- Politics and Social Issues
Elections: A Confidence Game
I am tired of people who think that they can judge another’s behavior because they are more morally correct. You know the people, those that think their ideological positions give them permission to judge you and everyone like you. Those who spout the dire consequences of your actions and not acting like them. They judge you for not behaving in a morally acceptable manner. They judge you for flaunting the rules of our society. They condemn you and yours for not doing what is expected or required. They exile you to isolation and desperation if you don’t act as they demand. They use coercive methods to manipulate you and warn that the apocalypse will come if you don’t do as they say.
I am of course taking about people who evangelize, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”
The self-righteous who bleat this think they have a monopoly on common sense, as if those who question the efficacy of voting haven’t thought about the ramifications of not voting. Many thoughtful people have considered the reasons to vote and not to vote. Many of the people questioning the vote understand how many times our votes are pointless and also understand that the party bosses are more concerned with winning elections than helping people.
Too many people in America perpetuate voting myths of our nation. First, there is the myth that voting is a prerequisite to complaining. I didn’t know freedom of speech was contingent on me voting for a candidate I don’t like. Freedom of speech means little to voting evangelists (VE). Moreover, they seem to be ignorant of the reality of our democracy. We don’t choose our elected representatives, political parties replete with elites choose who runs in our elections, especially national elections. The bigger the election, the more the political elites control the outcome, decide who is acceptable and who is not acceptable as a candidate.
The VE tell us that not voting means you are apathetic, and “apathy means surrender.” In fact, there are plenty of actions to take that have nothing to do with voting and can make a difference. I can think of a dozen without breaking a sweat: protest, letter writing, petitions, boycotts, article writing, organizing protests, political theater, political songs, installing solar panels, riding a bike to work, donating money to a worthy charity, teaching, taking classes on political economics, reading a political book, and so forth. You can do any of these things and more whether you vote or not.
The election of corporate-centric politicians will change little. However, participating in any of the actions listed above mean you aren’t apathetic. And if all you do is vote, fine. Unlike the VE, I am not going to pretend I know what is better for all Americans. Voting is not the cure to apathy, it’s a cause. Moreover, voting as we do in the U.S. is not that answer to the big issues our nation and the world face.
The VE tells us that not voting means you are giving up your power, your voice. What power, what voice? Do you think the people elected to office know or care that you voted for them? They have lobbyists to listen to and big donors to entertain.
Voting means you are giving up your choice. What choice? When was the last time your voice and choice was of equal importance to the party leaders and the corporate donors who wine and dine the politicians and eliminate outlier candidates that might actually be concerned about a majority of citizens? They blocked Kucinich out of the debates in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in 2008 because, “"The Democratic establishment is determined to purge itself of any vestiges of opposition to the ruling corporate order."” Meanwhile, the mainstream media ignores the issue of the two-party monopoly.
Media attention goes to the candidates the parties tell the media to cover. No candidate who promotes single-payer health care and free university education to all qualified students while proposing major cuts to our military will get a platform in the mainstream media. Again, I ask, what choice? It is a choice between puppets of the plutocracy, candidates the elites can control.
National business leaders made a mistake with President Franklin Roosevelt; they thought because he was a member of their class, he wouldn’t address the inequality in this nation. Soon, business leaders realized they were wrong and they planned a failed coup against him. However, Roosevelt was an anomaly.
They love it when you willingly give your power away without a fight. The people who believe this have an inflated sense of their power. You give up your power when you vote and sit on the couch self-satisfied that you have done your part. The power of voting is a myth, it is a pacifier that the powerful use to mollify the masses.
Many people died for this privilege. Really? I can’t remember the “war for the right to vote.” Was that before or after the Civil War? In fact, colonists were voting before the Revolution, at least the landed white males. The same people had the right to vote after the Revolution as before the war. Did we fight the Civil War to get black men the vote? No, many in Congress did not want to give former slaves the right to vote even though some supported an end to slavery. It was not about emancipation for a majority of Northerners.
Was fighting WWII about restoring the right to vote, or was that because we couldn’t allow the Germans to invade our allies? We certainly were not concerned with the Japanese right to vote until they invaded Manchuria and then attack Pearl Harbor. Did we kill Vietnamese in a war to give them right to vote? No, that war was about stopping the spread of communism. There is little evidence that we “have died” to protect the right to vote, unless you are talking those few Civil Rights workers murdered trying to get the right to vote. And certainly those lives mattered. However, widespread life sacrifice for the right to vote is a myth.
Like it or not, the plutocrats approve our choices before we vote. Thus, it's not really a choice. Money controls elections, and those that have the most money win elections 90-95% of the time, “While voting for a big corrupt government is a national sport in America, the 2 parties actually believe they are different despite the fact that both Republicans and Democrats advocate for endless wars, bankster corruption, the wholesale slashing of civil liberties and fascist crony capitalism.” In fact, the two parties are representatives of the bankers, Wall Street and military and security contractors. Nationally, they are not our representatives at all.
Is voting completely pointless? No. If it was, why would so many Republicans in state legislatures be trying to limit voting rights. However, both parties limit our choices. If they really cared about voting and choice, they would change the rules to make it easier for third parties to run and open up the elections to more representation through mechanisms like proportional representation. For their part, Republicans have recently attacked the Voting Rights act of 1965, specifically Section 4. That section was conveniently, for them, struck down by the Supreme Court, for it protected the right to vote for those that have little use for the Republicans, minorities.
Corrupt New York politician Boss Tweed once stated the fact about party voting, “I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.” After all, “Only 94 percent of candidates with more money win.” Votes might still count, but the pool of candidates is carefully selected to help the bosses.
Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page in a Princeton paper demonstrate how much influence the wealthy have over policy decisions in the United States: “Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters…"”
The key is “against the will of the voters.” Single payer health care was preferred by a majority of people over an insurance based plan, 59% to 32%, yet Congress didn’t even give single-payer health care consideration in 2008. We are against NSA spying, but it continues. We don’t like the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but Congress has yet to end them. Polls have even shown support for immigration reform, but no action has taken place. It’s clear, people aren’t satisfied with Congress, giving them a lower approval rating than Jar-Jar Binks and Nickelback. And we are asked to vote for the same people who created the current mess in this nation, the same politicians who don’t care about our opinion except on election day.
Voting is not the solution to our problems given our current electoral system; it is a flawed option. Voting is controlled by plutocrats who want to extract the wealth of the nation for themselves and their cronies. If voting evangelicals want to promote the vote, insults are not the way to do it. Shaming, laying guilt trips on others, and fear mongering is not the way.