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Come Back Woody Guthrie

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Many on the progressive left are bemoaning the failed recall of gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.  Many in Egypt are bemoaning the choice they have in their presidential run-off. Everyone bemoans the clowns who get elected worldwide, although, yes, there are undoubtedly exceptions. I was going to say Chavez but even he is starting to get stale, problematic, entrenched.

This is because voting is not democracy. In fact, voting can be destructive to real democratic participation in that it delays the day a meaningful critique takes place. It is a palliative. Under the control of capitalist logic and imperatives, it diverts all attention and untold energy, time and resources into a farcical spectacle which can only have one result: the continuation of the status quo.

The funny thing is how almost everyone knows this on a rational level, yet still participate. How many defeated cynics who poured effort into the recall and are now crying about "money in politics" will rise to the occasion once again, will jump back into the Kubuki Theatre to get Obama re-elected?   And here's the thing: This has nothing to do with Citizens United or money in politics or lobbyists.. and everything to do with Market ideology. These are not politics. This is not democracy. (if it ever was)  This is capitalist hegemony.

Now think back to when all those angry people occupied the state capitol and started calling for a general strike to force a reversal of the public workers union policy. Who was it that silenced those slogans and insisted instead on elections? The mainstream unions and Democratic Party. John Nichols and The Nation magazine. Bill Moyers and Yes Magazine or The Progressive and Jon Stewart. And they will all be urging us to go knock on doors for Democrats again in the fall. Because that is as far as their stultified, sclerotic imaginations will allow.

I would urge those interested in meaningful change to consider Greece and back the most neoliberal, pro-austerity, free market "conservative" they can find. (Herman Cain was The Man!). The sooner we get this tragic farce over with, the sooner we can build something real. The longer people cling to an illusion, the harder it will be to reverse course.

Discussion 2 Comments

  • Bruce Wilkinson 14th Jun 2012

    I think that we in the US can be cynical of voting but ours is especially fraudulent with an exceptional amount of effort to make it seem like it is not. I can't help but still feel that voting is sacred, something that my people, landless whites had to fight and die for as well as women, blacks and all other groups. Enfranchisement, inclusion in the participation in governance, is important.

    In other parts of the world elections don't draw out for a year like in the US. It's 5 weeks in England, then done. In Venezuela you vote on a Sunday, with the Friday and Saturday before having no sales of alcohol allowed. You vote by machine which prints out a paper ballot which you can verify visually before putting it in a ballot box. People who are registered to vote has been expanded by millions of people who just were excluded in the past before Chavez. I doubt their elections are getting stale, the people treat elections like a party, it is exciting with marches and debates. There is a lot of inclusiveness. Remember the streets coming alive when Obama won in 2008? That is a glimpse of how every election could be in the US because it is how every election is in Venezuela.

    Finally, ok, so the elections here are so screwed up as to be totally rigged by the wealthy and the corporate parties. We have no chance of winning a real third party to power, if we did they would just be relegated to a minority and be ignored in governance. I still think you should vote and encourage voting for two key reasons.

    1. It is sacred and at some point it will change things though it might not be in the context of a vote put forth by the state.

    2. In the interim, you get to pick the leadership of your enemy.

    Not many people think that way however I would encourage those who face total disillusionment with the two capitalist parties of the corporations and rich system, to take a deep breath, reorient their view 180 degrees and vote for who those bastards have to pretend to call their leader and who we get to call our enemy.

    That doesn't necessarily mean that the strategy changes very much although it is open for all kinds. I think I may still vote for whom of the enemy I think would hurt my community the least. Some may think it better to have a worst person to fuel outrage but in my opinion that strategy leaves us worse off. Look at Greece and Spain and the huge protests there and keep in mind that the radicalized masses live in a country with universal healthcare, mandatory paid vacation, free college, paid maternity leave and a robust social safety net in other ways such as retirement. Those countries seem to have more participation in protests then we have and that is probably due to these amenities that give the people the time to participate.

    So don't vote for the lesser of two evils, vote for the right enemy to organize against.

  • Dave Jones 17th Jun 2012

    I mostly agree Bruce. I feel Europe built it's social gains around union movements which then morphed into Labor parties (for better and worse). Labor in the US is now decimated and the Dems need only pay them lip service.

    What I want people to look at is the contradiction between capitalism and democracy ,the fact that wealth inequality is reflected in unequal political power. So yes, voting would be sacred in a true democracy of equal citizens.

    As for the tactic of voting for your enemy, I still go with the "fuel outrage" model, believing things have to get to a very bad point before people will learn to think outside of the box. Yes it involves some pain. But there is tremendous global pain which we (developed nations) export in the form of war, trade and climate chaos.

    Don't you think the "right enemy to organize against" would be the one who drives everything off the cliff?