Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), unfortunately now most frequently remembered for her scuffle with a Capitol police officer, is hinting that she may run for the presidency on the Green Party ticket in 2008. McKinney, who introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush just before she left office, said in a recent interview, “2008 has not been ruled out, some kind of effort. Certainly now it is questionable as to whether that effort would come under the banner of the Democratic Party. There’s no way that with the current crop of candidates who are all supporting a military action against Iran and who none of them support impeachment. They can not speak for me any longer.”
McKinney was met with cheers of “Run, Cynthia, Run!” recently, and The Nation reports that a McKinney candidacy may become a reality. And while she’s certainly a controversial figure in some circles, McKinney’s voice in the 2008 race could change the debate on issues like the war in Iraq, government accountability and LGBT rights.
McKinney lost a hotly contested re-election battle after her run-in with the capitol police, and her pro-Palestinian views in the House. But while she was in Congress, there were few lawmakers more outspoken, more upfront or more on-point on many of the important issues than she was. And though her relationship with the LGBT community was sometimes rocky, McKinney was a staunch advocate of everyone’s civil liberties, and she was consistently rated among the most pro-gay legislators by LGBT advocacy groups. A Green Party ticket with McKinney, while likely not winnable, would be a powerful force for getting progressive issues back onto the presidential campaign trial.
And there are legitimate questions about just how much of what McKinney was supposed to have said while in office actually happened. Reporter Greg Palast recently wrote that, upon investigating many of the statements attributed to the former Congresswoman, they turned out to be “a complete fabrication. A whopper, a fabulous fib, a fake, a flim-flam. Just freakin’ made up.” But, there was plenty of evidence that what McKinney had said actually came to be true.
According to Palast, there isn’t a quote to be found that McKinney suggested the Bush Administration knew anything about the terrorist attacks of September 11 before they happened (though it was widely reported that she had made the accusations), but she did ask questions about “whether the policy response — war, war, war — was protecting America or simply enriching Bush’s big arms industry donors and business partners.”
That seems like a fair question for a lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee to ask, and all McKinney wanted was an answer. What she got, instead, was to be mis-quoted throughout the press, leaving the impression that she was insinuating something she was not.
The press, however, couldn’t stop McKinney’s fight for accountability.
Just before she left Congress, in one of her final acts representing her district in Georgia, McKinney introduced articles of impeachment against the president, saying that, “Throughout my tenure, I’ve always tried to speak the truth. It’s that commitment that brings me here today. We have a President who has misgoverned and a Congress that has refused to hold him accountable. It is a grave situation and I believe the stakes for our country are high.”
“I am not willing to put any political party before my principles,” she added. “This, instead, is about beginning the long road back to regaining the high standards of truth and democracy upon which our great country was founded.”
And in October 2002, during her concession speech and while the country was moving toward war, McKinney reminded her constituents that, “There is still work to be done. Somewhere tonight, a man is making himself a bed of newspapers and cardboard on the sidewalks of the city. Somewhere tonight, a child is too hungry to do his homework. Somewhere tonight, an elderly couple must make the unfair choice between food and medicine. Somewhere tonight, a woman lives in fear of domestic violence. And somewhere tonight, men in powerful positions are taking the first steps toward sending our country into war.
Somewhere tonight, powerful interests are working to silence those that are a threat to their power. Every day in Congress I kept those images in mind. Images of real people with real problems. And real abuses of real power.”
There’s no question a Cynthia McKinney candidacy would be frowned upon and laughed at by some, but for those who believe in asking tough questions, speaking out for those without a voice and holding even the most powerful among us accountable, her voice could be a welcome addition to the campaign trail indeed.
For more queer political and cultural commentary, visit The Bilerico Project.