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Support Obama, and Vote McKinney? Not a contradiction.

By       Message Amee Chew     Permalink
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In August, AntiWar.com featured a line-up of McCain, Obama, Nader, and Barr. Incidentally, reflecting a common trend in much progressive media, over 80% of the site's columnists and regular contributors are male. When challenged by readers about McKinney's absence, the editors explained that both she, and ultra-rightwing, xenophobic, anti-abortion Chuck Baldwin – who seeks to cut all federal investment in communities of color – were omitted. Not due to bias against McKinney as a black woman, but because, an editor flippantly wrote, both of the candidates are "pretty perfect" on foreign policy.[3] If McKinney's stance was so perfect, why wouldn't the site choose to promote her as a standard-bearer? And why instead place her on equal footing with a racist, sexist Baldwin? Besides not considering economic inequality, immigration policy or internal colonization as relevant to imperialism, AntiWar.com must simply have not viewed her as a serious contender.

Why has McKinney had more trouble getting attention from left organizations and institutions compared to Nader, Green Party candidate in 2000? After all, she, too, champions universal healthcare under a single-payer system; progressive taxation; repealing free trade agreements and abolishing the anti-union Taft-Hartley act. She takes a stronger stance against war and occupation, urging an immediate and orderly withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan. And she has vocally opposed the bail out.

A few feminist, and gender-conscious progressive sites have offered the women a nod. But while the National Organization for Women has acknowledged Palin's candidacy as historic,[4] it has failed to mention the Green Party's groundbreaking women-of-color ticket– at all.

Progressive organizations have a responsibility to help counter racism and sexism, rather than participate in it. The media may justify its coverage based on candidates' popularity and relevance to viewers; yet it also plays a key role in shaping our perceptions – in McKinney's case, by allowing us to even know she exists, and what views she holds. Intentions aside, the failure of progressive organizations to cover McKinney amounts to an information blackout. Rather than uphold the institutionalized racism and sexism that exclude McKinney and Clemente from public discourse, progressive media must support a progressive consciousness by covering our political allies.

Organizing to take power

This election, the Third Party candidates, from left to far-right, caught attention when they gathered around a common anti-war, pro-civil liberties, and anti-corporate welfare platform. But let's be clear about our strategy. Progressives should work to unite around our own alternative worldview – promoting an ideology to challenge the dominant narrative, not simply a patchwork of reforms. When we are pigeon-holed into single issues, our movements are fractured and weaker for not being able to articulate a holistic vision. We shouldn't be working to build up the Libertarian version of free market hell, or Constitution-party xenophobia – let's take concerted action to make our own party and institutions of change.[5]

In Boston, we have been organizing film screenings of "American Blackout," to draw attention to the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, as well as the strategic capture of the voting system by right-wing forces. The film documents McKinney's candidacies as a Georgia Congresswomen, and her outspoken support for electoral reform and voting rights. It also details a Republican-organized cross-over campaign to oust McKinney in the Democratic primary election: Republicans stormed the Democratic ballot box to cast their votes for a conservative Democrat they had funded against McKinney, because they knew they couldn't win running a Republican in the general election.

The right-wingers have meticulously learned to rig the electoral system in their favor. Let's take it back.

Vote truth this year, and work for it next.



Thank you to Thomas Chen, Catherine-Mercedes Judge, and Kaveri Rajaraman for their input on this article.

______________________________

[1] For a history of woman candidates: http://www.jofreeman.com/politics/womprez.htm 

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/elections/2004/ma/

[3] http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org/2008/08/17/sexism-in-the-peace-movement-is-alive-and-well-antiwarcom-invisibilizes-presidential-candidate-cynthia-mckinney/

[4] http://www.now.org/news/note/090508.html

[5] A Green Party platform of the future might include valuing women and children by repairing the scant welfare system; providing good jobs through subsidized childcare and home help; redressing the poverty of elderly women without pensions. Women's labor in the private sphere remains undervalued and an invisible issue to most political parties.

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Amee Chew works at a community organization in Boston, and can be reached at hachew at gmail dot com.

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Support Obama, and Vote McKinney? Not a contradiction.