FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

For Our Vote To Make A Difference, It’s Time To Try New Tactics

In the 2012 national elections, despite an increase of over 8 million eligible voters from 2008, voter turnout declined from 131 million to 126 million, with 93 million not voting. These figures alone demonstrate a growing disbelief that people have any voice in the two-party political game. In addition, those who voted were more motivated by voting against what they didn’t want than voting for what they wanted, while most remained pessimistic about the direction of the country.

This disillusionment is a result of neither political party having credible positive answers or policies to offer because both parties are pursuing an agenda that is opposed to working people’s interests. For example, both major political parties expect us, the electorate, to accept a declining standard of living that includes high unemployment and underemployment along with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, education, food stamps and other public programs, all of which degrade our communities’ well-being.

Both the Democratic and the Republican parties are remaking the social landscape according to corporate interests at workers’ expense. Calling on citizens to “vote for the lesser evil” means submitting to increased bleeding, not defending the public good.

We can reverse this attrition and forge a political movement of working people, but it will not come out of the electoral system alone. It will require the 99% to unify around our own needs and demands, independent of corporate politicians, and organize into a powerful social movement for the vast majority.

By taking mass action like marches and strikes in our streets and workplaces, combined with organizational structures that unify and coordinate our efforts, the great ignored majority may see that it quickly develops its own power far more effectively than what is possible within the electoral system. Nevertheless, in order for a social movement to become powerful enough to transform an unjust system, history teaches us that a tactical use of electoral politics is also necessary.

Elections offer an opportunity for the 99% to present a vocal alternative to the austerity policies driven by the 1%. As long as millions continue to go through the ritual of voting, a clear choice of majority and minority interests needs to be made available to them. Successful election campaigns can provide an educational platform for popular solutions that would ordinarily be ruled out by corporate politicians, as well as to push for reforms that benefit workers at the expense of the economic elite.

When building popular power, mass actions such as large demonstrations and strikes are always more significant than parliamentary twists and turns conducted by politicians. Unlike debates held in the halls of Congress, protests in the streets command a different sort of national attention. And under the right conditions, election campaigns themselves can facilitate the development of such actions.

What are these conditions? The election campaign has to represent a social force that grows out of a significant grassroots struggle. To assure this connection, candidates must run independently of the Republicans and Democrats. Not a dime can be accepted from corporate interests. And if the campaign is to promote the strengthening of the social movement, it must focus on demands that resonate with the greatest majority, which will help unite them in the face of big business opposition.

Beating a four-time Democrat incumbent, the recent election of Kshama Sawant to Seattle’s City Council is a good example of what is possible when these conditions exist. Though she ran as a candidate and member of a small left group called Socialist Alternative, her campaign was able to connect in a broad way, earning her over 93,000 votes.

Sawant had earned a reputation as an Occupy activist and was able to get endorsements from numerous community groups and unions such as a local of the American Postal Workers Union, American Federation of Teachers Local 1789, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1488, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46, Transit Riders Union and many others.

She gathered this support by focusing on workers’ immediate demands — like winning a $15 minimum wage, a millionaire’s tax to pay for city services, and affordable housing and rent control. Consequently, her campaign and victory strengthened these grassroots efforts.

Running as an open “socialist,” Sawant’s campaign proved that voters aren’t as interested in labels as they are in knowing where the candidates stand on the issues that immediately affect them. If the corporate politicians have no answers, it is natural that voters will look elsewhere.
Sawant’s victory shows that grassroots efforts are creating an opening for independent political action by working people, even in the tightly controlled world of electoral politics and the two-party system. Attempts to repeat this success will likely be initiated by other small groups. And it would be best if these efforts focus on building the greatest unity possible; small competing campaigns will not do this.

Instead, candidates should run representing a united effort of unions and community organizations, which could be the precursor to a real political party representing the vast majority of working people in this country. This campaign unity will not only establish a large base with a wide reach to begin with. It will also create a discussion within those groups that have traditionally endorsed Democratic candidates about what real independent politics looks like — and why this strategy is necessary to make a difference.

Mark Vorpahl is a union steward, social justice activist and a writer for Workers Action and Occupy.com. He can be reached at Portland@workerscompass.org.

More articles by:

Mark Vorpahl is a union steward, social justice activist and a writer for Workers Action and Occupy.com. He can be reached at Portland@workerscompass.org.

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail