It used to be that the only good thing you could remotely say about the Democratic Party was “Cynthia McKinney”. Thankfully, no more. McKinney, former Congresswoman from Atlanta, Georgia, was pushed out of the Democratic Party after the Party leaders moved against her during the 2006 primaries for that state’s Democratic Congressional slate. She had held the seat with one break since 1991. The reason Cynthia got the boot is that McKinney is a dynamic and independent black woman. The best thing to happen in a bad couple of years for the Green Party here in the States is the arrival of Cynthia McKinney, which she has formally joined and sought to lead in the 2008 Presidential elections.
Best known in what passes for the press for physically defending herself during an attempt at a humiliating search of her person to enter the Capitol where she was a sitting Congressperson, she is not afraid to call a racist a racist. She has been, pretty consistently, opposed not just to the Iraq War but the War on Terror and its associated assaults on civil liberties, human rights, etc. Though she has incorporated some of the more out there theories on 9/11 into her anti-war rhetoric which will hurt her if she continues, she has as much or more than any national politician been true to the spirit of Martin Luther King’s and the then Civil Rights Movement’s political stance in opposition to the Vietnam War.
She also has a nearly unique record for a US Congressperson; she openly and energetically supports Palestinian self-determination. Her vocal championing of these rights may have been, in the end, what the Democrats found so impossible to live with. And they’re right; the Democrats have a long history of being the pro-Israel Party here. The last time the Israelis even got as much as a slap on the wrist from their imperial masters was when Bush Sr. froze loans in response to the building of settlements 17 years ago.
So Cynthia has a lot going for her, not least of which is that she has helped make race, and by extension in the US context, class an issue of discussion among the Greens. Race and class have long been downplayed in the Greens, a consequence of the overwhelmingly white, middle class background of many of its members and supporters. This is essential if the Greens were to ever grow into a real party of opposition to the Democrats. We are a long way in the US from a workers party and the Greens cannot be the substitute for one. Still, the fortunes of a future workers party cannot but be helped by independent political formations to the left of the Democrats.
There are still a lot of unknowns out there. What happens in the Democrats will surely impact on the Greens and whomever they chose to run. Nader has already said that he doesn’t want even the endorsement of the Greens, let alone to be their nominee but he didn’t mind picking Green celeb Matt Gonzalez from San Francisco to run with him. How to deal with Nader as well as how to relate to the Democrats has been a major issue within the Greens and will continue to be so. The Greens as a party have yet to resolve if they aim to pressure the Democratic Party or to compete with it.
Many Greens aren’t sure if McKinney’s conversion to the Greens is real. Will she be there to help build the party or is she just seeking its nomination? McKinney is by far the most recognizable candidate in the race for the Green’s nomination. She has done very well in most of the state caucuses so far, landing pretty firmly on the top of the list in most of them. The Greens convene in Chicago this summer to pick their nominee.