Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rambles: the Greens, and my vote.

When Feministing posted this video of Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney talking about the big bailout, I got excited. Not only is the Green Party more progressive and appealing than the Dems, but in this election, I actually have the strategic freedom to vote for her. Cast in Illinois, my piddling little Obama vote would be a drop in the giant bucket. So why not use my vote, however small, to censure the disappointing Democrats and offer support to the (admittedly unviable) alternative?

Inspired by this chance to cast a vote outside our two-party system, I did some research on McKinney, whose candidacy has received so little mainstream media coverage that I knew virtually nothing about it. (That's no excuse, I know.) Anyway, the results were disappointing. There's a weird incident on McKinney's record in which she apparently punched a guard at the Capitol who didn't recognize her as a Congresswoman. She's a staunch advocate for the 9/11 Truth "movement." From what I can gather, she has a flair for incendiary claims (including the stunning assertion that the Department of Defense executed 5,000 people after Katrina) and egoistic political drama. I realize her supporters frame her as "a fighter." There is no doubt that during her tenure as a Georgia Congresswoman, she spoke her version of truth to power, and was a voice for the powerless.

Still, given McKinney's personal record, I'm surprised she could make it through the vetting process of even a tiny party like the Greens. I realize that we're dealing with a different concept of "vetting" here: what makes McKinney completely unpalatable to most of America (like alignment with 9/11 Truthers) might make her a darling of the Green Party's base. Maybe. But if this polarizing woman is the best candidate the Greens can come up with, how capable are they of mounting a serious challenge to the Democratic party?

At this point, it appears they will not mount any such challenge. At its electoral peak in 2000, the Green party (Nader/LaDuke) received only 2.7% of the Presidential election vote. Cynthia McKinney is no Ralph Nader, and the party appears to be facing significant organizational and financial challenges that will prevent them from having any real impact.

In many ways, I'm as inspired by Obama's candidacy as anybody. As a voter, I want to stand in solidarity with all the people for whom his candidacy is an incredible milestone: something they could never have imagined happening, fifty or forty or twenty-five years ago. In casting my vote for Obama, I hope I would become part of an historic moment. And I'm impressed by the enthusiasm he's generated.

But he doesn't represent where I'd really like to see the country going. I'm not sure how much his health care plan would really help me, and I'm not convinced his foreign policy plans will keep my brother from being sent to Iraq. I'm just waiting for someone to point me towards an alternative - a REAL alternative that I can believe in, politically and organizationally. It's disappointing that the Green Party ticket is not it.


tb said...

Nor was I particularly impressed by McKinney's running mate, Rosa Clemente, in her joint interview with Matt Gonzalez on Friday's Democracy Now. While she boasts an impressive record as an activist, independent journalist and hip-hop artist, her responses were vague with more repetition of "prison-industrial complex" than anything substantive.

Arvilla said...

While I agree that Cynthia McKinney is an underwhelming candidate, I do think it's worth defending Rosa Clemente. I've seen her speak a couple time at panels on hip hop, and there's absolutely a lot more to her views than vague allusions to the prison industrial complex. I have been very impressed with the way she has articulated some savvy pro-justice arguments, even in a setting meant to analyze hip hop.

Which isn't to say you got any sense of this from the Democracy Now interview. But don't judge a candidate by a single exposure, is all I'm sayin'.

I will concede that she may not be incredibly press-ready, but honestly, I'm ready to start judging candidates by more substantive standards.