The forces working against Cynthia McKinney
Published Aug 16, 2006 10:15 PM
Progressive people across
the country are asking the question: How could Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney
have lost the Aug. 8 run-off election against a virtually unknown candidate,
DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson?
While there are many elements
that combined to produce her defeat, the primary cause was the unrelenting
hostility of the ruling circles towards McKinney’s political positions and
to her being an example of a form of Black empowerment.
antipathy by powerful monied interests to any manifestation of independence from
“business as usual” politics in Washington birthed a concerted
campaign to nullify the choice of African-American voters and elevate a
candidate more acceptable to the ruling class and conservative whites.
local Atlanta media played an especially egregious role in misrepresenting and
vilifying McKinney’s character, judgment and accomplishments. Adjectives
such as “controversial,” “confrontational,” and
“divisive” were used when mentioning her name.
On the other
hand, Johnson, who is also Black, was routinely described as
“soft-spoken,” and the implication was that he was
“rational” and “moderate.”
didn’t back down
First elected to Congress in 1992, McKinney was
an outspoken opponent of the Bush administration’s policies on issues
ranging from the war on Iraq to cutbacks in social programs.
She took on
the blatant disenfranchisement of Black voters in the Florida election in 2000.
She held a hearing that determined that Florida state officials knowingly used
faulty data to remove tens of thousands of registered voters from the precinct
lists for being convicted felons.
McKinney helped expose the horrific
conditions of Katrina evacuees. She castigated the Patriot Act and compared it
to the FBI’s Cointel program that targeted Dr. Martin Luther King, the
Black Panther Party and other freedom fighters during the 1960s.
up for African nations to get favorable trade agreements and loans to improve
The right-wing focused on a lengthy radio interview she
did in 2001, where she commented on the Bush administration’s objections
to there being an official investigation into 9/11. She stated that the public
had the right to know what the administration and the various governmental
agencies knew about any impending threats and when they knew.
period prior to the onset of the war on Iraq, any and all criticism of the Bush
administration was treated as heresy. McKinney was pilloried in the press,
called a “wacko” and worse.
The documentary film
“American Blackout” covers how McKinney was targeted by the
American-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) for her support of
Palestinian and Arab rights in the 2002 election.
Republican voters crossed over and voted by the thousands for her Democratic
primary opponent, Denise Majette, causing her to lose her seat in Congress.
McKinney became a sought-after speaker and was featured at anti-war
rallies and programs across the country.
The film ends with her
remarkable re-election comeback in 2004 and shows her walking towards the
Capitol, where she is stopped by a policeman who does not recognize her. This
particular officer immediately apologizes, and as McKinney and her companion
walk on, she comments, “Some things never change.”
and voter fraud, again
Hank Johnson centered
his campaign on the much pub licized incident where McKinney was stopped by
another white Capitol policeman as she entered the building where her office is
in March 2006. His explanation for putting his hands on a six-term
representative was that he did not recognize her because she had a
There was little mention in all the
coverage of this episode of McKinney’s support of a lawsuit by Black
members of the Capitol Police documenting pervasive and systemic racism in the
agency, including the use of derogatory language by white officers to Black
officers and when talking about Black members of Congress. The suit claims that
African-American legislators are deliberately challenged to show their
credentials even though the white policemen recognize them.
Washington, D.C., grand jury declined to bring any charges against McKinney, it
was repeatedly stated by the Atlanta media and by Johnson that McKinney had
struck a police officer, thus “embarrassing her
The 4th Congressional District in Georgia is majority
African-American and a heavily Democratic stronghold. However, the Georgia
General Assembly redrew the redlines for congressional districts in the last
session and included parts of Gwinnett and Rockdale counties—suburban
areas that historically vote Republican.
In the July 18 Democratic
primary, McKinney received 47 percent of the vote, Johnson got 44 percent, and a
third candidate, a white businessman who did not live in the district and had no
history in the Democratic Party, got almost 9 percent. In 41 states, she would
have been declared the winner of the primary, but in most of the southern
states, including Georgia, a party candidate has to receive 50 percent plus one
more vote in order to win. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters participate in a
run-off election held three weeks after the primary.
The other peculiarity
of Georgia election law is that voters can choose either party’s ballot in
the primary. Only one other state allows members of one party to help select the
candidate of the other party. In the 2002 election, it was the crossover vote of
thousands of Republicans for Majette that brought about McKinney’s loss
The McKinney campaign headquarters received many complaints of
malfunctioning electronic voting machines that either did not have
McKinney’s name on the screen or that registered Johnson’s name when
the person voted for McKinney. In some precincts, the polls opened two hours
late because the machines weren’t working.
Tens of thousands of
dollars flowed into Johnson’s campaign coffers immediately following the
July primary election. Prominent Bush supporters like Home Depot co-founder
Bernie Marcus as well as leaders of the Georgia Republican Party sent big
Johnson recently sent a letter to Jewish voters, declaring his 100
percent support for Israel’s assault on Lebanon. He insinuated in a radio
debate that McKinney had ties to “terrorists” because of Arab and
Muslim names on her contributors list. Much of this was a replay of the dirty
politics employed in the 2002 election.
While it appears that there was
some crossover voting in the July 18 primary, according to the Aug. 13 edition
of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 6,000 plus additional voters came out for
the run-off than voted in the primary, largely from the predominantly white,
wealthy and Repub li can neighborhoods of North DeKalb County.
almost unheard of for there to be more votes cast in a run-off than in the
primary election. The conclusion of political analysts is that many from the
ABC—Anybody But Cynthia—crowd who had not bothered to vote in the
primary jumped into the run-off to help defeat her.
The article concludes
that McKinney’s support in the largely Black and working class
neighborhoods of the 4th District remained strong. Figures show she received 75
percent of the Black vote, but it was the infusion of thousands of new voters
from the northern areas that swung the election to Johnson’s
Hundreds of 4th District residents worked on McKinney’s
campaign, and volunteers came from out of state as well. While local anti-war
activists were visible, and Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin attended a campaign
event, the Connec ticut race between Lieberman and Lamont absorbed the attention
and energy of national groups such as MoveOn.org and others.
not give a traditional concession speech. She gathered as many of her supporters
and campaign volunteers onto the stage as would fit to stand with her and had
the song “Dear Mr. President” by Pink played over the sound system.
With the lyric asking how “he could sleep at night,” she then
enumerated her many differences with the Bush administration’s policies of
war, racism, environmental degradation and its failure to provide decent
healthcare, education and jobs for the people of the US.
She repeated her
desire to stand with the people of Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Bolivia, Palestine,
Iraq and Lebanon as they struggle against U.S. domination to chart their own
destiny. She challenged her supporters to say “Sir! No Sir!” to any
attempt by Bush to send more troops into war in the Middle East.
writer was an active campaign volunteer for Cynthia McKinney.
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