By now we all know there is both a woman and a Black man running for President of the United States. But most folks may not be aware of another candidate who embodies both of these characteristics. Former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is also in the running as a candidate representing the Green Party. A lifelong Democrat, McKinney was a staunch supporter of the party’s involvement in anti-war and human rights legislations. And while these causes are still on her list of priorities, McKinney is now rolling with a new team of policy makers who she says are right up her alley. She recently spoke with essence.com on her underdog bid for the White House.
Essence.com: Why should people consider taking a harder look at the Green Party?
Cynthia McKinney: As I travel, talking to Americans across the country, I’ve learned that there is life outside of the two-party paradigm. We have a generation of folks who watched in horror as young people protested the Vietnam War outside of the Democratic National Convention and saw how they were subsequently treated. That was a tipping point for a lot of people. Today, some feel that their votes won’t be counted because of election integrity. There are people who want to see an end to the war, and that hasn’t happened, despite the Democratic majority in Congress. So you have all these different people who have reached the same conclusion that the two-party paradigm doesn’t serve their interests anymore. But let’s not withdraw from it; let’s change it.
Essence.com: You’ve been a Democrat all your life. Why switch to Green now?
C.M.: You know, I never really got the chance to know the members of the Green Party across the country before. Now, I’m getting to know the most wonderful, idealistic, patriotic people who have made me feel at home. It’s just wonderful to be with people who have thought through the process and how we can work to make it better.
Essence.com: How many votes do you need to be considered?
C.M.: The Green Party needs 5 percent of the votes in the 2008 election to be institutionalized as a third force in American politics.
Essence.com: Why should we consider voting for you?
C.M.: If people feel deep within their hearts that there is still something structurally wrong with the limited choices we have in our two-party system, then I want people to say let me be a part of the 5 percent that changes the structure of our country. Right now, public policy is made in a room where the door is locked. The people are outside; only two representatives [Democrats and Republicans] are in that room hammering out policy. Somebody gave the corporate lobbyists a key so they can come and go as they please. The Green Party will open the door for people who care about impeachment, the war, civil liberties, and economic justice. We will pull up a chair and be a part of the conversation. You’ll get different results and people won’t feel as if they were marginalized out of the process.
Essence.com: You’ve done a lot for the people in New Orleans and the Gulf States after the Hurricanes. Why is their cause still so important to you?
C.M.: I’ve been very active in the treatment against Hurricane Katrina survivors. After having participated in the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and visited New Orleans and the Gulf States several times, I have helped to put together a 10-point plan for the survivors, which is based on the Reconstruction Movement and the Reconstruction Party [in Canada]. This 10-point plan includes an electoral system that allows for integrity and voter choice, full employment including the right to organize, reparations, a budget for human needs, policies against police brutality, a way to end the drug war and prisons for profit, means to protect the environment, end militarism and continue to stand for peace. There’s a lot more that our country can do in its own borders and in the global community.
Essence.com: What are some issues you plan to tackle in your campaign?
C.M.: I haven’t visited a single city that isn’t reeling from overpriced housing and gentrification. We want to demystify the phenomenon known as gentrification and that’s a project that I’ll be working on in the days ahead. I want to be at the ground floor of exposing what’s happening to innocent people.
Essence.com: Mumia Abu Jamal, former Black Panther and convicted criminal who currently sits on death row, supports your candidacy. In fact, he has issued a statement for your website. Knowing his background, how do you feel about his endorsement?
C.M.: I’m extremely pleased to have Mumia’s support. I see him as a political prisoner. All one has to do is read the documents to see that. The government clearly spells out what it planned to do to members of the Black Panther Party despite the Constitution. When you decide whether or not to follow the path of truth and justice, then you will see these activities for what they are; illegal and un-American.
Essence.com: What do you think of the two Democratic frontrunners, Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton?
C.M.: It’s interesting that you asked me about them and not the Republicans. The issue for those of us who decided to take a third path is not about the individual characteristics of a candidate because there are wonderful Democrats and activist Republicans like Ron Paul. But we should be asking ourselves, what are the limits of these parties? We have to look beyond the candidates to see what the party itself stands for. So issues like reparations while it’s a part of the 10-point plan is also a part of the 2008 Green Party platform.
Essence.com: You introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Rice for manipulating intelligence and lying to justify the war. Why would you do that?
C.M.: Because it was warranted! These people have lied to the world. They have taken our country to war and they have violated US and International laws with crimes against humanity, peace and torture. The Democratic majority in Congress has failed to provide secure elections so we don’t have to deal with these outdated election machines. They have yet to repeal the Patriot’s Act. These issues that we’re talking about now, will be the issues that must be confronted by the new administration in 2009. They are not going away. They won’t melt into the fabric of America. If anything they are going to soil the fabric of America.
Essence.com: What gave you the courage to try to impeach the President?
C.M.: You can’t be afraid to search for truth, find the truth and then fight injustice. The great people of the world like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like Rosa Parks, like Patrice Lumumba, stood up for their country and the value of the people. But in doing so, you have to be prepared to fight the injustice that comes along with the knowledge that you gain.
For more information on Cynthia McKinney’s campaign, click on her website, runcynthiarun.org.