Former US Rep. Cynthia McKinney Releases Autobiography

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(APN) ATLANTA — Former US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) has written an autobiography, Ain’t Nothing Like Freedom, that is now available from Clarity Press, including in e-book format on Amazon.com.

Atlanta Progressive News obtained a copy of the book from Clarity Press, which was hot off the e-presses, and has reviewed it in its entirety.

Yesterday, McKinney started her book tour in California on Sunday, April 21, 2013, with an event in San Diego.  She has more events scheduled for each day through Thursday this week, including in Inglewood, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Santa Rosa, California.

At 289 pages, the book is more of a greatest hits collection than a complete chronological account.  It is organized thematically, rather than chronologically.

Still, the book provides many stories and anecdotes from McKinney’s life that are interesting for at least two reasons.  

First, they fill in gaps about lesser known periods during McKinney’s tenure both in the Georgia Legislature and in US Congress.  

For example, McKinney writes about her work on redistricting while in the Georgia Legislature; her lesser known work on human rights and international relations issues, especially involving Africa, while in US Congress; and her tireless work, assisting constituents with cases involving the federal government, and on a wide variety of issues of federal policy.

Second, the stories illustrate the machinations of a system that seems to be stacked against progressive change and potential agents of such change.

To the second point, for example, McKinney writes about the rules of US Congress–how seniority is allocated; how decisions are made regarding what Congressional hearings will be held; who gets to invite witnesses or ask questions at these hearings; what bills come up for a vote–that constrain what a lone progressive Member of Congress can accomplish beyond simply their roll call vote.

She also writes about the tricks that TPTB (“the powers that be”) use to dodge Congressional oversight, and how she responded: by being so well-prepared, she writes, that her questions would be framed well enough not to be evaded.

The book includes dozens of pages of photographs, letters, and other archival materials, as well as excerpted speeches, in addition to narrative text.

In the book, McKinney writes that she has tried at least two other times to write an autobiography, but that the contents were stolen.  She does not detail the circumstances of the two thefts, but later writes briefly about an external hard drive being stolen from her, possibly explaining one of the thefts.

Notably, the book makes not one single mention of the 2006 incident where McKinney had allegedly assaulted a DC Capitol police officer, which appears to have precipitated her loss to US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) later that year.  Since the incident, McKinney has declined to tell reporters what actually happened on that day, and it has not been one of her more relished topics for public debate.

In addition, while the book mentions it in passing, the book also does not directly respond to the controversy involving McKinney’s comments to KPFA radio questioning what President Bush knew and when he knew it concerning the September 11, 2001 attacks.  

This incident precipitated her 2002 loss to Denise Majette, who served through 2004 and, incidentally, is now under investigation by the State Bar of Georgia.

Still, McKinney shows that there is a long, dramatic history of events and issues that she believes caused TPTB to betray her.  

Because of this, the book implicitly suggests that the two highly publicized incidents may have in fact been pretexts for the real reasons for the TPTB’s betrayal: years of advocacy by Rep. McKinney on behalf of the oppressed people of Georgia and, indeed, the world.

McKinney, who has been affiliated with the Green Party since leaving US Congress in 2006, also offers a theory for why the Democratic Party continues to fail in Georgia.

Basically, she writes, that by ignoring the needs of voters of color, the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) continues to depress the turnout of those voters, including Black voters, who historically have voted for Democratic candidates 9 times out of 10.

“Timid Democrats, afraid of supporting a Black woman and of offending the pro-Israel Lobby are the reason Georgia, with a better than 30% Black (and Democratic-voting) population, remains in the Republican column.  Due to the Democrats’ fear of standing up for me as I had stood up for them, in 2002, I was defeated for the first time in a decade by a Black candidate [Majette] who was supported by Republicans, had given campaign contributions to Republicans, and to whom Republicans had given campaign contributions,” McKinney writes.

“The State Democratic Party, led by our Governor at the time, refused to even question the legitimacy of such a candidate running as a Democrat,” McKinney writes.

In retrospect, this raises a question about the sincerity of the DPG that APN has not previously posed: Why does the DPG use Republican-baiting–that is, attacking someone for their Republican ties–when it serves their purposes, but ignore other candidates’ Republican ties when it does not serve their purposes?

Why was Mary Norwood, an independent candidate for Mayor of Atlanta in 2009, compared in DPG-funded mailers to former Vice President Dick Cheney, alongside a giant image of an elephant in the room, when it was revealed Norwood had voted in Republican primaries and had once attended a Republican convention?  

As APN previously reported, similar tactics were used to fund mailers attacking Democratic candidate Graham Balch, who challenged State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) in 2010.

Meanwhile, in 2002, when Denise Majette, who had a history of making campaign contributions to Republican candidates, challenged McKinney, suddenly there was no problem with her historical ties or affiliations.

In conclusion, it seems Georgia Democrats are about as principled about party purity as Georgia Republicans are about local control: these are conceptual tools that both parties hypocritically use to distract people from their real motives and purposes.

“Clearly, the Democrats were willing to take any Republican under their wings as long as that Republican had the backing of the pro-Israel Lobby, which proved more important to them

than the Black vote without which they cannot win elections,” McKinney writes in her book.

“My father [former State Rep. Billy McKinney] openly told our then-Democratic Governor while the Governor was, predictably, campaigning for reelection at a Black church, that he would personally defeat him for what the Governor did to me.  Needless to say, Georgia went Republican for the first time in its history in November 2002 and has lined up solidly behind the Republican Party ever since,” McKinney writes.

“True to my father’s promise, the Governor was defeated even after spending a historic—at that time–$20 million… It was unheard of in Georgia and my father was pleased that the gross betrayal by someone who used to be his friend had been corrected. The bankruptcy of the state Democratic Party was further demonstrated when Republicans entrenched their position in the state in 2004, 2006, 2008, and in 2010 won every Constitutional Office in Georgia.  And all of this

in a state that is almost 45% people of color!” McKinney writes.

“I see Georgia’s shift to the Republicans, despite its very large Black population, partially as the result of White Democrats sitting in back rooms and studying which milquetoast Blacks

will be useful tools for White Democrats’ political aspirations while being sure not to actually work and speak to the aspirations of the Black community. These desperate conditions persist in the Black community because of the complicity of certain Black political actors in the status quo policy arrangements,” McKinney writes.

Among many interesting anecdotes, other topics of interest in the book include an extensive discussion of COINTELPRO, her Congressional oversight of the Pentagon, and her accounts of why both the US Presidential Elections in 2000 and 2004 were stolen.

McKinney attempted to collect petition signatures to appear on the ballot in 2012 as a Green candidate for US House in Georgia’s fourth US Congressional District.  It is not clear how many signatures McKinney collected, but she did not appear on the ballot.

McKinney writes that she is still hoping to write her dissertation and complete her PhD, and that she continues to look for ways to be involved in the struggle for social justice.  Her son, Coy McKinney, recently received his JD from the University of the District of Columbia.

Clarity Press is a progressive, international press.  Incidentally, one book published by Clarity Press, The Neocatholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America, was written by Betty Clermont, a former Staff Writer for APN, who wrote from 2006 to 2007.

(END/2013)

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