by Mark Dunau
“Birddogging” is an expression used to describe the activities of an advocate who follows candidates for the purpose of declaring a point of view, and hopefully moving candidates to that same opinion. What follows are my experiences birddogging on behalf of the self-employed in the three weeks prior to the 2004 New Hampshire Presidential Primary. To view the cover page of that packet, click here.
Kissed my wife, Lisa, and kids goodbye and set off from my farm in Hancock, New York, bound for Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Quickly encountered what was to be a continuous series of snow squalls. The roads were lousy and the slow driving gave me plenty of time to ponder the purpose of my trip: to follow the Democratic Presidential candidates around New Hampshire for the three weeks prior to the primary, and at every opportunity speak and lobby on behalf of the self-employed. In hand, I had recent statistics from the Census Bureau demonstrating that the self-employed now outnumbered union members in the United States. My contention was that 16 million union members and 20 million self-employed equaled a populist movement. Why weren’t the Democratic candidates addressing the needs of the self-employed—the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected Americans? To defeat George Bush, I knew the Democrats had to carry the vote of the self-employed.
After nine hours of driving, I arrived at midnight at my mother’s dead, cold summer home. Turned on the oil furnace, but not the water, fearing it might freeze. Figured I’d carry water in and relate to the house as a large heated tent. Covered myself in five blankets and quickly went to sleep.
Bought supplies, and filled water jugs at the local diner. Called the Kucinich headquarters and discovered he would be attending a house party in Nashua at 7:30 p.m.
Drove one and a half hours to Nashua and entered the beautiful Tudor home of Steve and Theresa, both teachers. There were about 30 young and middle aged people waiting for Kucinich. Some watched Kucinich’s campaign video, others chatted and noshed on snacks provided by the hosts.
Kucinich arrived about 8:00, and mingled with the crowd for about half an hour. I approached him and asked him why neither he nor any of the other Democratic candidates addressed the needs of the self-employed. He replied that that was a good question, particularly since he had once been self-employed himself. I told him that I believed the Democratic Presidential nominee couldn’t win without carrying the vote of the self-employed, and handed him a packet of statistics I had gathered to demonstrate that the self-employed now outnumbered union members, and that together they would make a populist movement. I pointed out the three upcoming primaries; in New Hampshire there were 90,000 self-employed, 59,000 union members; in Iowa 260,000 self-employed, 181,000 union members, South Carolina 212,000 self-employed, 71,000 union members. Kucinich gave my packet to his assistant and said, “Make sure to keep this.”
Steve and Theresa gathered the crowd together so that Kucinich could share some of his thoughts. Kucinich said that his was a campaign offering hope, not fear. He looked at the world holistically, and that past, present and future interacted in such a way that injustices of the past could not simply be forgotten. The unjust war in Iraq would be reverberating throughout America for a long time. He was the only Democratic candidate who pledged to get the troops home now. His campaign was dedicated to healing the wounds of war, environmental degradation and numerous other Bush Administration outrages that he described.
Kucinich then opened himself to about half an hour of questions. Many of the people in the room had jobs in high tech, and were concerned with applications that might be used in ways that were totalitarian. They were also concerned with the many high tech middle class jobs that had recently been lost in the area, outsourced to India. Kucinich replied that he had voted against the Patriot Act and reiterated his commitment to the right of privacy. He reaffirmed his promise that his first act as President would be to withdraw the United States from the NAFTA and GATT Trade Agreements.
Kucinich spoke eloquently and from the heart. The host, Theresa, asked the last question, but it was really a tearful plea. She lived in fear and was terrified of the Bush Administration. “Please Congressman Kucinich, while the Democratic candidates may disagree, please don’t attack each other. This only made it more likely that Bush would be reelected.”