Lately, Dennis Kucinich has been providing more fodder for late-night comics than the current bumper crop of celebrity criminals. And the pundits charged with offering intelligent political analysis are frequently even more caustic in their caricatures of the progressive contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The very idea of an average-looking guy with an ethnic surname, nonstandard eating habits (Kucinich is a vegan - he eats no animal products), and a plan to create a Department of Peace seems guaranteed to trigger snickers of derision.
Which is a funny thing in this land of equal opportunity where we proudly proclaim everyone's freedom to march to a different drummer. It seems we're concerned with enforcing more conformity in image and ideology than we'd prefer to admit.
Ted Koppel accused the Ohio Congressman of being a "vanity candidate," and a cable channel's senior political analyst opined, shortly after the first few primaries, that Kucinich was most likely remaining in the race just so he could continue to appear on national television. Which, again, is rather odd - because Kucinich had to fight to get a word in edgewise and a moment on camera during most of the Democratic debates.
The only thing you won't hear about Dennis Kucinich in the mainstream media is any serious discussion of his positions. And that's no accident. Dennis comes from the old school of politics where the emphasis was on big ideas - not big money or big hair. And big ideas typically don't play well on the small screen, with its preference for punchy sound bytes.
A cartoon in a recent New Yorker magazine purports to display the results of "The Mars Primary," with most of the Democratic candidates gathering a tiny percentage - and Kucinich winning with 93 percent of the Martian vote.
Perhaps the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, phoned home with their votes after catching a close-up glimpse of the bleak, lifeless planet: "Hello, Mission Control? We have seen your future - everything here has already been merged, purged, privatized, downsized, liberated and mutilated. You've got to put us down for Dennis! And ... could you beam us up some folk songs?"