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Vision — not race — should be a factor for voters

(Credit: Politirazzi)

Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney

By Lynne Serpe

The question of the day seems to be: Is race a factor in the presidential race?

Yes, of course it is. It would be naive to think otherwise. The candidates themselves are making their mad dash through so-called swing states in a bid for the Electoral College votes in those states. The Electoral College itself is a vestige of slavery, based on the idea that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a person despite not being allowed to vote.

Meanwhile, as reporters voyage to rural Virginia, here in New York City I spoke with a longtime Green Party activist who is planning to vote for Barack Obama. Not because he agrees with Obama on most issues, but because he wants to be able to tell his “children and grandchildren” that he voted for the first black president of the United States.

And I understand that pull; I occasionally feel it myself. The election of Barack Obama truly would be historic. But, for me, that is not reason enough to vote for someone. Instead I will vote for Cynthia McKinney. A former six-term congresswoman with years more experience than Barack Obama, McKinney is running on the Green Party ticket with vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente.The McKinney/Clemente campaign has been almost non-existent. The combination of a media blackout and the lack of fundraising means that millions of voters are unaware of her candidacy.

I do not always agree with Cynthia McKinney, but I know she is honest and principled and brave. I know that she is committed to bringing the troops home, not just diverting them to Afghanistan — or Syria or Pakistan. I know that she will not play political games with issues like offshore drilling and climate change, that she thinks the death penalty should be abolished and the prison industrial complex dismantled, that workers deserve a living wage and that we need universal single payer health care because no one should have to make a choice between food for their children and medical care.

After almost 21 months on the campaign trail, I am still not sure I know Obama’s bottom line on far too many issues, what his core beliefs are that he would be unwilling to compromise in the name of political pragmatism. I understand that politics is about compromise, and I want a leader who is willing to work with people from across the political spectrum in order to get results, but I also want to know what the issues are that he cares so passionately about that he will never give up fighting to see them in place.

Obama seems open to the death penalty in certain circumstances, he changed his mind on accepting public financing after promising to participate in the program, and he seems willing to allow offshore drilling even though the destruction of some of our last pristine wilderness won’t even result in any significant reductions at the pump. He supports “clean coal” which is a myth created by the very coal industry that pumped millions into the closed presidential debates — and this position was taken only after his support for huge subsidies for technology to liquefy coal upset many environmentalists and party members. But he needs votes in coal-producing states like Ohio and Virginia.

And there’s my problem. I understand that candidates make promises, promises that often can’t be delivered either through lack of money or political will. Yet those promises are his platform, his vision for our country.

But when his vision seems shaped by the need for votes in crucial swing states, states that are important because of their large number of Electoral College votes, then we are back to where we started.

Race is a factor in this presidential election. It is a factor in every single decision that both candidates and their campaigns make — what they say, who they say it to, when they say it and where they travel to in order to say it.

But should race be a factor for voters? No, absolutely not.

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