Want to know what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding? Start with the fashions, as modeled by Dennis Kucinich supporters at a monthly Internet-organized meetup last Thursday, January 8. Many attendees sport Seattle casual garb: faded jeans and performance fleece. But time has stopped for others, mummifying them in Indian-print cotton and lumpy Third-World sweaters, hiding them behind thick beards and long bangs. Ill-fitting T-shirts advocating risible messages in support of--you guessed it--peace, love, and understanding are de rigueur. Cloaked in Guatemalan serapes and shod in Mexican huaraches, the foot soldiers of patchouli progressivism gather.

In a dingy, brown-tiled room at the Seattle Labor Temple, 70 of these true believers--the purest of the utopian purists--praise their vegan savior. Kucinich hails from Cleveland, the city that steel built and NAFTA killed. He proposes a single-payer health system, and says on his website he will make world peace "inevitable" by creating a government bureaucracy to "tap the infinite capabilities of humanity to transform consciousness and conditions that impel or compel violence at a personal, group, or national level toward creating understanding, compassion, and love." He boasts a 10-point plan to get our dirty, oily, imperialist hands OUT OF IRAQ NOW! Is it any wonder Seattle's potlucking activists are enthralled?

If he strikes mainstreamers (whose false consciousness arises from the corporatist pabulum they are spoon-fed by a corrupt media establishment, of course) as shrill and out of touch--and he does, lagging at the bottom of the polls--at least here his friends give him his due: as a secularist apostle of saintly virtue, as the torch-bearer for the right-thinking left, and as the only candidate who truly understands that America needs to be saved from itself.

"If not Dennis, then who?" the gentle people ask each other. (Kucinich is never Kucinich here; he is always simply "Dennis.") Certainly not false prophet Howard Dean, graven matinee idol of the Starbucks liberals.

"And if not now, when?" For it is a wonderful, touching, dreamlike world these Kucinich partisans live in. There is hope: The citizenry will join us if only we find the right words. There are white-knuckled avowals of relevance even in the face of Everests of contrary data--witness the excited discussions of how to get Dennis the nomination. For some, supporting Dennis is a pragmatic concession to brute political realities. Take, for example, John Jeannot, 47, who chats with me articulately and amiably about his views. Kucinich is a bit far-right for his taste, he says; ideally, his candidate would be calling for the replacement of capitalism with a "nonprofit economy."

Still, at least the campaign is decentralized and volunteer-based. It is nonhierarchical, inclusive, and self-actualizing. Our soothing facilitators are a handsome couple named Jerry and Whitney. To smiles and applause, they catalog the small triumphs. As the fade-to-white bliss of meditative peace overwhelms me, I hear Jerry happily announcing that a massage therapist would like to make an in-kind contribution to Dennis' campaign....

sandeep@thestranger.com

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