Thursday, October 9, 2008
Here comes the common refrain:
"If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the outcome."
The opposite is true. By playing the game, voters agree to the rules. Only those who don’t play and withhold their consent have a right to complain about the outcome, especially since the winner will have his hand in the non-voter’s pocket.
Voting is not an act of political freedom. It is an act of political conformity. Those who refuse to vote are not expressing silence. They are screaming in the politician’s ear: "You do not represent me. This is not a process in which my voice matters. I do not believe you."
Non-voting has a rich and long history through which the dissenting electorate has expressed everything from religious convictions to political cynicism.
Who makes the decisions in our society?
Who writes public policy?
Years of social engineering has caused people to be deluded on this matter.
The White House and Congress don’t really make the decisions, Wall Street and the Pentagon do.
Who wins the election makes no difference because all politicians must do what the elite want. Elections are a scam whose function is to neutralize resistance movements and dupe ordinary citizens into thinking they have a say in matters of the state.
Elections do not secure popular control over the state, they do help secure state control over the populace. Voting is a ritual that reinforces obedience to state authority. It creates the illusion that “the people” control the state, thereby masking elite rule. That illusion makes rebellion against the state less likely because it is seen as a legitimate institution and as an instrument of popular rule rather than the oligarchy it really is. This is why even totalitarian states like Russia under Stalin had elections. Embedded within all electoral campaigns is the myth that “the people” control the state through voting.
There's far more potential in 80% of the political drones staying home or burning tires in the street on election night but neither of these things will happen here in Never-Never Land. Instead the usual 50% will show up to keep the facade in place and validate the system that beats on their heads every day. Then the folk can swell with a moment of civic pride and think that "Democracy", if imperfect, has once again triumphed. "Well at least we got the vote"- and other such dripping bathos will resonate through the corridors of America.
We have no say, or very little, in what even gets voted on be it issue or candidate let alone considering if the vote gets counted.
But as long as the vote charade goes on the appearance of "having a say" remains intact. And you must admit this is part of the genius of the system. It really does give you a few minor openings and the appearance that you are playing the game. LTTE's, three minutes at city council, online petitions and call in radio and hey, "Let's call it Democracy! Let's vote!"
“If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.” - Emma Goldman
No matter who is nominated & elected, the policy will be endless war & military spending, further upward transfers of wealth, with the corporate elite controlling news coverage & essentially writing all legislation.
But this policy can be cloaked under 2 different costumes. If a Democrat is elected, as seems likely, the foregoing will take place with more smiles, and more pseudo-liberal rationales. Obama will claim to be introducing "health care for the people," or "protecting the environment," or some such BS. The militarism will be presented in milder tones, emphasizing themes like "stabilization" rather than "killing our enemies."
On the other hand, if the president is McCain, there will be no smiley face. There will be more in-your-face militarism, with overtly blood-thirsty rhetoric. There will be more blatant pandering to the Religious Right.
That's the only "choice" the system will permit.
What do I want to see changed in the political landscape? Well, on a daydream basis, I'd like to see the US government overthrown by the people of the United States, with the society reorganized to function on a socialist basis. I'd like to see all the war criminals & war profiteers put behind bars for life, with all their personal assets confiscated. The Supreme Court should be replaced, being an illegitmate body that has egregiously betrayed its mission. The corporate media should be replaced, reorganized from the ground up. Many large businesses should be nationalized, starting with the oil companies & Wall St. The military should be downsized by about 90%, with virtually all overseas bases dismantled. The CIA should be abolished. That would be on the first day. Give me a few minutes to think about the second day.
"Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on lunch"
What we have is the continuation of a duopoly in which the differences between the two sides of the duopoly are far less important than their similarities. There is a largely successful establishment effort to control the political process so that the range of options is severely limited. We have the outward semblance of democracy without the reality of it.
For example, studies show that a large majority of Americans, including majorities who identify with each major party, believe our national priorities are screwed up and we shouldn't be spending most of our resources on the military. But the Presidential candidates of both major parties, and probably at least 95% of the Congressional candidates, support the screwed up priorities. Obama and McCain have virtually identical positions calling for greater increases in the military budget and an increase in the active duty forces.
And despite rhetoric making it sound as if their positions are very different, when you look closely at the real positions of the candidates, there's very little difference on Iraq either. And both have consistently supported Bush's requests for funding the war.
AFAIK, in his entire political career, Obama has never once taken a position for anything that could be called meaningful change. And he's been backtracking on previous positions for even marginal change.
The establishment relies for their continued power on the people assuming you have to choose between the duopoly candidates. This guarantees that the establishment wins and the people lose.
We must stop trying to figure a lesser evil, and take a position of not voting for evil. We should be measuring them against our understanding of what this country needs, not against what another wing of the establishment is presenting.
Any vote, no matter who you vote for, is a vote in favor of the status quo. When you vote you are saying you support a system whose deck is stacked in favor of the criminals. The only way we will ever have real change is if everyone stops supporting that system en masse.
Making a conscious decision to not vote is not apathetic, nor does it mean you do not care, it is a political statement in and of itself that says very clearly that you do not support the system as it is and you will not take part in it accordingly. More people need to consider making that statement instead of going to the polls every 2 years and voting for criminal thug A or criminal scumbag B, Tweedledee or Tweedledum. You might argue that voting for choice C, in this case perhaps someone like Ralph Nader, can make a difference, but sadly it will not, you must face the reality of this and come to terms with it. Even a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote in favor of the current system in which is the deck is clearly stacked in favor of the enemies of this nation by way of Diebold Incorporated.
Bad "leaders" or bad system?
Better to place this action in an institutional context. The forces placed on the elected person by the state machinery and pressures from big business dictate the outcome. Your vote is meaningless. You can argue all you want that "We need to keep up the pressure to demand Politician______ needs to listen to ordinary citizens, not to business" and you will rot on the vine as your words disappear into the indifferent air.
There is a difference between the state and government. The state is the permanent collection of institutions that have entrenched power structures and interests. The government is made up of various politicians. It is the institutions that have power in the state due to their permanence, not the representatives who come and go. We cannot expect different politicians to act in different ways to the same pressures. However, this is all ignored by the voting political consumer who wishes Politician______ was more a socialist, green, populist etc. and could ignore the demands of the dominant class in society while in charge of one part of its protector and creature, the state.
Is Voting an Act of Violence?
Now what connection is there between electoral voting and those who act violently in the name of the State? Why does the State want large numbers of people to participate in electoral voting? There are two primary reasons for this. First, those who act in the name of the State can use the fact that many people vote as evidence that they are acting in the name of "the people." Widespread voting is cited as evidence of "consent." State agents, such as legislators, presidents, and judges need an aura of legitimacy if their actions are to be viewed as right and proper by a large majority of the population. Second, governments - especially democratic ones - have discovered that as the proportion of the citizenry which holds the government in esteem increases, the less force the government requires to keep the balance of the population (those who view the government as illegitimate) under control. In other words, the more legitimacy that a government attains the less it needs to exercise outright violence against it opponents. A government which continually had to resort to violence to achieve its ends would soon be seen for exactly what it was: a criminal gang.
So, given that a successful State requires legitimacy and that one of the easiest ways to achieve legitimacy is through widespread voter participation, what is the responsibility of the voters for the actions of its government?
Voting in the United States isn't about "democracy"—it's about perpetuating the illusion of democracy.
I am told I should vote Democrat, simply to get rid of the Republicans. Or I should vote for whatever candidate is opposing the incumbent, simply to throw the bums out. All of this, of course, is simply a well-oiled shell game, for as the historian Carroll Quigley wrote, there is no difference between the parties, they are essentially cut from the same cloth. According to the elite who run things behind the scenes, “the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy… It should be possible, to replace one party with the other party which will pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policy.”
"What is the ballot? It is neither more nor less than a paper representative of the bayonet, the billy, and the bullet. It is a labor-saving device for ascertaining on which side force lies and bowing to the inevitable. The voice of the majority saves bloodshed, but it is no less the arbitrament of force than is the decree of the most absolute of despots backed by the most powerful of armies."
~ Benjamin R. Tucker
We need to remind ourselves of Albert Einstein’s admonition: “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Trying to reform the political process makes no more sense than trying to reform the carnivorous appetites of jungle beasts. If it is your desire to put an end to the violent, destructive, corrupt, and dysfunctional nature of government, stop wasting your time by focusing on the current management of the system.
As physicians have learned from the study of the body , a disease often indicates, not a permanent deterioration, but an attempt to restore an equilibrium that has been disturbed, and to recover natural functions that have been thwarted or suppressed. Without some overt manifestation of pathological symptoms, permanent damages might result before the disease could be detected and adequate measures taken to overcome it.
The voting ritual serves to disguise the symptoms. The patient is gasping for air. A face lift won't help.
Now consider two "what if" scenarios:
1) 90% of the people refused to vote. I think there is great potential in that. Tremendous acknowledgment that the machine is broken and a refusal to play in a rigged contest. Opportunity for galvanizing folks I'd say.
2) The controllers pulled the curtain back and said "Hey folks you knew this was a game anyways didn't you, no more voting." Report to work as you normally would and shut up. No more pretense.
As in every election we’re now being bombarded with propaganda about how “your vote makes a difference” and associated nonsense. According to the official version ordinary citizens control the state by voting for candidates in elections. The President and other politicians are supposedly servants of “the people” and the government an instrument of the general populace. This version is a myth. It does not matter who is elected because the way the system is set up all elected representatives must do what big business and the state bureaucracy want, not what “the people” want. Elected representatives are figureheads. Politicians’ rhetoric may change depending on who is elected, but they all have to implement the same policies given the same situation. Elections are a scam whose function is to create the illusion that “the people” control the government, not the elite, and to neutralize resistance movements. All voting does is strengthen the state & ruling class, it is not an effective means to change government policy.
By regarding society from a class perspective, one can see through the machinations of the rich. Marx explained that "in any epoch, the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas..." The ruling class insists on control. Hence it demands unchallenged domination of the political system. It acts to mold all social institutions -- including schools, media, & political parties -- to serve its own interests. Any group that might oppose it (such as militant labor unions, leftist intellectuals, antiwar types, consumer & environmental advocates, etc) it tries to marginalize, coopt or destroy.
The political system that best serves the interests of the rich is the one that A) obediently does their bidding, while B) posing theatrically as a "democracy," in a convincing enough way so that most people don't catch on that they're simply being played. Objective "B" serves to greatly reduce resistance.
The illusion of "choice" and "free elections" is very important to the ruling class. They recognize that this pretty illusion makes their job much easier, so they want to preserve it. The rituals of campaigns & elections function to con most of the population into believing that "they're free." Most people will never clearly recognize that the choice they're being offered is a highly contrived one. They're being forced to choose between 2 parties which are united against them, rigged to serve the interests of their oppressors.
In today's US, especially at the national level, elections are worse than worthless -- they simply perpetuate illusions & waste time. They are degrading & repulsive exercises in Madison Avenue PR techniques, where "the truth" is off limits from the get-go. Effort should be directed not at participating in this system, but at bringing it down, exposing its corrupt essence, & building genuinely constructive alternatives.