PITTSBURGH – Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, brought cheers from delegates to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers 68th convention here recently, challenging them to consider “a new vision for America” and to put “a people’s president in a workers’ White House.”

Kucinich charged that the other Democratic nominees for president were shortchanging the debate within the Democratic Party by confining the discussion to “narrow choices and false choices.” The debate is too often about what type of private health insurance will be available, “not whether we should create a transformation of a system that has obviously failed,” Kucinich said. Or the debate is about fixing NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, not about getting out, he said.

“As president, my first act in office will be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO,” said Kucinich, ridiculing the suggestion by Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) that he would work to fix NAFTA. “You can’t fix NAFTA. This promise of free trade is an illusion,” he added. The delegates erupted in applause.

Kucinich directed some of his sharpest criticisms at former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. He pointed out that Dean, who is a physician, regards a universal, single-payer health care plan as “tilting at windmills.”

“When a doctor says that, it’s time to get a second opinion,” Kucinich said. “Unless a Democratic candidate is willing to step forward and challenge this system, he has no business carrying the banner of this party.”

Kucinich also criticized Dean for refusing to cut Pentagon spending if he is elected president. “Dean says he won’t touch Pentagon spending but he’s for a balanced budget. Do the math,” he said, adding that he would cut military spending by 15 percent and transfer the funds to education for children.

Kucinich said that his presidency “will be about restoring the dignity of the American worker. We have a right to a job, decent wages and benefits, the hope of owning a home, of sending our children to a decent college.”

“We have to let the people know we have the ability to create the America of our dreams, we have the capacity to do it,” said Kucinich, who received a prolonged standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.

Shortly after the Ohio congressman left the convention hall, the UE delegates adopted a statement of support for Kucinich’s candidacy. Recognizing that the union has never made a presidential primary endorsement, the statement reads, “We are, however, proud to strongly urge UE rank-and-file members to seriously consider his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Kucinich “is to be commended for his participation in the primary contests,” the statement continues. “His campaign effort is injecting into the primary process a sense of urgency with regard to the need to tackle the various crises facing working people, including the imperative to remove Bush from office in the November 2004 elections.”

The UE delegates then passed a motion to take up a collection for Kucinich’s grassroots campaign.

The author can be reached at jthomp690@yahoo.com