up (he wasn’t happy that Kerry’s people had forced him to formally endorse the nominee before giving him a speaking slot) by making strange simulations of cheering crowds. He didn’t sing “America the Beautiful” or spin around and exclaim “No Strings!” But his intensity was impressive. After listening carefully to all our advice about voice modulation and pacing and controlled hand-gestures, he eventually went into the convention hall and shouted and waved his way through his speech just like he always had.

There’s been some talk that Kucinich might move to Washington State and run for an open seat there, but this isn’t the United Kingdom where constituency-shopping is traditional, so he’s probably done in Congress. I personally hope he writes up his memoirs, or better yet, makes a movie; his Hollywood friends could all show up.

Kucinich wasn’t the only incumbent Member of Congress to lose a primary in Ohio last night; he was joined by the notoriously abrasive Cincinnati-area conservative Jean Schmidt. It’s a sign of the times that Schmidt’s opponent, Brad Wenstrup, attacked her for being an insufficiently rigorous ideologue.

Dennis Kucinich rarely had that problem, but I suspect he’ll be missed by his colleagues, left and right, a lot more than Ms. Schmidt.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.