As November 4th draws nearer, there is an increasing buzz of anticipation as well as anxiety on this campus over the outcome of the election. The overwhelming majority of Swatties are supporting Democratic hopeful Barack Obama with a few vying for McCain, but another possibly smaller minority of students intend to or have already voted for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. McKinney, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia, is running for office with activist-journalist Rosa Clemente as Vice Presidential candidate.
Senior Ladule Lako LoSarah ’09, a registered Green Party voter, says he strongly identifies with “McKinney’s sense of disillusionment with the Democratic Party’s complicity with the Bush agenda. The party hasn’t supported her in the past and hasn’t stepped up with a voice of dissent. That’s what she’s trying to be, a dissenting voice.”
Yet despite her fervent anti-war stance, starring appearance in political documentary “American Blackout,” and radically-progressive views, McKinney certainly doesn’t have widespread name recognition even at Swarthmore. In fact, the McKinney-Clemente ticket marks the very first combined minority women campaign, but mention of the name is all too often greeted with “Who? Cindy McCain?”
Marc Engel ’09 frankly attributes this lack of publicity to the status of the Green Party within the rigid 2-party system, “if there’s not much funding, there’s not much you can do to get your message out there.” Nevertheless, Engel, a registered Democrat, researching and finding McKinney’s views concurrent with his own personal strong anti-war and radical leftist sentiments voted for her by absentee in Ohio.
Evan Nesterak ’09, an unaffiliated voter registered in Colorado, also recently sent in his ballot for McKinney, saying that he didn’t “want to feel like he might be settling over [his] ideals” if he voted for a candidate that’s more likely to win.
All three supporters cited deep concerns over the realities of Obama’s moderate stance on issues and campaign ties to various businesses. Lako LoSarah states that “Obama is not as progressive as people think; he claimed he was anti-war and is now reconsidering this position; he has also changed his position on environmental issues like off-shore drilling.” Similarly, Engel says Obama has repeatedly sold himself out after the primaries, “coming away from his unconditional ‘end the war in Iraq’ and then unconditionally accepting Colin Powell’s endorsement, a real slap in the face to the anti-war community.”
The current Obamamania offers no check on Obama’s changing positions, marketing him as ultra-liberal while being ultra-moderate under the table. The required corporate sponsorship is also troubling to many Green students. “Companies invest in candidates for a reason. You can’t easily break that monied connection,” Nesterak observes. “The election becomes more about beating the other candidate rather than doing well for the country. What Obama’s done well is that he doesn’t show that he’s trying to appease people.”
“It’s ironic that Republicans lambast Obama for extreme leftism,” Engel also notes, “because he’s often just propped up as a radical. If we really want to be radical, let’s be radical and vote for a truly progressive African American woman who comes from the community with a Latina vice president.”
Swarthmore, on the whole, is largely welcoming of Green supporters. However, Engel says “[he] was surprised that there isn’t more action on the behalf of Cynthia.” College Dems, with its large voter base, is likely more concerned with working with the broader local population rather than on-campus opinion.
As to accusations from other students of “throwing away your vote” on a candidate that is likely to lose, Lako LoSarah stressed the importance of using one’s vote democratically. “It makes me upset that the debates are closed to the third party candidates; people don’t even question why that happens. If you feel as if there’s a problem with the two-party system, voting for one of the two candidates doesn’t speak up against it; it supports it.” On a final note, he added “Vote for the candidate that best represents your views. Don’t compromise.”