This post is a little long, my apologies, I threw in a lot of candidate opinion at the end.
The Friday night Presidential forum was moderated by Rich Whitney.
Before the Presidential forum, they gave time to SKCM Curry, who has been actively campaigning to be Vice President nominee of the GP. Curry is an incredible bundle of energy. She fires up the crowd like a cheerleader. She got the crowd on their feet, chanting “Paint – the White House – GREEN!” and got the mood of the crowd in the right place.
Whitney set the ground rules, and then introduced the candidates: Jesse Johnson, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay, and Kat Swift. The audience was overly enthusiastic about all four candidates; there was a real sense of respect and appreciation for all four candidates.
Johnson led the opening statements, speaking about what we identify as, and what we value. “I believe in the audacity of Truth.” He said, in reference to the audacity of Hope by Obama. “It was only four years ago that we did not sanction torture in America. It was only four years ago that we stood by Habeas Corpus in America.” “Article 7 of the Constitution says we at any time, can take back this nation…” to be drowned out by applause.
It became clear that there would be no crowd control, as a good portion of the room stood for a half a minute after Johnson finished.
McKinney began by thanking those who founded the Green Party, and welcoming new members like herself. McKinney ran off a laundry list of legislation that she has either authored or sponsored over her 12 years in Congress, pointing out that the Democratic Party would often keep her legislation off the floor. She established her credentials and her experience in the lens of the Green Party.
At one point she mentioned that following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack she asked “What did the administration know, and when did it know it?” Applause breaks out, her following words drowned out by the noise. She went on to overwhelming affirmation by the crowd as shown by applause.
Kent Mesplay began by recognizing the Illinois Green Party. Mesplay said that his desire to run for President was out of a desire to protect and preserve people’s lives and wellbeing. End the war, protect the environment, and look out for the disadvantaged. He told a story about a dream of being a “dog soldier”, staked to the ground as a last line of defense for the earth.
Kat Swift appeared to be on a bad leg. (I mean that literally, not figuratively). She mentioned the “greenwashing” of the Democratic Party. She mentioned Ingrid Betancourt, recognizing her release and Columbian politics. She noted that she was never politically active until joining the Green Party in 1999, since then she has been active in all levels of the Green Party. Her youth, her passion, her enthusiasm and hope was genuinely moving. She said “…back in 2000 a man running for office said that ordinary citizens need to stand up and run for office, and I took him seriously.”
All four candidates were given overwhelming applause after speaking. It was 8 p.m. before they even got to the first questions.
I would rather embed a C-SPAN or other video of the forum than paraphrase line by line the candidates. There was great agreement from all four of them on most issues, and very few “say what?” moments. Aside from McKinney, who is a seasoned public speaker already, the other three candidates all seemed to have grown tremendously over the last six months to a year both in terms of issue knowledge and confidence in speaking. I really love all four of our candidates, all four of them have created a very full Green Party set of candidates, and I got the impression that any one of them, if they were to receive the nomination, would have the full support of the Green Party leadership and faithful behind them.
The following is pure editorial, my impressions only as a Green voter and official “Uncommitted” Delegate from Wisconsin:
Jesse Johnson – I think Jesse Johnson has a strong fan base in the Party, and has a very promising future with the Green Party. There was talk of him running for Governor of West Virginia, but beside that, in my opinion, Jesse Johnson represents a large facet of Green Party membership who may identify with him. His speaking style is deep, slow, and almost like a preacher, but he’s preaching the Green Word. I know, pour on more cheese, but seriously I think he is a great speaker and could easily grow a following within the Green Party. Also I think bringing the successful Mountain Party into the Green Party is a feather in his cap, and if Mountain Party Treasurer Frank Young gets elected to the Steering Committee we could see further cementing of this new relationship.
Cynthia McKinney – I think McKinney has got class. She has got deep knowledge of the issues that Greens care about and perhaps broader experience with these issues than many. I thought her forum performance tonight reinforced that, particularly her concern for human rights both abroad (as in Mexico) and at home in the US. I detected a true concern for social justice issues and a passion for grassroots democracy backed by experience in Federal Government to reinforce her positions on issues. But maybe the most subtle thing for me was that I felt like Cynthia McKinney truly felt that she had found a political home, a place that wouldn’t suppress her and silence her as the Democrats did, and a place that in fact reinforced and confirmed some of her most passionate concerns. If she gets the nomination on Saturday as it is presumed she will, I believe the Green Party will have a champion to work for in 2008.
Kent Mesplay – Kent Mesplay at one point held up a sign that was being distributed that said “Kent Mesplay – 2012”, perhaps a hint toward his future plans. Somewhere I saw a mention of him running for Congress in 2010. I will be honest here, Mesplay is not always the most exuberant or dramatic candidate for President, but behind his restrained presentation there is a real desperate drive in him. He embodies experience and deep knowledge in ecology, energy, and environmental issues combined with the awareness that our eco-system is on the verge of collapse and if we don’t do something quickly we are going to be leaving one fucked up planet to our children and grandchildren. That desperate need for action comes through in Mesplay, despite the lack of animation. Kent Mesplay should continue to be a Green leader.
Kat Swift – Some candidates or politicians or “rock stars” seem “larger than life”. Kat Swift is merely human, not Wonder Woman, and when she speaks to the crowd it is as if she is sitting on your porch shooting the shit about all the problems in the world. She is your friend, she is personable, she is likeable, she is imperfect but at the same time she is no more perfect than you or you or me or you. She is a Green Party activist, and I would imagine that almost every Green activist identifies with Kat Swift. At one point she said “A long time ago I told some friends of mine from Chicago at a Rainbow Gathering that one day I would run for President, and now here I am in front of them, running for President…” and let me tell you that just about everyone that has a little ‘hippie’ in them (maybe buried deep, maybe more outwardly obvious) just struggled to keep that tear from dropping. Kat Swift is to Green Party as Salt is to Salt.
I consider myself somewhat cynical much of the time, but I have to say that the “love”, yes, the “love” and appreciation for these four candidates was overwhelming. There was a sense of collective unity between the audience, the candidates, and the room as a whole. People were aware that McKinney was the presumptive nominee; and there was an outpouring of appreciation through applause for Jesse Johnson, Kent Mesplay and Kat Swift, an apparent recognition of the sweat and blood that they have put into their campaigns. And an equal level of applause and exaltation for Cynthia McKinney, both for the hard road she has taken getting to this point in Chicago, and to the hard road that she will likely be taking from Chicago to November.
And there was a sense that the Green Party Body, the membership, the activists, the toilers and the volunteers, were ready to take that road.
I had a great time at the forum, but I’m ready to go find the after hours parties and maybe sometime I will have enough down time to post some low quality pics. I’ve spent WAY too much time writing this.