Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Case Against Cynthia McKinney

Former Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney has become a darling of the far left for vigorously opposing the Iraq invasion, harshly criticizing Israeli policies toward Palestinians, and condemning the Democratic Party as the last refuge of political scoundrels, a band of opportunistic, corporate owned hacks indistinguishable from their Republican rivals. The Green Party consummated their dangerous liaison with McKinney by nominating her as the Green Party's spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for president in 2008.

It's time for the Greens and others on that end of the political spectrum to wake up. Ms McKinney is an intolerant, thoughtless left-wing mirror image of Glenn Beck.

What's wrong with McKinney from the standpoint of progressive politics? Let's start with a recent statement she made in an interview with Christopher Hedges. At one point McKinney says, "Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

McKinney sets up a false, dangerous and, I think, idiotic choice. Yes, the Patriot Act represented a serious threat to civil liberties and yes the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, which opened up elections to unlimited corporate campaign donations, poses a serious threat to democracy. But McKinney implies that because parts of the government perform odious deeds, we need not worry about the racist right wing.

I have noticed this growing trope on the far left: that Teabggers, militia members, and border patrol thugs and others on the Far Right are too small in numbers to warrant concern., Such leftists view the increasingly violent right wing as made up of deluded working class stiffs with legitimate grievances. The left reasons that if we just work to understand teabaggers and the weekend warrior militias maybe we can somehow make common cause with them. Democrats, the argument from the far left goes, are more dangerous than white supremacists.

Sorry, but I don't buy this nonsense. I lived in California in the early 1990s and was there when Proposition 189 was passed. Among other fascist provisions, Prop 189 would have required public school teachers to turn over to immigration authorities students they suspected of being the children of the undocumented. The law would have forced ER personnel to deny medical care to suspected "illegals." White supremacism was part and parcel of Proposition 189, which received overwhelming support from California voters.

The white supremacists supporting this effort were not all marginal people bound for appearances on "The Jerry Springer Show." Don Rogers, the Republican state senator who represented California's High Desert, where I lived, was making speeches to Neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denier gatherings featuring men like Louis Beam, the former Texas Klansman who in the 1980s harassed Vietnamese fishermen off the coast of Galveston. Prop 189 drew the support of Chamber of Commerce members in the High Desert and was supported by not some kooks on the fringe but many in the region's business elite.

Nothing to fear from white supremacists, Ms. McKinney? Tell that to the family of James Byrd, the man tied to a car bumper and dragged to death near Jasper, Texas. Tell that to the African Americans who tried to flee New Orleans after Katrina and were turned back at gunpoint by white suburbanites. Tell that to the family members of the 168 murdered by militia enthusiast Tim McVeigh who told an interviewer that he liked to tell "nigger jokes." Tell that to family of David Ritcheson, the Mexican American sodomized with a patio umbrella pole by thugs yelling "white power" who had mistakenly identified Ritcheson as an illegal immigrant. (The young man committed suicide, jumping off a cruise ship, 15 months later.)

When I criticized McKinney, several people on the far left told me that the issue of right-wing violence is concocted by liberals to distract from Obama's betrayal of his more left-leaning campaign promises. Sorry, television pundit and bestselling author Pat Buchanan is a white supremacist and he is not a red herring. Former Congressman and anti-immigrant zealot Tom Tancredo is a white supremacist and he is not a red herring. Radio and TV race baiters Glenn Beck, Mike Savage and Rush Limbaugh are white supremacists and they are not red herrings. These are people of power and influence.

As McKinney should know too well, the white supremacists are still very much in charge in places like rural Louisiana and Mississippi, and East Texas, We have much to fear from racists in America, just as we have much to fear from government assaults on fair elections and civil liberties. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible and foolhardy.

McKinney is also utterly careless with who she claims as allies and this irresponsibility harms a progressive movement that already faces enormous challenges. As noted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, McKinney recently described as one of her heroes Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minster who has a career of crude anti-Semitism. and who wrote in a 1970 book that, "Jewish stinginess and financial wizardry gained them financial control of Europe" In a 2003 speech Mr. Mohamad ranted that "Today, the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy to avoid persecution and gain … control of the most powerful countries." That's some hero, Ms. McKinney.

In her blog McKinney has also gushed over David Pidcock, the author of a 1992 book, "Satanic Voices Ancient and Modern" in which Pidcock blames most of the world's problems on a conspiracy that includes the usual paranoid's litany of super-villains such as the Illuminati, the Rockefellers, Freemasons, and what he calls "Luciferian Zionists."

Pidcock also has posted portions of the infamous anti-Semitic forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," supposedly the minutes of a secret meeting of world Jewry in which leading rabbis in the 19th century plotted the takeover of the world. The text was plagiarized by the czarist secret police a century ago from a French satirical novel about Napoleon III. The Okhrana, the pre-communist precursor of the KGB, substituted the French villains in the novel with Jews in order to stir anti-Semitic outrage and thus distract the public from the many failings of Czar Nicholas II's rule. Pidcock happily publicizes this vile, long-discredited propagandistic screed. This is the man McKinney describes as "my London friend."

McKinney has also maintained a close relationship with one of the top British Holocaust deniers, Michele Renouf, McKinney additionally quotes extensively from the writings of another Holocaust denier, Matthias Chang.

Like McKinney, I support Palestinian statehood, believe that the construction of settlements on the West Bank is malicious, and am outraged that the Israeli Army has frequently violated human rights. I think the Israeli bombings in Gaza and Lebanon were morally appalling. That doesn't, however, mean I have to whitewash terrorist attacks against unarmed Israeli civilians by pro-Palestinian groups, and it certainly doesn't require me, as the price of my progressive credentials, to swallow malicious myths about Jewish conspiracies to control the world or to play footsie with Holocaust denying morons. As August Babel wrote in the 19th century, "Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools."

Sadly, McKinney has also done all she can to promote the 9/11 Truther movement, arguing that Bush and company knew in advance of the terrorist attacks on 9-11 and allowed it to happen so they could profit from the subsequent war.

If McKinney had argued that the Bush crowd showed criminal negligence in ignoring warnings of an impending terrorist act by bin Ladin, or if she had said that the neo-cons in the Bush administration faked and manipulated evidence of WMDs in Iraq in order to justify an imperialist invasion, or if she had said that one reason the Bush administration concocted the Iraq invasion was because oil companies and defense contractors supportive of the president would financially gain from it, she would have been on solid ground. Instead, she makes cause with the 9/11 Truthers, the left-wing equivalent of the right wing "Birthers" and the old John Birch crowd that thought fluoridation of water was a communist plot.

McKinney is poison to progressive causes. She is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist. And she is an embarrassment to the American left wing. If progressives want any influence in American politics, they would be well-advised to consign McKinney to the lunatic fringe where she belongs.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

1 comment:

Montana said...

The simpleton Birthers along with the Tea baggers are the same whiners that were crying when the McCain/Bailin ticket lost. Now that their yelling and screaming failed to stop the health care debate and the bill from passing they are crying again. Let’s face it the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, climate change and financial oversight and governance and they failed. The Republicans are good at starting wars (two in eight years, with fat contracts to friends of Cheney/Bush) but not at winning wars as seen by the continuing line of body bags that keep coming home. Instead of participating in the health care debate of ideas the Republicans party turned inward to their old fashion obstructionist party (and their Confederacy roots). In my opinion the Republican Waterloo loss was caused by the party allowing a small portions (but very loud) of the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” to take over their party. I will admit that this fringe is very good at playing “Follow the Leader” by listening to their dullard leaders, Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, Savage, Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Blowhards and acting as ill programmed robots (they have already acted against doctors that perform abortions). The Birthers and the Tea party crowd think they can scare, intimidate and force others to go along with them by comments like “This time we came unarmed”, let me tell you something not all ex-military join the fringe militia crazies who don’t pay taxes and run around with face paint in the parks playing commando, the majority are mature and understand that the world is more complicated and grey than the black and white that these simpleton make it out to be and that my friend is the point. The world is complicated and people like Hamilton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt believed that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now it’s about dancing around the claim of government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. Although some Republicans are trying to distant themselves from this fringe most of them, having no game plan/ vision for our country, are just going along and fanning the flames. For a party that gave us Abraham Lincoln, it is tragic that the ranks are filled with too many empty suits. But they now claim they have changed, come on, what sucker is going to believe that? All I can say to you is remember Waterloo.