During last night’s democratic presidential debate at Howard University, hosted by Smiley Tavis, the reactions of the public were more significant than the performance on stage. I’d say it’s time for future debates to concentrate on the handful of candidates who have a serious chance of being the candidate. The second quarter figures may persuade the Bidens and other grandfathers to bow out, but they should not and probablyl will not deter Dennis Kucinich, who knew from the start that he was the odd man out.
Kucinich is more important than most people realilze. Not because he could get the nomination, but because he couldn’t.
If that sounds trivial, it’s not. Kucinich is the only candidate who is campaigning, for universal SINGLE PAYER health care. He and John Conyers have sponsored House Bill 676 that would eliminate health care for profit. All the other candidates are offering to make health care “more affordable”, but that is largely a myth since they have not taken on the health insurance companies. The look on the audiences faces when Kucinich said we had to get the insurance companies out of health care was eloquent: THEY DON’T BELIEVE THIS COULD EVER HAPPEN IN THE UNITED STATES.
Their well-placed incredulity is the result of decades of framing: free health care is not a right, it’s “socialist medecine”. It could take a generation to overcome this carefully constructed taboo, even though journalists have been given the green light by corporations eager to be releived of the bill for health care, to let the American public in on a deep dark secret: every highly developed country except the U.S. has one form or another of single payer universal health care.
Forty-two years after I had to travel to Cuba on my French passport to find out the inside story of the revolution, CNN is finally reporting that Cuban health care is indeed, as Michael Moore reports in “Sicko”, free. For one tenth our cost, Cubans live to an average of 77, like we do; and the Cuban infant mortality rate is in fact lower than ours.
What has this got to do with the look on the faces of the black audience at last night’s debate? It’s all about confidence. The Cuban “dictator” has consistently told his people that they could overcome their hurdles (most of which were put in place by the U.S.). Very differently, all but one of the presidential candidates (I don’t count Mike Gravel because he’s not being serious), is accepting to play the health game by the rules of corporate America. They are, in effect, in covert language, telling the American people that there are some things they cannot expect from their freely elected government (as oposed to Cubans, who do not enjoy the same “freedom”).
Last night, for the first time, I saw that Kucinich actually has a charming smile, though it is rare. His habitual sombre mien is telling the American people that their situation is hopeless, even as he tells them what needs to be done. He needs to project the hope that can onlly come from breaking squarely with the status quo.
A propos Cuba, following on the example of Ann Coulter, who wished out loud that John Edwards could have been assassinated, President Bush commented that one day, Fidel Castro will die. I don’t know whether this was in response to the release of the CIA’s “family jewels”, documents that detail decades of dirty work, including plans to use mobsters to assassinate Castro. At any rate, the president must be wishing the art of spin and framing that gave rise to “flip-flop” and other stick-in-your-mind slogans had never been invented, for now it has allowed his former friends to turn his base against him with just one word: ”amnesty”.