Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party
Mother Davis looks at the accounts of her America’s third party, as she notices a particular deficit and remarks,
The Green Party of the United States is formally centered around ten “key values”, but operationally, much of the Green Party’s identity is focused on celebrity. There are plenty of good Green Party activists who are building their party from the local level up. However, every now and then, the Green Party as a whole gets tripped up in the sticky stories of individual personality.
This week, the Green Party’s personality trap has been sprung by Israel’s seizure of a boat of activists bringing humanitarian relief to the Gaza Strip. The boat contained last year’s Green Party candidate for President, Cynthia McKinney. The capture of Cynthia McKinney has created a pivotal moment in which the Green Party can demonstrate a commitment to communicating in an effective way to recruit new members, or that it understands nothing more than its own troubles.
Cynthia McKinney is a member of the Green Party, but she is not the head of the Green Party, and she was not acting on behalf of the Green Party in joining the independent relief mission on board the ship Spirit of Humanity. Yet, Greens in the US have seized upon this event with a special fervor, writing articles and engaging in activism at a rate we haven’t seen since Election Day 2008.
Activism is good, but activism ought to be focused on what will get results. What results will a Green Party obsession with Cynthia McKinney’s experiences on a boat lead to? Cynthia McKinney will get some attention, and perhaps the ship Spirit of Humanity will be freed. Perhaps some people will think about Gaza and Israel for a few moments more than they otherwise would. In the large scale, however, these events are not the most important issue of the day.
I don’t think that the story is without merit. There’s reason to believe that Israel’s actions in seizing the boat and its passengers could have violated international law. The situation in Gaza is an important foreign policy issue, and deserves some attention.
However, I don’t believe that the Green Party’s tenacious coverage of this story is called for. Green media has become obsessed with the story of Cynthia McKinney’s capture in a way that it hasn’t been focused on any issue all year – and there have been plenty of issues that Green Party writers ought to have been communicating about, but weren’t.
I’m worried that the Green Party is focused on McKinney’s adventure not because of the story itself, but because McKinney is a prominent Green politician. There are plenty of other stories of comparable magnitude that Green Party media hasn’t discussed at all, because there were no Green Party politicians involved.
I’m extremely sympathetic to the ideals that the Green Party purports to hold. I am not very sympathetic to the Green Party’s whining about its own troubles, and otherwise talking about itself all the time. If the Green Party wants to be taken seriously, it needs to become less self-referential, and learn to tell the stories that progressive Americans in general will respond to.
Taking the green shade off her office lamp,