Is Cynthia McKinney the New Nader?

By Jonathan Adams Jul 14, 2008

The Green Party tapped Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia Congresswoman, in its run for President of the United States. With her running mate Rosa Clemente, McKinney is gearing up for an historic campaign of her own.

In her campaign, she is pushing for the impeachment of President Bush and a quick end to the Iraq war. She also advocates a human rights plan that includes reform of the nation’s voting system and slavery reparations for African Americans.

Looking past the controversies that marred her progressive six terms in Congress, McKinney does not seem phased by this long shot. Earl Ofari Hutchinson says she might even have a chance to shake things up:

The best thing McKinney has going for her, though, is her 10 point manifesto. This is a free swinging, unabashed anti-war, universal health care, anti corporate, pro-environment and civil liberties and full employment pitch. This could touch a nerve with some voters who express disgust that the gap between Obama and McCain in their positions on issues from Iraq to the economy at times seem paper thin. It could stir some voters fed up with the top heavy parade of corporate officials, lobbyists, and Beltway establishment politicians that dominate Obama and McCain’s campaigns to cast a protest ballot for her. The tantalizing possibility that McKinney might pull two to three percent of the vote nationally is more than a wild stretch. In a close to the wire contest between Obama and McCain this could be just enough to cause the Obama camp jitters as Nader did with Democrats in 2000.

Amiri Baraka, poet noted as one of the pioneers of the Black Arts Movement, wrote a letter to Black radicals about his support of Barack Obama and his message of personal responsibility and he spoke to the possibility of moving support away from the Democratic nominee to McKinney:

For those who claim radical by supporting McKinney or, brain forbid, the Nadir of fake liberalism, we shd have little sympathy. As much as I have admired Cynthia McKinney, to pose her candidacy as an alternative to Obama is at best empty idealism, at worst nearly as dangerous as when the Nader used the same windy egotism to help elect Bush. The people who are supporting McKinney must know that that is an empty gesture. But too often such people are so pocked with self congratulatory idealism, that they care little or understand little about politics (i.e. the gaining maintaining and use of power) but want only to pronounce, to themselves mostly, how progressive or radical or even revolutionary they are.

Though he seems to have already endorsed a candidate, the Beats poet also reminds us of our own democratic responsibility. Baraka says, as only he can, "if we don’t do nothin’ he won’t do nothin’… the less we do, the less we can expect Obama to respond to us… The question is what will you do, where will you go with the one opening that they leave you which they claim is democracy."