So if Kucinich-watchers ever had any question as to whether the Congressman is actually into all that so-called "new age" stuff, they need look no further than the last two days, where Kucinich spoke like a spiritual guru trapped in the suit-wearing body of a politician throughout a jam-packed schedule of speeches and fundraisers in Seattle, Marin County and Santa Cruz.
While Seattle offered the usual fare of well-received, populist-themed speeches to audiences like U Dubb students, King County Democrats (Washington Senator Patty Murray also spoke but did not appear with or mention Kucinich), and local labor groups, the bay area events felt more like a Berkeley class of '69 reunion, with the campus green replaced by sprawling homes built into the cliffs of Marin County. To the attendees of Saturday night's fundraiser, where guests took their shoes off at the door and asked questions like "How do we bridge the paradigms?" Kucinich is a dream candidate who speaks their language. Indeed, the Congressman sprinkled his usual stump speech with enough new age flavor it seemed he might start to meditate right there, with such passages as, "A singer speaks that we are all made of stars. The concepts of [names three philosophers I couldn't determine] all speak to the energy of the stars being within us, and we then are also of the energy of the stars." When speaking about inner knowledge later on, he said to event host (and former Timothy Leary cohort) Ram Dass, "On my way here I could hear you calling me."
But if Kucinich got a warm welcome in Marin, it was outdone in Santa Cruz, where crowds at folk singer Michelle Shocked's benefit concert screamed out "We love you!" and pamphlets on world peace, ecological harmony and veganism sat alongside campaign materials. As the Santa Cruz Sentinel says, the area is "Kucinich country": the city council recently voted for a resolution to impeach President Bush.
Kucinich tried out several new themes this weekend. Using his anger over Democratic candidates' answers at last week's Planned Parenthood forum that they'd support the draft for 18-year-old women as a teeing-off point, Kucinich warned his Vietnam-sensitive baby boomer audiences about new recruitments for draft boards across the country, and insisted the draft be eliminated altogether. And while never admitting he might not win the nomination, he encouraged supporters to donate despite concerns about his electability because he's the only one who can "keep the other candidates honest," referring not-so-subtlely to Dean's backpedaling on campaign finance. Also, Kucinich's childhood keeps getting tougher and tougher. Taking a page from John Edwards, he is now speaking in depth about his impoverished childhood in Cleveland to prove he can connect with voters. In Santa Cruz yesterday he revealed that hearing gunshots day and night was routine in his neighborhood, and that as a five-year-old he suffered from a terrible stutter.
But perhaps the most prevalent theme of the weekend was singing. Kucinich has taken to joining in on the performances by local supporters who kick off his speeches at every stop, including renditions of "To Dream the Impossible Dream," campaign theme song "Imagine" (sung at one event by a 15-year-old girl on stilts wearing a blue shimmery dress and an Uncle Sam hat) and "This Little Light of Mine."
Calling out on opting out