The women of color running for President & Vice President
The Green Party Presidential ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente brings something special and unprecedented to U.S. politics. Not only are they the first all women-of-color ticket for President and Vice President. These women take racial justice seriously, and have made strides to put gender at the center of a progressive agenda. For these two, it's more than skin deep.
They're the Presidential ticket that talks about amnesty for undocumented workers, that opposes guest worker programs as riddled with abuses, because they believe a just immigration reform means addressing the trade and economic policies fueling poverty and migration. They're the ticket that demands reparations in the form of federal investment in low-income families and communities of color, to end racial disparities in health, housing, education, and incarceration. They call for the right of return for Katrina survivors; an end to prisons for profit, to the War on Drugs. And they speak of reproductive justice – not just the right to abortion, but actual healthcare access; of freedom from coerced or uninformed medication and sterilization.
Nowhere do we see Nader, or white male Third-Party-politics-as-usual, bringing in these issues – this slice on life, or sensitivity. McKinney, for instance, points out that Social Security cuts will disproportionately harm women. The Green Party candidates offer to do us the public service of contesting Palin's brand of "feminism." Let's take them up on it.
We starry-eyed ones know McKinney and Clemente aren't going to win the Presidency.
But each vote for them contributes towards building unprecedented ballot access, federal funds, and an inroad to the national debates, for the Green Party. If McKinney / Clemente get 5% of the national vote, the Green Party qualifies for millions of dollars in federal matching funds for 2012 – a significant dent in the two-party system. Under the Electoral College’s winner-takes-all system, not every vote for a major candidate counts; but by supporting a minor candidate, we can strategically use our votes to institutionalize a progressive platform.
It will take us more than four years to forge an alternative to the major parties' imperialism, and their repeated failure to put people before profit. One important step is building the institutional vehicles to truly represent our voice. Previously in U.S. history, third parties have waged organizing efforts that mattered. The Republicans themselves, originally the party of Abraham Lincoln, catapulted from minor Third Party to major player in the 19th century, by jumping off a backbone of 16 years of organizing by the Free Soilers – another minor political party with an anti-slavery platform. Just as right-wing organizations in more recent times have planned ahead how to impact society over several decades, and invested in sustained efforts, we too must set our sights on strategies of significant long-term change. McKinney and Clemente won't be elected now, but they are young enough to be elected in 12 to 20 years – or perhaps their successors, within our lifetimes.
In the words of McKinney herself: "We are in this to build a movement. We are willing to struggle for as long as it takes to have our values prevail in public policy." She reminds us, "Voters in this country are scared into not voting their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. But in Bolivia and Ecuador and Argentina and Chile and Nicaragua and Spain, and India and Cote d'Ivoire and Haiti, voters were not afraid to vote their hopes and dreams, and guess what. Their dreams came true. Ours can, too."
If those of us who hold their politics don't support them, who will? It's time for us to say, these brave women – and those who follow in their footsteps – represent the future that we want for politics in this country.
A concerted front
There is not a contradiction between supporting Obama's victory over McCain, and spreading the word on McKinney – because we believe her politics should be included in the debates; and believe all voters should be aware she and the Greens exist as an option.
There is not a contradiction between spending time to campaign for Obama in key swing states, and pledging your own vote to McKinney – particularly in Democratic strongholds such as California, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, or Washington, where Obama will win landslide; or Republican states where McCain is assured of victory.
As an example, in 2004, Kerry beat Bush in Massachusetts 62% to 32%, by over 700,000 votes. 5% of the vote would have been around 140,000 ballots, but third party candidates actually got around 1% altogether, or 27,000. This election, 35 states are not swing states.
While we might divide up our work, we can back each other in a larger strategy to shift politics to the left.
Stop the blackout