Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Of Boycotts and Elections

By Charles Sullivan


11/19/07 "
ICH " -- -- One hopes that at some point the American people will come to the realization that most elected officials these days do not serve the public interest, but their own economic self interests and those of their financial backers. The few who would serve the public interest are filtered out by the insurmountable fortress of capital that is the bulwark of electoral politics, especially at the federal level. Genuine public servants have roughly the same chance of winning a seat in Congress or the Whitehouse, as one has of winning the lottery.

For the totally uninitiated, or those on narcotics: the odds are astronomical.

It requires unfathomable sums of money to even play the game, and that, in and of itself, precludes the majority of us from meaningful participation. It filters ordinary people possessed of ordinary means from serious contention. Ordinary people overwhelmingly comprise the national demographic, and yet they are wholly without representation in government at virtually every level. Without substantial financial backing, you can play but you cannot win. You are relegated to the outer fringes of the system, a distant planet circling a distant sun in a distant orb.

A game in which only the wealthy can afford to play assures that only the wealthy will win. The result is that we have a system of electing politicians to serve a very tiny segment of the population—less than one percent, while simultaneously working against the great majority and, accordingly, the public welfare.

In the rarified lexicon of corporate run politics—profits matter, people don’t; no matter the self righteous proclamations to the contrary. The wonder is that so many people continue to invest so much of their precious time and energy in a system that has so obviously and completely abandoned them.

Perhaps abandon is not the appropriate word. Betray might be a better choice. Electoral politics in the US is the realm of high rollers and robber barons, not of ordinary people from working class backgrounds struggling for a piece of the much ballyhooed ‘American Dream.’ That system has utterly betrayed them, leaving them out in the cold to fend for themselves as best they can, against the very crooks and thieves who are mortgaging their future to the Corporate States of America.

The people’s plight is akin to playing the lottery and hitting the jackpot against enormous odds. It is a game of desperation in which defeat and loss are the predictable outcomes for all but a few. The money system wins, we the people lose; and we look like fools and chumps for having played the game against such tremendous odds. But, as Thoreau said so well, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Collectively, we have yet to show much wisdom. We just keep doing what we have always done and keep getting the same sorry results, and wonder why things never improve.

When the choice is between Hillary Clinton, Rudi Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Edwards and Barach Obama, there is no meaningful choice. The difference between these candidates is primarily a matter of semantics. In each case you are getting essentially the same person representing the same economic self interests, the same policies. All of them are pro war. Contenders are in contention because they are the recipients of serious corporate money, not because they are champions of the people or servants of the public welfare.

Ron Paul is not the answer either, as so many so desperately want to believe. Like his neoconservative brethren, Dr. Paul seeks to shrink the public domain and privatize everything—including all public lands. Economic self interest is the centerpiece of Paul’s political ideology and that not only does not serve the public interest, it undermines it. Dr. Paul is as much a product of Milton Friedman’s economics as any neocon and equally dangerous.

We have an electoral system that always chooses between two evils, what Ralph Nader calls, “The evil of two lessers.” But choosing the lesser evils assures that evil rules and, as we have seen, the evil is deepening with each successive election.

To my mind, Dennis Kucinich is better suited to represent the people than any of the other candidates in the field. However, the democratic leadership will never permit Kucinich to win the party nomination because he would undermine their authority and threaten the established orthodoxy that controls the system.

Genuinely progressive candidates are cynically used by the party leadership to create the appearance that the party still has an effective liberal wing when, in fact, it does not. The progressive wing of the party exists but it has been marginalized through lack of media exposure, lack of financial backing, and through the lack of support of the party leadership.

Candidates with the qualifications of Dennis Kucinich only serve to retain the party loyalty of progressives. It keeps progressives playing the game while also preventing them from doing anything meaningful or revolutionary.

We saw what happened to Howard Dean a few years ago; and Dean was a very moderate liberal, at best only slightly left of center. Progressives will not be allowed to compete.

More people already choose not to participate in electoral politics than those who vote. It is not difficult to understand why: because they see elections as the sham they are, riddled with corruption and illegitimate to the core. The people intuitively know when they have been disenfranchised. They know that elections are about profiteering, not about public service or the collective good.

It must also be noted that the previous two presidential elections were stolen by George Bush and his cohorts. There are serious concerns about the efficacy of paperless electronic voting machines, like those manufactured by Diebold with its close ties to the Republican Party and neo-conservatism. A system in which foxes are the guardians of the hen house is not in the people’s interest; nor is it in the interest of justice.

As US citizens, we should have enough integrity that we do not allow the public wealth to be stolen with our blessings. We should denounce the process that unabashedly transfers the public domain into the private sector as the outright theft that it is. We should not pretend that it is the pubic interest or that it is a democratic process because we voted for it. It is self-interested greed and nothing more.

I could not blame any sane person for not voting, for non-participation in a process that is so obviously fixed. We need to devise better and more imaginative strategies through which to express our dissatisfaction, our outrage with the process. A good beginning might be to wash our hands of that system entirely.

Clearly, the solution is to get the special interest money out of politics. But how can the people achieve such an ambitious objective against such tremendous odds? Those who benefit from the system effectively own it, and they are not going to voluntarily dismantle it. It is too lucrative for them to let it go and erect a genuinely democratic system in its place.

Participation in a sham system, while pretending that it is legitimate, will only prolong the prostitution and continue the corporate feeding frenzy at the public trough. We must do something different than what we have always done in the past, if we are to get a different result.

One method of undermining the system may be to boycott the 2008 elections by not participating in them. Since the outcome is already predetermined by the selection of only pro corporate candidates—war mongers and disaster capitalists all, there is really nothing to lose. The system is rigged to keep the war profiteers and corporatists in power, by keeping genuine public servants out of contention. The appearance of democracy and citizen participation is just window dressing, more facade than real.

As democracy craving citizens in an ever more dangerous emerging fascist state, our energy would be better spent denouncing the electoral process that only masquerades as a democracy than participating in it and giving it the appearance of legitimacy to the outside world. We have an obligation to expose it for the sham it is and say, “No more!”

This might be accomplished by boycotting all federal elections until the special interest money is coerced out of the process, and the playing field is leveled; where outcomes are determined by ideas and commitment to public service, rather than access to huge amounts of capital and cronyism.

Perhaps then Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader might have a legitimate chance to win office, or even your next door neighbor. Public service could be put into the political process thereby legitimizing it by making it democratic.

Electoral boycotts could be conducted by large numbers of public spirited citizens turning out not to vote, but instead to protest, which if widely publicized would be too large and too controversial to be ignored even by the corporate media—democracy in action indeed. We really have nothing to lose.

As it is now, government is nothing more than a revolving door between political administrations and business. Corporate lobbyists are running the government rather than the people.

Voting is one of the sacred cows that symbolize a democratic republic but it does nothing to actually create such a republic, especially in the absence of meaningful choice.

The strategy of boycotts is low risk to the individual and it is legal. It requires very little physical effort and little personal sacrifice. Everyone can participate, regardless of political knowledge, income level, age and party affiliation. It could potentially become a grass roots movement toward real democracy and it could begin immediately. If conducted on a large enough scale, it could provide real results too.

The idea of political boycotts does not originate with me but I believe the initiative has merit. Perhaps we should give it the serious consideration it deserves. How such boycotts might be organized will be left in more capable hands than my own. The first step is to widely publicize the idea and to generate serious discussion about it. Let the dialog begin.

A Note about Reform and Revolution:

Ultimately what we are talking about here is not reform but revolution. Voting in the absence of meaningful choice is a poor substitute for real democratic processes. It is an exercise in self-deception and futility designed to keep the working class people servile and marginalized.

Electoral boycotts are one of many tools available to us as we plant the seeds of revolution and create the atmosphere for a major paradigm shift sometime in the future. Boycotts are a peaceful way of hastening the change that will eventually make a more just society possible; a world in which just people, not wealth and privilege, decides the future.

The political system should belong equally to every citizen, rather than to the moneyed gentry that have locked most of us out. No one is going to give us the keys. We must take them because they rightfully belong to us.

Revolution is possible only with a broad awakening to our predicament in a sham democracy that is subservient to immense wealth and power. Awakening must be followed by enlightenment through self-education and comprehension of the problems we face as a people. It will grow by having serious discussions amongst ourselves and by putting everything on the table.

Revolution is a word that scares some people because it conjures images of armed rebellion and chaotic violence. But it does not have to be so. India was transformed by non-violent resistance to horrible tyranny. The people and their detractors will decide what form it will take.

Revolutions do not just suddenly erupt. They are grown slowly and over increments of time, beginning from seeds that are carefully sown and nurtured. Sowing seeds are an act of faith; an expression of hope that there will be a future worth living.

Revolution should only frighten those who hold the keys to empire. We are only at the very beginning of a long journey of transformation. We are laying the foundation stones of fundamental change and redistribution of wealth and power that must be based upon justice and equality.

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