Lora Chamberlain stepped up to the mike on the Gunther Murphy’s stage, excited to report the latest returns for her presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich: Hawaii, 30 percent; Idaho, 6 percent; Utah, 7 percent–states, it’s true, about as sparsely populated as the fund-raiser Chamberlain was hosting. But though only 20 or so people showed that Thursday night, Chamberlain believes there’s still a case to be made for supporting her man, at least until the Democratic National Convention. “In the primaries we’re not in danger of Bush winning,” she says. “November is when we save America from Bush. Before that we have to determine who it is that really has Americans’ hearts. And for me it’s Dennis Kucinich.”

Chamberlain, a 48-year-old physician, says it was Kucinich’s outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq that got her attention. “I didn’t see any of the other presidential candidates show up to an antiwar rally,” she says, “and I was at almost every single one. I did see Dennis.”

Until the war came along, Chamberlain had been only marginally active in politics. But in March of last year, she says, she decided, “This is it! I’ve had it with America!” She spent the spring going to antiwar protests across the U.S. and in Europe and “thinking about moving away.” But when she heard that Kucinich was running she decided to give the country one last shot. Currently she’s working half-time and spending the rest of her days stumping for the representative from Cleveland and serving as his campaign’s fund-raising chair for Chicago’s Fourth District. The most recent project she’s organized is the “Rockin’ Revolution for Progress,” a series of benefit concerts by local bands.

In Chamberlain’s mind, the war in Iraq was all about oil. “I thought it was disgusting that we went in and killed 10,000 Iraqis and 500-plus Americans to maintain our grip on oil,” she says. “We’ve known for 30 years that we had to diversify our energy sources. Do we really want to be a country that continues to kill to maintain our dependence on oil?” She faults other Democratic candidates for knowing this and still voting to give Bush the green light. But beyond that, she says, it’s Kucinich’s advocacy for universal health care, the environment, withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO, and repeal of the Patriot Act that makes him the “spokesperson for the progressive community.”

For many Democrats, electability is a key consideration in the upcoming election. The prospect of four lame-duck years of George W. Bush; the real possibility that Republicans may gain four Senate seats this election cycle; the political ramifications of recently gerrymandered congressional districts and what this concentration of power could mean for federal court appointments–all of this gives Democratic thinking a strategic cast.

But, Chamberlain says, there are multiple strategies to consider. “Just having Dennis and Sharpton and even Dean’s antiwar stance in the race has pulled this whole thing over to the left, so we’re already winning. The longer we keep him in the race, the longer we win, the more progressive issues we can bring up.”

And unlike Ralph Nader, she says, Kucinich won’t hurt the Democratic vote. “Kucinich will back whoever the Democratic convention chooses,” she says. “He’s gonna work really hard until the convention,” where, she believes, Kucinich will be able to influence the platform because of the delegates he’s won, “but he’s not going to be a spoiler.”

Besides, Chamberlain says, Bush is doing a pretty good job of beating himself. “While I was stumping in Iowa I had Republicans coming up to us who had never even heard of Kucinich. Maybe 50, 60 times, they said, ‘Who is this guy? ‘Cause I’m not voting for Bush anymore.’ It’s been one thing after another with Bush, and his popular support is showing that. Now if bin Laden is caught in September or October–how convenient!–then I think there are some Americans who would foolishly see that as proof he was right all along. But I’m very optimistic–though I don’t underestimate the shenanigans of the Republicans.”

The “Rockin’ Revolution for Progress” continues with concerts by Spooning With Nora, the Sixty-Eights, First Coat, and B.B.M.T. on Saturday, March 6, at Lyons Den, 1934 W. Irving Park (773-871-3757); La Cassette and Bumpus on Thursday, March 11, at Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln (773-549-5549); and Tom Sharpe, Irradio, and Abstract Giants on Sunday, March 14, at Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln (773-404-9494). All shows start at 9 PM and there’s a $10 suggested donation for each. See the music listings in Section Three for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.