At a campaign stop on campus yesterday, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) called for free college education at two-and four-year public colleges and universities, a not-for-profit healthcare system and more jobs for U.S. citizens.
More than 500 people – including high school students and elderly adults and entire families – packed into the National Science Auditorium for the rally, at which Kucinich explained the importance of voting in the state’s primary.
“Tomorrow is an election which no one should take for granted because this is Michigan’s opportunity and it’s your opportunity to change the entire debate within the Democratic Party,” Kucinich said. “And there needs to be a real debate on issues, not providing a Democratic version on the war as opposed to a Republican version of the war.”
Kucinich, one of the four Democrats who will appear on the state’s primary ballot, visited the University for a rally sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Students for Kucinich and the University chapter of the College Democrats.
The other Democratic hopefuls chose not to campaign in Michigan to protest the state’s decision to move its primary up to Jan. 15., a violation of party rules.
Kucinich garnered zero percent of the vote in the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3 and 1.4 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s Jan. 8th primary. Most national polls predict Kucinich will finish the Michigan primary with about two to three percent of the vote.
During his speech, Kucinich focused on setting himself apart from the other presidential candidates.
“I’m the only candidate for president who voted against the war, who voted against funding the war 100 percent of the time, who voted against the Patriot Act – because I read it – who stands for a non-for-profit healthcare system, who stands for a carbon-free and nuclear-free energy policy,” he said in a press conference before the rally.
Kucinich reaffirmed his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which removed tariffs on goods traded between the United States, Mexico and Canada, yesterday, saying he’d cancel the agreement if elected.
“I’m for canceling NAFTA,” Kucinich said during the rally. “I mean these trade agreements were written so the corporations could get cheap labor in another countries. So what happens? Manufacturers go where the cheap labor is. That’s what our trade agreements are not about. They’re not about helping other people.”
Kucinich also promoted his higher education plan, which proposes financing free tuition for students at two- and four-year public colleges if they work for the government.
He took veiled shots at his running mates and their education plans.
“If students go out there and vote for me, they’ll send a message: start talking about education,” he said to the audience. “Tell us what your plans are. Will you commit, as I do, to saying that every young person will be able to go to a public two-or four-year college or university tuition-free?”
LSA sophomore Yousef Rabhi, chair of Students for Kucinich, said the purpose of Kucinich’s visit was to introduce students to a candidate with whom they might not have been familiar.
One student, LSA freshman Vanessa Guerra, fell into the category. Initially a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Guerra said she now has a tough decision to make after hearing Kucinich speak.
“Kucinich talks a lot about real change and dramatic change,” Guerra said. “I was more of an Obama fan, but now I’m kind of more in the middle between Obama and Kucinich.”