Green Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney addresses Maryland crowd

Scene and Heard: Seeing Green in Nyumburu

Chidinma Okparanta


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Leading Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney urged a small but enthusiastic crowd of students and faculty to exercise political freedom in the upcoming presidential election and vote for “real change” at a talk Tuesday in the Nyumburu Cultural Center.

During her approximately 30-minute appearance, the former Georgia Congresswoman criticized the current two-party system, the Iraq war, the high cost of education and advocated the need to protect the environment. She spoke for about 15 minutes before opening the floor to audience questions.

“The two-party system has failed to serve the needs of the internally displaced,” McKinney said, referring to the government’s negligence in dealing with Hurricane Katrina of which she is especially critical.


For senior journalism major Matt Johnson, McKinney’s rally was an affirmation of long-held personal beliefs.

“[McKinney] represents a shift toward a new political system in the United States,” Johnson said. “It’s about the idea that change cannot occur within the current two-party system,” he said, adding, “the marginalization of candidates like Kucinich shows the priorities of the Democratic Party.”

Sophomore government and politics major Matt Mora, who campaigned actively for Sen. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), agreed.

“Hillary and Obama don’t represent what I stand for,” Mora said. “What they say sounds good, but their voting records say something else,” he said. “Obama and other candidates talk about change, but they can’t bring change within the current political structure.”

For senior sociology major Darla Bunting, a registered Democrat and Barack Obama supporter, attending the event was a conscious attempt to keep her options open.

“I’m open to finding out more about different parties and different candidates,” Bunting said. “I’m currently supporting Obama, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to researching others,” she said. “I feel that McKinney has been an example of someone who is not afraid to speak up against things that are wrong.”

During her speech, McKinney was critical of the war in Iraq, essentially calling it a waste of money in light of other problems such as poverty that continue to grip the nation in what she calls “Hurricane America.”

“If we can spend $720 million a day on war, then certainly we can put a huge dent in the poverty that is experienced in this country,” McKinney said.

She faulted both the president and the Democrat-controlled Congress for questionable decisions involving not only the war, but tax cuts and infringement on civil liberties.

She also criticized the government for not lowering the cost of college education.

“It is totally unnecessary that students should graduate from college with $100,000 in debt,” she said, adding that money used to fund the war in Iraq could instead be channeled toward education.

She voiced a strong desire for single-payer healthcare and went on to discuss the need to protect the environment, a founding principle of the Green Party.

“We need to change the way we live,” she said, and jokingly added, “and war is not an acceptable energy policy. … We now know that those who were maligned as tree-huggers are now right.”

She avoided making comments direct comments regarding the two Democratic front-runners, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), only urging the audience to thoroughly research the voting records and corporate ties of their candidates of choice before making a final decision.

She did, however, reference former Democratic candidate Kucinich, whose proposal for a Department of Peace she strongly supports.

The former congresswoman remarked favorably on the cultural diversity of the audience, calling it necessary for change.

“The powers that be are afraid of a room like this,” McKinney said. “We need to make them afraid. … We need a movement in this country, and a movement can’t be built without culture.”

In light of the Democratic presidential contest, where much emphasis has been put on the historical precedents set by having the first viable black and female candidates, McKinney, who embodies both, said her race and gender remain second to the issues.

“I think other people pay far more attention to that than I do,” she said.

And among her supporters, McKinney is viewed a transformative figure in spite of her race and gender, not because of them.

“The importance of this event was to show people that she does have good ideas and can appeal to students and happens to be a woman and black,” Johnson said.

McKinney also made clear that her goal is not necessarily to win the presidential election, but rather to make a dent in the electoral process.

“I think a more appropriate goal would be to get 5 percent of the electorate,” McKinney said, referring to the proportion of votes it takes to gain major party status. “You can call it a 5-percent campaign, which will make a huge different in terms of institutionalized politics. It gives the people another seat at the table.”



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