Sunday, July 13, 2008

McKinney, Green Party make history

Finally a progressive candidate we can support.


McKinney, Green Party make history
John Nichols — 7/13/2008 9:54 am

CHICAGO -- With an assist from Wisconsin activists -- including Madison Alder Brenda Konkel and local attorney and Liberty Tree Foundation director Ben Manski -- the national Green Party has made a good deal of history this weekend.

The party has nominated a former member of Congress for the presidency, a coup for the party that itself has yet to elect a U.S. representative or senator.

The party has nominated a woman for president, no small matter in a year when Democrats have rejected an opportunity to crack the political glass ceiling.

The party has nominated an African-American for president, no small matter in a year when the Democrats have embraced Barack Obama.

And the former member of Congress, the woman and the person of color the party has nominated is a savvy, articulate and outspoken public figure who -- despite the fact that she has taken her hits from a media and a political class that never could get comfortable with the idea that a young black women was walking the corridors of power and making no apologies -- appears to be more than capable of standing her ground in a presidential race that so far has been longer on style than ideas.

Cynthia McKinney, a former Democrat who represented Georgia in the U.S. House during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George Bush and often sparred with presidents of both big parties, easily secured the Green nomination Saturday at the party's convention in Chicago.

She then delivered an acceptance speech in which she made it clear that the small but serious party, which has more than 200 elected officials nationwide and grassroots organizations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, would be heard in a campaign where much of the media has a hard time seeing beyond Democratic blue and Republican red.

As delegates and supporters waved "Paint the White House Green" signs, McKinney declared, "I am asking you to vote your conscience, vote your dreams, vote your future, vote Green."

Manski was delighted by the energy with which McKinney took the stage as a Green.
The veteran campaigner for the party, who was a key player in Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential run on the party's line and works closely with 2004 Green presidential nominee David Cobb, said, "Cynthia McKinney is already bringing new people to the Green Party. She's expanding the party, broadening it."

Manski organized and participated in a number of issue-oriented forums at the convention, which featured presentations by Konkel, a former Madison City Council president, Madison attorney and Liberty Tree fellow Juscha E. M. Robinson, former Racine Alder Pete Karas and other Greens from Wisconsin.

Issues and organizing strategies were far more central to the Green convention than the personality politics that tends to dominate at Democratic and Republican sessions. That's part of the reason why McKinney's move from the Democratic fold to the Greens has gone reasonably smoothly.

"When it comes to the war, impeachment and so many other issues, she's always been closer to the Greens than the Democrats," explained Manski.

Resolutely anti-war and anti-imperialist, firmly committed to defending individual liberties and determined to hold the outgoing president and vice president accountable -- as a member of the House in 2006, McKinney introduced the first articles of impeachment against President Bush -- McKinney is an ardent advocate for national health care, expanded education spending and energy policies that emphasize mass transportation and conservation rather than rewarding oil-company profiteering.
And, as she notes, "I have a record of standing up on all of these issues."

It is that record, and her willingness to stand on it, that distinguishes McKinney from Democrat Obama and Republican John McCain, both of whom are being accused of changing positions in order to reposition their campaigns for November.

McKinney does not spend much time attacking either the Democrat or the Republican. Rather, the former state legislator and six-term member of the House -- whose broad experience as a child of the civil rights movement, a community activist, an educator and a state and national official compares favorably with both of her big-party rivals -- simply says: "Don't expect me to keep a count of the major flip flops of the other candidates between now and November. I'm sure there will be plenty. They are in this flip flop because they have to appear to share our values -- while they serve somebody else."

That "somebody else" comment is a reference to the corporate and governmental elites that Cynthia McKinney has spent a lifetime battling. She has her scars. But she is still reasonably young by presidential politics standards -- just 53 -- and she is still appealing and appropriately idealistic.

Don't talk about "wasted votes" or "spoiling" that which is already spoiled, she says
"We are in this to build a movement," McKinney told the cheering delegates. "A vote for the Green Party is a vote for the movement that will turn this country right-side-up again."

John Nichols — 7/13/2008 9:54 am