Cynthia McKinney is on the campaign trail again. But this time it doesn't really matter if she wins. It only matters that she places.
And that the American people hear her message.
McKinney is a former congressmember from Georgia who questioned the official versions of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraq War, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, taking controversial stands that cost her her House seat and left her disgusted with the Democratic Party, which she left last year.
She is now running for president with the Green Party, which is expected to nominate her this week at the party's convention in Chicago. The odds are against her taking the White House, but if she can capture just 5 percent of the national vote, she will achieve her goal: major party status for the Greens and, with it, a line on the ballot.
McKinney, who made a June campaign stop in Seattle, says that would give the American people another seat at a table that Democrats and Republicans long ago gave away to war profiteers and other special interests, including the pro-Israel lobby that she says helped defeat her in 2002 and again in 2006 after she had retaken her House seat.
While she has a strident image in the media -- a run-in with a Capitol Hill security guard made national headlines that worked against her re-election in 2006 -- McKinney, 53, is a softspoken woman who chooses her words carefully. It just happens that she's got a lot to say, none of it good when it comes to U.S. militarism and America's two-party system, with McKinney wagging a steady finger at her former party.
Even though Democrats retook Congress two years ago, the Bush tax cuts that so many railed against remain in place, she says, as do the Patriot Act, the Secret Evidence Act, and the Military Commissions Act. There's no single-payer healthcare system yet or a living wage. And the Democrats didn't even stand up for minority voters disenfranchised in the presidential votes of 2000 and 2004.
"So my question is: what do the Democrats stand for?" she asks. "I'm inviting other people to join me, swallow the red pill, step outside of the matrix, get into the real world and let's struggle together to make our country better."
The struggle includes running for office -- something McKinney insists people must do if government is ever to reflect their values. If elected president, one of the first things she would do is tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff to write up a withdrawal plan for Iraq, Afghanistan and the more than 100 countries around the world where U.S. troops are stationed.
"All of them," she says. "Our projection to the world does not need to be military. [It] needs to be based on the needs of the people, an idea of leadership through service, peace and diplomacy. We've got to regain our moral standing in the world."
One way to do that, McKinney says, is for Americans to expose and purge the deeds of the Bush Administration -- in part by allowing the United Nations to investigate the abuses and war crimes that she says the World Tribunal on Iraq documented at its 2004 hearings in Brussels, Belgium.
In her Power to the People platform -- an agenda she adopted from the gulf region's Reconstruction Movement, a group of post-hurricane Black activists -- McKinney is also calling for recognizing affordable housing as a human right, creating single-payer health care, ending the war on drugs and closing private prisons, repealing NAFTA and other trade agreements, giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, and ensuring election integrity.
McKinney isn't worried about the notion of being a "spoiler" in Democrat Barack Obama's bid for the White House. "In 2000, one million Black people went to the polls and voted and their votes weren't counted," she says. "In an environment where our votes aren't counted, I reject this notion of spoiler."
"I still believe that the power resides in the people," she says. "And 5 percent for the Green Party puts us back in, gives us a vehicle so that public policy can accurately reflect our values."