The women still in the race

Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente

For all the talk about the historic nature of the Clinton (woman!) and Obama (Black!) campaigns that’s gone on in the mainstream media for the past year, you might not have any idea that a third, equally unprecedented ticket was being run: Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, the presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the Green Party. This is the first all women of color presidential ticket in the history of the United States. Now, I understand that a nomination’s historical importance and newsworthiness tends to be defined by the likelihood of its success – or, as is often the case, by the degree to which people decide to blame the Democratic party’s failures on the Greens. Yet one would hope that in between all of the celebrity gossip and other tripe that makes it onto the news regularly, the mainstream media would find a little more time to devote to a presidential ticket that is unique not only for its makeup but also for the platform it’s running on, a platform that offers a radically different choice from the rightly-named corporate parties that dominate the politics of this nation.

But predictably, the mainstream media has almost completely ignored the McKinney/Clemente ticket. When they won the Green nomination, there were a few articles here, a few news reports here, most of them focusing more on the candidates’ chances of being “spoilers” in the upcoming election rather than focusing on, you know, their positions or platform or qualifications, all of which the MSM apparently deems irrelevant. Most of what I’ve heard about McKinney and Clemente has come from the blogosphere, and even here, coverage is slim. The majority of the mentions I’ve seen have been about McKinney being a possible alternative vote for Clinton supporters who don’t want to vote for Obama, and even there, McKinney is discussed less often than John McCain as the alternate vote. Even on Feministe (if my memory and our search tool are working properly), McKinney’s candidacy hasn’t been mentioned in an actual post, only in the comments.

Now I get that this lack of coverage is to be expected, especially if you’re measuring a candidate’s importance or significance by their likelihood to win come November. McKinney and Clemente won’t be in the White House come January, and I’m sure they both understand that. However, the actual presidency is not the only thing at stake here, especially for the Greens and more generally for the future of third parties in this country. In an interview with Newsweek (subtitled “Will a third-party candidate be a ‘spoiler’?”), McKinney discusses another important and far more feasible goal (emphasis mine):

There are currently about 200 members of the Green Party who are elected officials. These are mostly local elections. The Green Party does not yet have representation on the federal level, but it’s quite a successful “minor” party. With 5 percent of the electorate, it can move from minor party status to major party status [and qualify the Green Party for federal funds]. So our goal is to get onto as many ballots as we can, since then achieving a 5 percent goal becomes possible. When I got to Washington D.C., I realized that public policy was made around the table. The 5 percent puts another seat at the table.

As Obama continues to hedge, flip-flop, and trend right on a variety of issues, and as McCain continues to be his usually sucky self, it becomes clearer and clearer that another seat at the table, a true alternative to corporate politics as usual, is desperately needed. And while even 5 percent of the vote is an uphill battle for McKinney, Clemente, and the rest of the Greens, it isn’t impossible. Such a victory would be huge, a major step in breaking this country away from the two-party system that time and time again shows itself to be severely lacking for people who believe in true peace and true justice.

But who’s gonna vote for them? As I listened to a great Democracy Now! interview with McKinney and Clemente a few weeks ago, I asked myself whether I might wind up pulling their lever come November. Every time Obama says or does something disappointing, depressing, or downright angering, I think about the fact that there is an alternative ticket out there that would allow me to vote for women of color whose platform I almost entirely agree with and who are completely outside of the corporate, military, and neoliberal interests that hold so much sway over both mainstream parties.

And yet, I hesitate, even though I live in a state where the Democrats are unlikely to have much trouble, [(the Dems have done a really good job in scaring us all about the third-party “spoiler affect”); even though I’m reminded every day that despite all of the things I like about Obama, there’s still a lot I don’t like; even though I know that people with politics like mine can’t count on much more from the Democrats than we can from the Republicans and that true alternatives are absolutely essential; and even though it would be pretty amazing to pull the lever for a ticket comprised of a Black woman and a Boricua woman; still, I hesitate, without any reason for my hesitation that doesn’t sound kinda bogus when I say it aloud.

Maybe it feels somewhat traitorous to not pull the lever for the first person of color who actually has an excellent chance of winning; maybe it’s just nicer-feeling to pull the lever for anyone who has a shot of winning as opposed to settling for smaller victories like the 5 percent; maybe I’ve even caught myself indulging in internalized sexist and racist bullshit by thinking about how “unpresidential” these two seem and sound (a really fucked up and disturbing moment for me); maybe I’ve drank too much of the Dem Kool-Aid about how third parties won’t ever be relevant unless they’re messing things up and getting Republicans voted in and how the Democrats are my only hope for anything approaching a left-leaning political party that can actually win. Yeah: bogus, bogus, bogus.

So how will I wind up voting come November? I still don’t know, and I’m not sure that I’ll know until I step through that curtain and actually pull one of those levers. But one thing I do know: I’m not going to allow the corporate parties, the mainstream and alternative media, or even the blogosphere to let me forget that there are two amazing women of color with right-on politics running alongside the men who are getting all the attention as per usual.

ETA: Thanks to Anna for cluing me into Professor Black Woman’s excellent post on the McKinney/Clemente platform. The good Professor also articulates some concerns that I share:

In the coming months, we need to push all of the candidates to outline how exactly they plan to address the issues they support and ask about the issues that matter to us that they have not spoken on or have not supported. While I am excited about McKinney and Clemente’s knowledge about key social issues in communities of color and with regards to poverty and education, I remain deeply concerned about both their idealism without backing policy and their lack of a stand on gay rights accept to say “yep those too.”

Cross-posted at Feministe

10 Responses to “The women still in the race”

  1. 1 Ecosanda

    Thanks for a very thoughtful piece about my candidates, and about the whole dilemma of lesser evilism. Yes, electoral reform is the key…the Democrats really could stop the whole thing and support IRV. They could have my vote in second place, or maybe third after a socialist. But they don’t, they would rather whine and call us spoilers, forgetting that Clinton probably got elected because Perot “spoiled” for the Republicans. If you really want to know about who spoiled in 2000, watch “American Blackout”, now available totally online or see or read lots on

    I was on the stage at the convention with Cynthia and Rosa and it was a truly inspiring afternoon. If only their message would get out, I am sure the votes would increase, perhaps even reaching that so important 5%. So media converage is controling what people get to hear about in this country. If you think that about half the folks don’t even vote because they are so disenchanted with the political process, you know that third parties could have a chance, even before electoral reform, if media would let our voices be heard.

  2. 2 Hannah

    Thank you so much for posting this, i know that living in a swing state where to place my vote is something that I think about and struggle with everyday. I hope that come november I have the courage to vote for McKinney and Clemente…

  3. 3 Elena Perez

    I already commented on this at Feministe, but again, thanks for the reminder about the Green Party ticket, and it led me to link to them in a post about McCain’s record over at the CA NOW blog:

  4. 4 Stephanie

    This post mirrors all of the same feelings that I am having about who to vote for in November. I’m in a very Blue state, so I want to vote for McKinney/Clemente, but I might not be able to make a decision until the final hour either (that, and I actually had a nightmare that McCain won the election last night).

  5. 5 Jack

    @Ecosanda: instant runoff voting would be brilliant. Thanks for the link to American Blackout, didn’t know that was available online!

    I think this part of what you wrote is key:

    So little media converage is controling what people get to hear about in this country. If you think that about half the folks don’t even vote because they are so disenchanted with the political process, you know that third parties could have a chance, even before electoral reform, if media would let our voices be heard.

    @Elena Perez: Great post on the California NOW blog. A vote for McCain would be an awful feminist protest vote (though I actually think that such votes are going to be more rarer than the media would like us to believe.) And I love that picture of McCain!

    Thanks to all other commenters so far.

  6. 6 Richard

    Why Hesitate? I vote what I believe in. Either I believe in McKinney and Clemente or I don’t. Obama is moving to far to the right for me and its scary. As far as LGBT rights let’s keep the Green parties feet to the fire and demand that they respond. I am leary that Obama will pull a Bill Clinton on us queers. But what worries me the most is the kinder and gentler capitalism of the Greens. Can we as leftists defeat that?

  7. 7 Butch Fatale

    I’ve spent a little too much time this cycle pontificating about how the best thing for the Green party would be a stronger libertarian party. Because if there were another party to the right of the republicans that actually won seats, the democrats wouldn’t have as much of an argument about spoiling. That’s the theory, anyway. I know reality’s a little more complicated. And having four viable parties creates some seriously strange alliances: witness Germany. But it’s interesting to think about, particularly when I have those moments myself of hearing Obama talk about the death penalty for child rape, or opening up oil stores and sighing a deep sigh and wishing for more options. Even if it just meant that there are only two viable candidates, but they’re required to actually struggle with issues in a more complex way.

  1. 1 Cynthia and Rosa make news: Feministe and AngryBrownButch «
  2. 2 Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Our open thread and my open tabs (over 50% Jewish links edition!)
  3. 3 Our open thread and my open tabs (over 50% Jewish links edition!) | Alas, a Blog
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