McKinney announces bid for U.S. presidency
Green Party candidate seeks fullest expression possible of power to the people’

by Lauretta Dawolo
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 12/19/2007

Cynthia McKinney recently visited the Twin Cities seeking Green Party endorsement as a candidate for President of the United States. She made her formal announcement of candidacy at the Midtown Global Exchange Building Monday, December 10.

The Twin Cities is an important stop along the campaign trail due to the prominence of the local Green Party leadership in Minnesota. In Minneapolis, Ward 2 City Councilmember Cam Gordon and Park Board Commissioner At-Large Annie Young are both Green Party-endorsed elected officials.

The former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia is known for her outspoken challenges to Bush administration policies and her questioning of the 2000 and 2004 presidential election results. At the recent press conference, she mapped out her own struggles with voter disenfranchisement since she first took office in 1993.

McKinney credited her family’s influence for her career in politics. “My father always viewed that it was better to make public policy rather than protest public policy,” she said. The legacy of her father, former Georgia State Representative Billy McKinney, caused her to keep her eyes on the prize.

“The only way one can make public policy is to be inside; you’ve got to become the elected official who presses the ‘yes’ button or the ‘no’ button,” she emphasized. “Rarely are we there to press the ‘yellow’ button, which is the ‘abstain’ button…because really you’re there to make decisions on behalf of our country… So that’s either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’”

Using her inherited moral compass and the ability and desire to do a good job, she challenged the status quo, including the value placed on money in the political arena. She described a list she was given of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in Georgia from whom she was expected to solicit campaign contributions in her first Congressional election in Georgia. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you call the list…and that’s kind of what’s wrong,” she said.

“I did that and it didn’t work for me, because those known contributors were not interested in what I had to offer.” McKinney attributes her success in that election to soliciting funds from individuals representing individuals rather than individuals representing corporations. She won the Democratic primaries in 1992 with only $25,000.

McKinney sparked more controversy in politics after September 11, when she asked the question, “What did the administration know and when did it know it?” This inquiry, together with other policies she supported in Congress, developed “a reputation of upsetting a whole lot of people who are not accustomed to being upset.”

According to McKinney, this warranted a mechanism to uproot those who questioned the system. She says that a correlation of forces — over 40,000 Republicans — came together and utilized the open primary statute of the state of Georgia (allowing “crossover voting”) to pick up a Democratic ballot on Election Day, costing her the Congressional seat in 2002.

She filed a lawsuit against the electoral practice of crossover voting and later called for President Bush’s impeachment “due to the failure to protect the American people after September 11.”

McKinney’s activism around disenfranchisement in the last two presidential elections drew national attention. She spoke passionately about the Democratic response to what she refers to as stolen elections. “What did the Democrats do to protect their most loyal voters?” she asked rhetorically.

“Black people vote nine out of 10 — don’t even question…if it’s got a ‘D’ behind the name, ‘Oh, that’s a good person… I’ve got to vote for them.’ What have they given to you? Imprisonment, infant mortality, wealth, family income, housing… The racial disparities are worse today than they were at the time that Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered.

“The Republicans conspired among themselves to steal the 2000 elections, and they did it off of Black people in Florida and across the country. One million Black voters went to the polls and voted in 2000, and their votes weren’t counted.”

The fight against disenfranchisement continued in the 2006 primaries, where McKinney blames crossover voting in addition to redistricting and electronic voting fraud in efforts to block her vote. “When a voter asked…how those votes were treated, the voters were told the election results belonged to Diebold [the voting machine manufacturer].”

She said the misuse of these electronic voting machines poses a question of whether or not we will ever know exactly what happened in that election.

After losing the 2006 primary in Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District, she continued working on her doctoral dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley. It was also at Berkeley where she met members of the organization of people who now run her campaign.

She initially turned down the idea of running on the Green Party ticket as urged by her persistent supporters. “All of this has happened quite by surprise for me. This is not something that I set out to do,” she said at the press conference.

This ad hoc committee created a website to rally supporters at Today, this group, which has become her campaign committee, is known as the Power to the People Committee.

Much of McKinney’s experience in public office has led to her departure from the Democratic Party in March 2007. She identifies many reasons for leaving the party, including the negative economic impact of NAFTA on her congressional district. She also cites foreign policy, especially U.S. complicity in the coup of Haiti.

“I have run into so many people who’ve had a last straw. For me, it was not the last straw, but it was so many straws. In 2002, I said that the Republicans wanted to beat me more than the Democrats wanted to keep me…and all I asked were questions for 9/11 truth, domestic justice, peace, fairness, foreign policy devoid of militarism and greed, and accountability.”

McKinney wages her new political pursuit to assess the temperature of the country. She says there’s a pocket of potential activism in this country stemming from former activists in the 1960s whose work has been eroded by public policy and the election process. She also expressed excitement for young people who are demanding answers and not a mere response to their questions.

“This activism has a potential of becoming a movement. I would hope that this movement will spark idealism…and positivity that I know exists among the American people in terms of people’s ability to change not only their communities and their future, but also change our country.”

McKinney referenced the international momentum in places like Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia as examples of “the power of the people as expressed through their votes making a difference in their countries.”

She compared her optimism to that of Dr. King’s regard for people standing up for themselves around the world in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, when he said, “I’m glad to be living at the end of the 20th century [pointing] to people in places all over the continent of Africa saying, ‘I want to be free.’”

McKinney said, “Well, I can truly say that I’m glad to be living at the dawn of the 21st century, because I see people standing up saying, ‘I want to be free.’”

Looking at the examples in Latin America, she said, “If they can do it there, I know we can do it here. I want to see the fullest expression possible of power to the people so that we can change our country here in terms of its domestic policy and its conduct in the rest of the world.”

Lauretta T. Dawolo welcomes reader responses to