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Cynthia McKinney is a unique presence in the Congressional Black Caucus: a genuine “movement” activist. For that reason, she is hated and feared by white racists, for whom she is the epitome of the uppity Black; by corporate America and its vicious media, whose power she does not respect; by Democratic House leadership, which abhors activist Black lawmakers more than it does Republicans; and by cowardly African Americans who feel threatened by her example of principled speech and action for social justice and world peace. That’s why it is imperative that all people of good will assist McKinney in keeping her seat from Georgia’s 4th district, just outside Atlanta.

The racists and cowards smell blood. McKinney was forced into a runoff election, set for August 8, after failing to win a clear majority in this month’s Democratic primary. Turnout was abysmal – only 60,000 voters showed up, versus 95,000 in 2004 when she took back her seat after a two year absence.

McKinney garnered 47 percent of the vote in a three-way race, only 1,500 votes ahead of second place Hank Johnson, a compliant Black Dekalb County commissioner who brags that he is a “pothole” politician who will not stir up controversy. A white businessman got more than eight percent of the vote. His share will undoubtedly wind up in Hank(erchief head) Johnson’s column, on August 8. Clearly, McKinney must bring out her troops – which takes money. Her opponent’s surprise showing has invigorated those who backed Denise Majette with tons of cash to oust McKinney in 2002, and now see another chance to rid themselves of their nemesis.

McKinney, who unfailingly acts in solidarity with progressives, cannot expect to be treated in kind by many of her Black Democratic colleagues. According to The Hill, the Washington newspaper that covers Capitol Hill issues:

[Black] Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) predicted that most of her congressional colleagues would not rally to her aid.

“Some will, but a great majority will distance themselves. It’s called ‘avoidingitis,’” he said. “We avoid her. Cynthia won’t approach people beyond her real friends.”

On Capitol Hill, including within the Congressional Black Caucus, bucking the leadership is anathema – a kind of capital crime. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appears to despise McKinney, who defied her order that Democrats boycott a committee investigating the Katrina disaster, and ignored Pelosi’s demand that all Democrats vote “no” on a November, 2005 bill to immediately withdraw from Iraq. Only Florida’s Robert Wexler and New York’s Jose Serrano joined McKinney in resisting Pelosi’s edict.

Pelosi had her revenge. When McKinney got into a physical altercation with a white Capitol Hill cop, this spring, Pelosi ordered her poodle, Black Caucus chairman Mel Watt (NC) to humiliate and isolate the congresswoman. Watt dutifully complied, first demanding that McKinney apologize on the House floor, then attempting to prevent Caucus members from standing with her in solidarity. (See “The McKinney Affair: Rampaging Racism, Cowardly Caucus,” BC April 13, 2006.)

Pelosi’s hateful obsession with McKinney is longstanding. The San Francisco lawmaker, once co-chair of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, denied McKinney restoration of her seniority when she returned to the House in 2005. After six terms in the House, McKinney is considered a freshman. Such is the penalty for a Black woman who bucks the leadership.

Vote Flipping and Other Tricks

The integrity of the Georgia voting process is deeply in doubt. In an election day interview with Atlanta Progressive News, McKinney campaigner Karen Fitzpatrick complained:

“You’ve got electronic voting machines. Many people called in and shared their concern. They pushed the button for Cynthia McKinney and Hank Johnson came up. It wasn’t one time, it wasn’t two times, it was many, many times.

“It started early this morning. There were well over 25 to 30 calls that came in [to the campaign office]. Many of them went to the poll manager [after this happened]. In some cases, the poll managers said there’s nothing we can do. In some cases the voter left frustrated as if their vote had been compromised, as if it had been stolen.”

More of the same can be expected in the August 8 runoff. In addition, McKinney’s opponents have launched a campaign of disinformation to further dampen turnout – a result that can only help Hank Johnson. In a letter to her supporters, McKinney said:

“You won't believe what they're doing now!  Incredibly, the local news media are confusing the people by telling them that if they did not vote in the July 18th Primary, they cannot vote in the August 8th Runoff election.  This is devious and patently untrue.  We've launched our Refuse2Lose hotline at 404-419-6239 and today's message tells the truth to our voters about this calculated deception.  In addition, the Republicans are filling my opponent's coffers with cash.  The last thing we need in Washington is a ‘Republicrat.’  My opponent promises to go to Washington and say nothing.  You know I'm committed to stand up and speak out.  Help me now so I can continue to be your voice in Washington, DC.”

Corporate Media Crimes

McKinney faces a solid wall of corporate media hostility, most notably from the daily newspaper monopoly Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). In 2002, the AJC was an extension of Denise Majette’s successful campaign against McKinney. The paper claimed Majette was building a “biracial coalition” of voters who were tired of “civil rights-type” politics; that Black middle class voters would flock to Majette’s banner in disgust at McKinney’s activism. It didn’t happen that way. Instead, Majette won with massive white support, including loads of cross-over Republican voters. Nevertheless, the newspaper claimed to have done a post-election study that showed strong Black support for Majette. Black Commentator exposed that lie, in a November, 2002 investigative article by editor Bruce Dixon.

Rather than being elected by a ‘biracial coalition of voters,’ Denise Majette was the beneficiary of an abnormally large white turnout, which she carried at a rate of 90% or better. This ‘biracial coalition,’ hailed in the Washington Post, the Journal-Constitution and elsewhere, is revealed on close inspection to be less like a patchwork quilt and more like a big white sheet.”

The “white sheet” is now draped over Hank Johnson’s campaign. He is counting on another low Black turnout for the August 8 runoff, a massive infusion of hate-McKinney money, vote-flipping by Diebold machines, and rabid anti-McKinney corporate media.

Just as the powers-that-be consider this contest to have national implications, so should progressives. In the last two years, the deterioration of the Congressional Black Caucus has been painfully manifest. This year, two-thirds of Black congresspersons voted for the giant telecom corporations’ bill to strip localities of influence over cable television operations, and to make the Internet a toll road. Last year, 37 percent of the Black Caucus backed Republican bills of one kind or another.

Cynthia McKinney does not stand alone as a consistent progressive among Black Caucus members – seven other members have perfect voting records, according to the Congressional Black Caucus Monitor’s Report Card, and eight more members rate Honor Society status. But McKinney is, indeed, different. She sees no distinction between her legislative and activist work – both are extensions of her total commitment to social change. She needs money. Go to her web site, and give her some: cynthiaforcongress.com.

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July 27, 2006
Issue 193

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