Congress is about to lose one of its most progressive environmentalists — and its only vegan. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who became well-known in liberal circles during his 2004 and 2008 presidential runs, lost the Democratic primary for Ohio’s new 9th congressional district on Tuesday. So come January, he’ll be looking for a new job.
Ohio experienced slower-than-average population growth between 2000 and 2010, so it’s now losing two congressional seats. Republicans gamed the state’s redistricting process to pit Democratic reps against each other. Kucinich ended up running against longtime Rep. Marcy Kaptur and losing. (Kaptur will now face Joe the Plumber in the general election. Yes, really, Joe the Plumber.)
Kucinich is perhaps best known for his outspoken anti-war stance and his call for a Cabinet-level Department of Peace. In his mind, those views are closely linked to his environmental values. Here’s how he described his green platform to Grist in 2007:
As president of the United States, I’m going to shift the entire direction of America. We need to see the connection between global warring and global warming, and it’s oil. Sustainability is the path to peace. … peace means being in harmony with nature. If you’re in harmony with nature, you don’t exploit nature. You don’t ruin the land, you don’t extract the oil, you don’t take the coal out of the earth.
My underlying philosophy is a green philosophy. It means that I’m looking at a total reorganization of the federal government to create a cooperative and synergistic relationship between all departments and administrations for the purpose of greening America.
And here’s what he told Grist in 2003:
Sustainability is a principle that must infuse our whole approach to life. And the environmental movement is the path toward that. It’s the key to understanding that the earth and the air and the water provide the precondition for life. Life cannot exist without that. So we need to organize our structures of governance in a way that helps support basic principles for the furtherance of life on this planet. And when there is a collision between those values that support life and economic practices, the economic practices must always yield to protect the environment.
You won’t hear that kind of talk from many — make that any — other members of the U.S. House.
Conservative columnist Ryan James Girdusky describes Kucinich as “the last bleeding-heart liberal in Congress,” an “anti-war, anti–big business, anti–Wall Street, pro-environment, pro–universal health care liberal Democrat who very rarely wavered on principles” — a description that Kucinich himself would surely embrace. Kucinich voted against the Waxman-Markey climate bill in 2009 because he said it was “too weak.”
In recent months, Kucinich flirted with the idea of running for one of three open congressional seats in Washington state, but on Wednesday he ruled that out, saying he was going to serve out the end of his term rather than try to carpetbag up to the Pacific Northwest.
But come next year, Kucinich might start feeling the pull of the Evergreen State. It could be the perfect place to finish writing that vegan diet book he’s been talking about.