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photo: Jana Bfrchum seven, his childhood was marked by poverty. The family lived in 21 different places during that period, some of them cars. There was a short stint in an orphanage. As a copy boy for the Cleveland PlainDealer, young Dennis would be sent by his bosses out to the working-class homes of the city to pick up photos of the freshly killed in Vietnam. In modest but immacu late living rooms, mothers would apologetically take the favorite framed picture of their boy off the mantle piece to give to him. “Those are the kinds of neighborhoods I come from,” he says. Yet so far, it seems Kucinich’s message of peace and his appeals to economic populism have resonated primarily with ideological purists of the left. Many of those who supported Ralph Nader in the past have returned to the Democratic Party and embraced Kucinich. Artists and Hollywood celebrities have been particularly strong backers. The mainstream has shunned his candidacy. Nor has Kucinich received much of a boost from the twin Democratic motivators: free-floating rage at Bush and true terror over what a second term could portend. None of Kucinich’s fellow members of the Ohio Congressional delegation have endorsed him. And as the Chicago Tribune noted in a profile, Kucinich is “engaged neck-and-neck with ‘margin of error’ in national polls.” If only more people thought with their heart. There are three kinds of knowledge, Kucinich explains to those in the union hall. He ticks them off: book knowledge, media knowledge, and heart knowledge. Throughout the weekend, it was heart knowledge that was most on display. Book knowledge didn’t seem to get much attention. Media knowledge, and its verdictthat in the horse race for the Democratic nomination, Kucinich is stuck in the gatecame in for constant drubbing. Heart knowledge might explain why a candidate says with a straight face that the Democratic nomination won’t be decided until the July convention in Boston. And that Texas will play a crucial role in the decision, even though the Lone Star State primary follows Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, California, New York, South Carolina, Michigan, and Ohio to name some of the more important ones. “My strategy is to use my delegates from Ohio and Texas to win the nomination at the convention,” Kucinich tells reporters after the meeting. After a lunch with campaign coordinators, Kucinich joined a peace rally in progress on the steps of the state Capitol. About 300 dedicated activists assembled for what has become a familiar ritual of low wattage dissent. The speaker before Kucinich reads a ponderous letter to the crowd from a contender for the Green Party presidential nomination, David Cobb. The recitation prompts one spectator to marvel that Cobb has managed to be both absent and long-winded. Kucinich’s speech on the other hand is short and full of the idealistic passion he peddles best. The “corrupt war profiteering” from companies like Halliburton must stop. The U.S. must renounce ambition, he tells the now-cheering crowd. It must renounce war. He ends thundering: “There is an advancing tide toward human unity, toward peace.” Standing in the background behind the candidate is Hollywood actor James Cromwell. Much of what little money Kucinich has managed to raise has come from star-studded campaign fundraisers in Los Angeles. The candidate counts Shirley MacLaine as a close personal friend. The two share the same New Age spirituality. Actors Elliott Gould, Danny Glover, Jeff Bridges, and Lindsay Wagner have also been prominent supporters. Cromwell, whose breakthrough role was as the kindly Farmer Hoggett in the movie Babe, is the only member of the Hollywood set to make the Texas trip. The veteran actor comes from a long-line of tinsel-town political activists. In the 1950s, his father John Cromwell, a B-movie director, was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Ironically enough, James Cromwell married actress/director Julie Cobb, the daughter of the late actor Lee J. Cobb, who himself informed on others in the industry during the McCarthy-era blacklist. Cromwell has used his fame and money to champion a variety of causes from Native American issues to PETA. For the latter organization, he was arrested while demonstrating at a Wendy’s restaurant in Virginia in 2001. The rally breaks up and I ask the actor how he reconciles his support for Kucinich with the common perception that the candidate is unelectable. Cromwell bristles. The kindly farmer disappears and it becomes instantly clear why he’s so effective at portraying authority figures gone wrong. He leans in with his 6-foot-7 frame and points his finger down at me. “The media has reduced the American public’s interest down to a horse race where you have to pick the lesser of two evils,” he snarls. “We in America venerate winners… We haven’t gained anything by backing a winner.” He then proceeds to knock Howard Dean for not committing to unilateral disarmament. He scoffs at Al Gore’s presidential bid in 2000. “Gore wasn’t committed to a new paradigm of peace,” he says. The problem is not the candidate, Cromwell seems to be saying, but the lack of imagination from the voters and the continued on page 20 1/30/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11