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This week I am devoting most of my column to the writings of several progressive, anti-imperialist (economic or military), anti-racist, anti-fascist (that is, anti-corporatist and anti-militarist), pro-democracy, pro-environment, pro-sustainability writers with whom I resonate. These writers have been saying for years exactly what many of us have been thinking about for a long time—and they are saying it far better than I ever could. The excerpts below are from BlackAgendaReport.com and Fubarandgrill.org.
Before the last presidential election (in 2012), Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce Dixon wrote the following criticism of America’s two-party system, which still rings true. Dixon wrote:
“Your vote really is your voice, and in the modern era, every government on earth claims to rule with the consent of the people. This bestows upon the vote a unique kind of legal and symbolic power. The gap, however, between this legal, this symbolic power of the vote and any real ability to change things for the better is a vast one. The authorities rightly fear the people’s voice, and so have contrived law and custom to ensure that we are seldom heard and almost never heeded.
“They would never dream of allowing us to vote on the price of gas, food, housing, credit or college tuition. But they don’t mind at all letting us choose between corporate-funded Republicans and corporate-funded Democrats. The powers that rule our economy, our media and our politics won’t let us vote on whether to bring the troops home from 140 countries and the seven seas, or whether to continue spending more on weapons of death and destruction than the other 95% of humanity combined. But they will let us choose between an ignorant, crazy or racist Republican who promises to give banksters, polluters and corporate criminals a free pass, and a sane, smart, level-headed free market liberal Democrat who does exactly the same thing, no matter what he promised.
“The authorities won’t let us vote on whether the broadcast spectrum should be privatized, whether we should have the right to start and join unions, whether to create millions of good-paying green jobs. They won’t allow voters to decide whether corporations deserve more rights than flesh and blood people, or whether the president should be able to kidnap, torture, imprison and murder people without trials or even charges. But they will let us choose between a white guy and a black guy. As long as it’s their white guy, and their black one as well.”
Why We Need a Viable Third Party That Does Not Bow Down to Corporations and
Dixon expands his thoughts on patriotism, democracy, corrupt crony capitalism, elections, and politics in America in his Fourth of July 2014 edition. The entire essay can be accessed at http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/why-elections-still-matter-except-when-they-dont.
Democrats and Republicans Have Created Ballot Access Hurdles
“In states like Georgia where I live, third party candidates face incredible obstacles to even getting a candidate on the ballot. A Green Party congressional candidate, for example, has to get 20-25,000 signatures on a nominating petition to appear on the ballot, and a statewide candidate needs more than 60,000, distributed in a complicated formula among several core counties, while Republicans and Democrats simply pay a nominal fee. These are laws passed on the state level by Democrats and Republicans working together.
Access to media is limited by private owners of print, broadcast, cable networks
“Cable networks are laid and maintained beneath public streets and roads, with massive public subsidies and gobs of corporate welfare, but are privately owned by a handful of greedy corporations. Broadcast spectrum wasn’t invented by any clever engineer working for a corporation, it’s a property of the physical universe, like sunlight. But the same handful of greedy telecoms own that too, along with most of the print newspapers.
“The private owners of these public resources have decreed that the only candidates and causes who can afford campaign commercials are those bankrolled by wealthy individuals and greedy corporations, often with legally anonymous cash. With no interest in an informed public, the billionaires who own print, cable and broadcast outlets have, for several decades, been firing reporters and spending less every year on journalism. Reporters refuse to cover third party candidates in partisan elections, lest their careers end prematurely. In nominally “nonpartisan” races like mayor in most medium and large cities, the owners of media all but refuse to cover the existence of candidacies not endorsed by local elites.”
In a response to Dixon’s piece, a blogger wrote, “The first thing we need is a massive coalition of leftists of all stripes, even left-liberals and anti-imperialist, populist, right-wing libertarians. We need a true movement of the 99% and that means bringing into the coalition libertarian types who decry so-called ‘crony capitalism’ and not capitalism per se. If in the short-term we can just take some small pockets of space and power for ‘regular folks’ then that will be very helpful toward our final end goal of completely transforming society. Local and (possibly) state elections MIGHT, depending on a variety of factors including our strengths, weaknesses, resources (money, human, etc.) and those of the enemy arrayed against us in that particular space or arena, be helpful in growing a populist movement.”
In another, more lengthy response to Dixon’s piece, Mark E. Smith of Fubarandgrill.org commented. (Note: Smith’s website’s name references the U.S. military grunt’s derogatory appraisal of the Pentagon’s bureaucratic inefficiencies. FUBAR is short for “f----- up beyond all recognition,” as in SNAFU, which is U.S. military lingo for “situation normal: all f----- up.” His thoughtful essays can be found at http://fubarandgrill.org.)
Smith writes, “I think we are all agreed that there are times and places when voting can be useful and that there are times and places when it is not. Where we differ is when and where such places may be and how to determine which is which.
“I’m often accused of being opposed to voting and this is my usual response:
“A democratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the people. That’s the dictionary definition and most people will agree to it.
Is America Actually a Pseudodemocracy
“An undemocratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the government [Author’s note: or in the hands of corporations or their wealthy elites]. That government could be a dictatorship, a monarchy, a plutocracy, an oligarchy, or even a pseudo-democracy, but if power is vested in the hands of the government [Author’s note: or corporate elites] rather than in the hands of the people, the system does not meet the definition of a democratic form of government.
“In a democratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the people, voting is the most precious right of all, as it is the way that the people exercise the power vested in them, either directly by voting on issues, budgets, and policies, or indirectly by voting for representatives who are obligated to represent their constituents and can be directly recalled by the people at any time that they fail to represent the people who elected them.
“In an undemocratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, voting is totally worthless and a waste of time, as the people do not have power and the government doesn’t have to count their votes, can miscount and/or ignore their votes, can overrule the popular vote, and elected representatives are not obligated to represent their constituents but can represent their personal beliefs or philosophies, their big donors, or whatever they wish, and cannot be held accountable as long as they continue in office, which is the only time that people need them to represent the interests of the people.
“In an undemocratic form of government, voters can hope that their votes might be counted, can hope that their elected officials might represent them, but have no power to ensure that their votes are counted or that their elected officials actually represent them.
“Which system we have—democratic or undemocratic (i.e. pseudo-democratic)—makes all the difference.
“In a democratic system, voting is precious and essential. In an undemocratic system, it can be fatal, as it can allow the destruction of the economy, military adventurism, obstacles to basic human rights such as jobs, education, food, clothing, shelter, and health care, and other tragic consequences of allowing government to exercise uncontrolled power rather than vesting power in the hands of the people.
“Most people in the U.S. today are opposed to our government’s ongoing wars of aggression. Even those who are uninformed and uneducated, who aren’t aware that historically, the way that most empires fell was because they became militarily overextended, sense that there is something wrong with spending trillions of dollars on foreign wars while basic domestic needs go unmet.
“But because we do not have a democratic system of government, we have no power to end the wars. The best we can do is vote for candidates we hope might end the wars, but… there is nothing we can do about it because our government has the power to start or end wars, and we do not. If wars were on the ballot, it could only be as a nonbinding referendum, as there is no Constitutional way to force the government to obey the will of the people. The Constitution vested power in the government rather than in the hands of the people.
“I do not oppose voting any more than I oppose breathing. I oppose voting only when it occurs within an undemocratic form of government, thus legitimizing an undemocratic form of government and consenting to be governed undemocratically, just as I oppose breathing only when in a toxic or anaerobic environment where breathing can be fatal.
“Just as I would want to try to help anyone trapped in a toxic or anaerobic environment to hold their breath until they could escape, I want to try to help people trapped in an undemocratic form of government withhold their votes until they can escape. If I tell a drowning person to hold his breath until he can get his head above water, I am not condemning breathing. If I tell people not to vote until they have a democratic form of government, I am not condemning voting.
“…my thesis is that the way to decide if voting is useful or not is to determine whether or not it is taking place within a democratic form of government where the votes are the voice of the people and are the final say in deciding policy. If the votes are not the final say, they are no say at all, just a trick and a trap to get people to relinquish their power and vote for their own oppression.”
I conclude this column by paraphrasing a useful item from an anonymous blogger that I also found on the Fubarandgrill.com website:
“The U.S. government is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the big multinational private corporations that fund it, and no matter who is in office, it will continue to do the bidding of the wealthy global elites intent on continuing to murder millions of innocents and pollute the entire planet for profit. Those profits all go to the wealthy elites and their puppets, with ordinary people never seeing any benefit. Ordinary people in the U.S. are being taxed to pay for the troops and mercenaries that are committing these genocides on behalf of private corporations.”
Dr Kohls is a retired physician who practiced holistic, non-drug mental health care for the last decade of his career. He is involved in peace, nonviolence and justice issues and writes about mental ill health, fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, imperialism, totalitarianism, economic oppression, anti-environmentalism and other violent, unsustainable, anti-democratic movements.