By Carla Sanders
CHICAGO–With her woolen hair neatly twisted into two braids, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia talked straight Nov. 10 to an audience of more than 200 people at Chicago’s Kennedy-King College during a discussion of politics and the electoral process.
The congresswoman described the recent congressional election as a march into the “valley of death” for the Democratic Party. The election catastrophe for the Democrats, she said, was precipitated by a lack of courage and direction on national and international issues.
“We probably have about a half-a-million people in the streets against war in Iraq. But on the war, where are the Democrats?” Rep. McKinney asked. “A quarter of the homeless people who sleep on the streets of America every night are veterans. But on homelessness and issues pertaining to veterans, where are the Democrats?” she continued. “Three-fifths of all the children in our country live below the poverty level. But on poverty, where are the Democrats?”
And, she added, where were the Democrats “when the Congressional Black Caucus wanted to debate the Florida 2000 elections debacle?”
Some believe Ms. McKinney was targeted and lost support among Democrats when she called for an investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America shortly after they happened. She was defeated in a primary election that included thousands of Republicans who crossed party lines to defeat her.
“I really didn’t think I was doing anything except my job,” Rep. McKinney said of the post Sept. 11 questions she raised. Rep. McKinney argued that citizens should be told how much the government knew about the possibility of the attacks before they happened. Americans have since learned the United States government knew more than it was willing to disclose, while the congresswoman from Georgia, undaunted by the controversy that engulfed her, continues to speak her mind about Middle Eastern policy.
“The U.S. national interest is equated with the national interest of Israel, and there is probably nothing wrong with that, except when our interests diverge and the people who speak out about it are targeted and removed,” said Ms. McKinney. “That’s the problem.”
Rep. McKinney was born in Atlanta and elected as a Democrat to the 103rd Congress in January of 1993 and to the four succeeding Congresses. She contends most Democrats successfully elected to office owe that success to Black voters, citing a CNN poll that supported her argument.
But, she said, the Democratic Party neglected Black interests and could be permanently “consigned to the side lines of public policy making” as a result. Black and minority voters have lost confidence in the two-party political system and the Nov. 5 election proved it, she added.
Rep. McKinney lost her last primary election and will represent Georgia’s 4th Congressional District only until January.
Republicans chose the candidate they wanted to run in the Georgia primary, guaranteed that candidate financial support, and got people out to vote, she said. “The Republicans wanted to beat me more than the Democrats wanted to keep me,” said the outspoken lawmaker. She added that the National Democratic Party did little to help her run and win her campaign.
The Kennedy-King Student Government Association, attorney and Kennedy-King professor Lewis Myers and UJIMA, a local political action organization, sponsored the forum.