One-on-One with Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney

(FinalCall.com) – An outspoken critic of the Iraq War who frequently challenged many of the Bush administration’s policies, Cynthia McKinney has always been a courageous advocate for the people. Having served six terms representing Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, she is well aware of the inner workings of the corridors of power in Washington D.C. and she seeks to change it.

The Green Party’s nominee for president of the United States sat down with the Final Call’s Assistant Editor, Ashahed M. Muhammad to talk about her candidacy, her reasons for leaving the Democratic Party and her approach to foreign policy specifically relating to Africa.


The Final Call (FC): You left the Democratic Party. Clearly there were more resources with the Democratic Party and their nationwide network, but you chose bring your “star power” so to speak and your influence, to the Green Party. What went into your making that decision?

Cynthia McKinney (CM): I would like to begin with the definition of politics. Politics is the authoritative allocation of values in a society. It is the responsibility of those who participate in the process to understand that those values are allocated in the process of making public policy. It is a public policy result that we are looking for. It is also incumbent upon us to remember that we participate in the process not because a particular political entity has resources. That political entity must reflect our values and must pursue those values in the formation of public policy.

The reason that I am no longer a Democrat is because the leadership of the Democratic Party has pressed the Democratic Party in ways that are not consistent, nor reflective any longer of my values. So for example, the Democratic majority in Congress presented an agenda for its first 100 days. Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita were nowhere on that agenda. They also pressed for the continuation of spending for war and occupation. Peace is my value not complicity in war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of torture and crimes against the peace.

Also one of the values that I think that is important for us to protect is the Bill of Rights. We must be able to live in a society that both claims itself to be a free one, it really ought to be free. The recent demonstration of the Democratic leadership, no longer reflecting the value of protecting human rights at home, is the fact that now, telecommunication companies get retroactive immunity granted to them by the Democratic majority in the Congress to spy illegally on innocent Americans.  This is outrageous, aside from the fact that it’s well past time that we stop spending $720,000,000 every day for war; that we ought to have a budget for this country that reflects human needs. That we ought to provide a single payer health care system for people in this country and a livable wage for workers in this country. It is insufficient for the Democratic majority to merely talk about raising the minimum wage. People must go to work now and when they go to work they should not remain beneath the poverty level.

FC: You don’t appear to be motivated by the typical things that seem to motivate other politicians. What motivates you to continue even in the face of continued negative media attention and powerful lobbying tactics directed against you?

CM: The goal of this effort is to put another seat at the table. Right now public policy is made at a real table. In 1992 when I was running for Congress, the slogan was ‘we want our seat at the table’ because that was the year of the woman. Women all over the country were running for the Congress and we wanted our seat at the table. When I got to Washington, D.C., I saw that there really is a table and that table is inside a room and that room has a door and a window. The window is for the people. They can look in and they can see public policy being made. The door however has a lock on it, and so not everybody can come and go at will. Somebody is already in that room and there are only two entities in that room, Democrats and Republicans. They gave the special interests (groups) a key so that they could come inside that room anytime they wanted. As a result of the special interest (groups) being able to lobby and press their wishes at will, the American people can vote for peace and get war and occupation. The American people can say we want healthcare in this country and a single payer health care system with Medicare for all in this country, and they (still) don’t get it. Students graduate from universities $100,000 in debt because the value is not in subsidizing education, the value is in subsidizing war. By receiving five percent of the national vote, the Green Party can pull a seat up at that table of public policymaking. We can put a chair in that room that reflects our values and I can guarantee you that the public policy resulting because we are there will be more reflective of the values of those who actually go to the polls and vote. Five percent.

FC: Gas prices are up, food prices are up, oil over $140 a barrel and corporations are making record profits, while people are suffering. For a lot of “common” or “everyday people” the political process is not real. They believe that it really doesn’t matter. How do you plan to inspire those you are purporting to represent by your candidacy?

CM: I think it’s pretty clear that the reason we have this discussion in the corporate press about flip flopping on issues is because neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party truly represents the values of the vast majority of people who vote and those who don’t vote. Those who don’t vote don’t vote for a reason. That is because they feel that the system marginalizes, alienates and disfranchises them. What we want to do is to carry our message of real substantive truth and change into those communities who traditionally don’t vote. They have given up and what we would like to say to them is that our 5 percent campaign should be the mechanism by which your values can finally become addressed in the public discourse and represented in public policy.

FC: Black people, and people of color have traditionally supported you. The vice-presidential running mate you selected, Rosa Clemente is Puerto Rican and represents the Hip-Hop generation. You represent a constituency that for years has been underrepresented in the political process, but it also may be looked upon by some as possibly taking away votes from the candidacy of the presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama. How do you address that?

CM: That issue of the spoiler question is a question that is routinely posed by people who don’t understand the facts of what happened in the 2000 election where 1,000,000 Black people went to the polls and voted, but their votes weren’t counted. Now in an atmosphere that is devoid of election integrity, how can we say anything about who is taking votes away from anybody else? In fact what the question ought to be is, what is it that we can do as a society to make sure that everyone who wants to vote is able to cast a vote and then every vote that is cast is counted? But that question is avoided. Why is that? Because it is clear that we have–in fact–as it is said by Greg Palast in “American Blackout”–an apartheid voting system in this country and basically by and large, those people whose votes are not counted are sadly the votes of the African American community and people of color.

FC: Let’s switch to the international scene. What is your position and the position of the Green Party on many of the global conflicts taking place?

CM: I think it’s important for us to understand that the Green Party is a party of peace. Therefore, the Green Party is also the party of anti-imperialism. It is not necessary for the United States to subdue its neighbors and individual entities within the global community. The United States can win friends through diplomacy and through support and advocacy of the respect for human rights. Now unfortunately we are in the midst of a presidential campaign and Pakistan is being bombed literally as we speak. Somalia is occupied, the once proud leadership of Ethiopia has now become the back pocket handmaiden of the George Bush administration for rendition and torture. So things have totally been turned upside down. What we propose is that there be no more bombing, no more occupation and that respect for human rights becomes the centerpiece for our policy both domestically and internationally.

With respect to what Israel is engaged in right now, it is clear, that the Israeli policy is no longer defensible and people inside Israel–human rights activists inside Israel–understand that the path that Israel is on right now is not the path for peace. What unfortunately this country (the United States) is embarked upon is another war and that war is represented or embodies the fact that we have legislation that has been drawn up by the Democrats and Congress that calls for a naval blockade of Iran. A naval blockade is an aggressive act of war. We hope that that legislation does not pass; that if that legislation passed, would never be implemented. If it is, then what the Democrats have is more blood on their hands.

FC: What about AFRICOM, the plan for proposed American military bases to be spread across the African continent?

CM: The last thing that the United States needs to give to Africa is soldiers and more military presence. In fact the greatest gift that the United States could give to Africa is liberation, freedom and dignity. By leaving the continent and helping the people of the African continent to build nations (so that the continent) will be able to sustain themselves in this global community. That is not the case today because of course we have copper coming from Africa, uranium, gold, we’ve got oil of course, rubber, everything that the West needs or thinks it needs for it’s survival. Therefore Africans are subjected to the worse forms of imperialism and in some cases genocide because of their very wealth. It is incumbent upon us in the United States, who have the ability to change the policies in Washington, D.C. to do so, that’s also another reason why folks who are Pan-Africanist should join with us in the Green Party.

FC: Your perspective on Haiti?

CM: We decry the United Nations occupation of Haiti. The people of Haiti had the self confidence and the perseverance after their president was stolen with U.S. weapons to vote and insure the election integrity of that vote for Renè Prèval. Renè Prèval needs to be free to lead the Haitian people.

FC: And Zimbabwe?

CM: People who don’t have title to the land should not be allowed to occupy the land. The title of land can’t be granted to those who have stolen the land. Land reform is the issue all over Africa. The issue is land and the land must be free to be settled by the original inhabitants who were removed from that land illegally as a result of colonialism.

FC: Thank you.