How long shall we allow the system to kick us in the head, take our money, insult us after taking our money, and still expect us to participate in its frauds? With every passing year, the differences between the two ruling political parties in the U.S. diminish further, and their outlook, conduct and even advertising campaigns merge so much so that their members can be mistaken one for the other.
By now it must be clear that the ‘two-party’ system is not only no such thing; it is corrupt to the bone.
It should be instructive to recount some major points of Obama’s record, but since much of that has been done by far more qualified people, it should suffice to point to what’s presented by Matt Gonzalez, in his piece, What Do They Have to Do to Lose Your Vote, in which we find all that is needed to persuade any whose illusions regarding Obama are still unshaken. If, after reading that, you still vote for Obama, then you deserve everything Obama throws at you once in office, and it is you who have no rights to complain.
Despite all that is recounted by Matt Gonzalez, and is known by the left, a good section of the American left is still agonizing over whether or not to vote for this ‘lesser’ evil! Some qualify this support with: "But, don’t have any illusions!" Anybody who supports, even qualified twenty-fold, the notion of voting for a Democratic Party candidate, is already filled with illusions. Such recommendations coming from the ‘left’ are stunningly amusing if it weren’t so infuriating to hear such talk always certified with tons of qualifications, which in turn make the recommendations not just absurd, but highly irresponsible.
Most progressives voting for Obama do so out of their partial blindness regarding the crimes of the American state; they see all the crimes commissioned and executed by the Republicans, but if a Democrat vote-getting team ransacked their very neighborhoods, doing drive-by’s at high noon, with ‘Vote Democrat’ signs on their SUVs, they would most likely not see it. If a Democratic candidate is not too pretty, their answer is simple: it is a vote against Republicans. When pushed for something more positive, more substantial, lacking anything to offer, they argue that Obama-Biden ticket is less scary than McCain-Palin, and so we must make sure they get elected.
The other point they make is that a vote for Obama is a slap in the face of racism. To think that one is fighting racism while voting for a candidate that upholds every racist element of the structures of imperialism is to venture into political oblivion.
Such arguments can only come from people who do nothing whatsoever to change the really existing political life of the U.S. in between presidential elections. But, of course, every four years they must express some political recommendation of sorts, and out of desperate frustration, due to seeing the political field as only what the system presents (i.e., due to the fact that they do not act as subjective agencies), they can only decide which system-provided choice is less harmful. This is the gist of their dilemma.
So long as the left in the U.S. does not create its own independent institutions, so long as there is no institutional alternative that can channel people’s grievances, and so long as there is no political party representing the working classes along a socialist outlook, the current balance of forces will continue to work increasingly against the working people and those interested in a more just society, and no matter how learned we might be, we will end up supporting the ‘lesser’ of the two evil parties dominating the people; in other words, supporting the imperial system.
What to do then? For starters, a good half of the eligible voters have been conducting a de facto boycott of the presidential elections, since they instinctively and correctly realize that the two ruling parties do not represent them. So, why not join them?
The only thing that can transform ‘apathy’ into an actual political force is to organize the non-voters, and we can only do so by addressing their (which is ours too) concerns. A boycott of the elections should be done with the purpose of announcing to the non-voting public that another way is possible, and must be sought and created to bring about political change. This other way must engage them, the non-voting population, with a strategic vision, while making a serious effort to build a real party of opposition.
This, in turn, requires a genuine opposition party-building effort. The Populists in the 19th century did not agonize over whether or not to vote for the lesser evils of their days. They built their own party. Granted, by the end of the 19th century, the Democrats had pretty much swallowed them whole, by adopting key elements of their platform reflecting their social demands, while watering them down, and blunting their force. But, the organizing spirit of the Populists is something to learn from. The lesson: Build your own party! Oppose both ruling parties consistently.
Within the context of building a real opposition party, then, a boycott as a tactical move makes political sense. It would bring coherence and political direction to the energies not wasted in the electoral fraud (yet sitting still), it potentially gives a voice to the energies not burned in the electoral game presented by the system as an opiate (to paraphrase Max Kantar). But, simply not-voting by itself (i.e., without an announced boycott) is also useless.
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In lieu of a disclaimer, I must say that I respect anybody who votes for Nader or McKinney (Amee Chew makes a great case for supporting McKinney in her October 29 Counterpunch piece), as a way of registering their opposition to the ‘two party’ monopoly. I have argued in previous articles that, IF you think by voting you can bring change, then know that the only change worth voting for is the kind presented in the platforms of the independent candidates. Also, voting for independent candidates as a way of registering your support for people who are actually addressing our problems is a way of getting a real tally of how many people actually oppose the establishment candidates and support real change.
My argument for a boycott addresses a different sub-set of the population affected by this system, whether we vote or not. The point here is that regardless of the outcome of these elections, which is the continuation of the empire and its deep-rooted corruptions, we need to look past the elections and think how to build a long-term strategy for a real movement for fundamental change. This must include addressing those who do not vote.
People who do not vote are not participating for very good reasons. However, in the absence of a loud boycott, their non-participation gets interpreted as ‘conceding’ or ‘apathy’. My point here is that, NO, this is not apathy. In fact it makes perfect logical sense, and it is far more honest than participating in fraudulent elections that only re-produce illusions about America, the ‘world’s greatest democracy’; illusions that only buttress the imperial system.
I come from the so-called Third World, in which boycotting elections is a political tool the masses, and the parties that stand with them, employ with good effect. Imran Khan’s party (Insaf) in Pakistan, for example, boycotted the last elections there, and it was an organized message sent to the establishment that the rulers would not get a stamp of approval from the real opposition. This, far from re-creating ‘apathy’ or ‘conceding’ the elections, actually makes governments nervous. In Iran, for another example, you are required to take your birth certificate with you when you vote, so the authorities can stamp it, so they can see who has not participated, so they can do onto you what they will, should you have to deal with the authorities at some point.
So, boycott is actually a very powerful political tool, because it gives political voice to those who refuse to participate. Simply sitting at home and not announcing that you are boycotting is a different matter. Boycott is a political move, with a long-term vision in mind.
The American people are fed a huge lie every four years that their voices can make a difference. Really? It didn’t make a jot of difference in 2006, when people, out of pure illusion, voted into the Congress a majority of Democrats with the hope that they would bring the war of occupation in Iraq to a speedy end. As George Carlin would have said, people might as well have wished on a rabbit’s foot!
It didn’t make any difference when a huge majority of the American people kept yelling down the jammed Congressional telephone lines, and over-stuffed Congressional email inboxes with, "Don’t give my money away to those scum sucking swine!" The people’s ‘representatives’ stole people’s money anyway and handed it over to the banksters in broad daylight!
So, to repeat, what’s the point of voting for establishment people? Except getting demoralized, such behavior has no other effect.
If influential people on the left, such as Chomsky, or even political parties on the left, such as the Communist Party, had spent the last thirty years of their collective lives, using their influence and authority, building truly oppositional parties, maybe for the past two presidential elections they wouldn’t have to recommend voting for such a corrupt bunch of people, and instead could recommend voting for a truly oppositional party that really channeled people’s grievances, with some (even if symbolic) presence in the legislature.
So, instead of wringing our hands over whether or not to vote for an evil, which is only a tiny bit less so, let us recognize the necessity of building a truly oppositional party. The first step in that direction is to either vote for independent candidates or conduct a boycott of these elections with the declaration that voting is bunk until real political alternatives representing people’s needs are built. Don’t waste your vote, and don’t encourage the establishment bastards.
REZA FIYOUZAT can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org