Yes,the left’s boycotting the election does indeed amount to voter suppression. A personal letter from Rebecca Sohin couldn’t say it better: there exists a smug elitism running through the far left these days, as has always every election season, in the call for those on the left to ‘boycott the ballot box’ by not voting.
A smugness exists in the fact that while the Republican party has clearly stated over and over again that it wishes to return America back a couple of centuries, or at least about half a century is part and parcel of their social agenda. They can’t wait to get a crack at it and many on the left seem all too eager to give them a chance. Not surprisingly, this call to allow the foxes to run into the hen house and take as they please, seems driven by those who don’t often sleep to close to the coop door.
Many in this country can testify to their personal suffering at the hands of Republican policy; from the decision to allow student loans under the control of private lenders, leading to crippling interest rates and predatory collection practices, to collapses in the social safety net which have left many elderly people impoverished. Day laborers toil on wages that cannot get them out of the homeless shelter or off the park bench, millions sold on home ownership have found themselves on the bottom of a giant billion dollar fraud for which not one architect has been called to account.
Since Ronald Reagan came to power women have increasing lost their ability to choose when they will get pregnant and as usual, the ones most effected are the poor and the socially alienated. As a result, even though births to women have reduced significantly, when cut across class lines, its very obvious that poor and underserved women end up having children more often and at a younger age. This puts them at a distinct and often permanent economic disadvantage and places more children in the clutches of long term poverty as socio-economic factors come more into play.
Welfare reform has nearly all but destroyed access to flexible and affordable child care for poor women, access to food assistance has been trimmed down so that it is further unreachable by more impoverished persons, leading to further destitution and borderline homelessness (often couch surfing and substandard housing situations). Housing programs have shrunk to the point where now Section 8 requires as much as an eight year waiting list for even the most needy families.
These policy changes cause real suffering among those affected by them. Possibly the most critical aspect of the far left, especially among the academic and middle class far left is the removal from any tangible awareness of the effects of Republican policies throughout the last three decades in particular. Since voting is as far as many known the only way that any society that seeks to have a participatory and truly representative decision making process, boycotting the vote begs the question, if not voting what? Sharpening pitchforks? Donning bandanas? Even after the strife and the burning, there will come a time when people must begin to construct something out of the ashes they have left. Funny, some of us would rather not burn the entire house down when all it needed was a serious gutting and remodel.
As I have said repeatedly to activists who propose to sit out the election, what is your plan? What is it that you wish to do after you’ve convinced everyone you can to not participate in the electoral process? Do you have a plan to overtake it? Do you have a plan to dismantle it?
And most importantly, do you have a plan to deal with the impending day when your rights become even more compressed for the sake of a dollar? Are you willing to allow more plutocrats in faster to privatize more prisons under your nose, prisons and jails which you will could end up sitting in when cops are allowed to break up protests and arrest with even more impunity than now?
I ask this because one thing is abundantly clear; the Republicans represent the elites, the plutocrats and time and time again, this has been made clear to the public, with only Facebook fashioned outrage. The same for the endless evidence of voter fraud in electronic voting machines, the now exposed slimy relationship between the Romney family’s investment holdings and ownership of H.I.G. Its obvious that the vote may be rigged, if you stay home and sit on your hands and expect a bad outcome, then if such is rigged, we can assume that you won’t be in the streets with your outrage, but you will be smugly sitting at home, sipping a brew and announcing that you knew better — you stayed home, so it really has nothing to do with you.
Which really is the crux of the problem isn’t it? When opting out to vote, one opts out of paying attention and giving a damn and when that happens, nothing happens. Those of us who want something to happen will have our ears to the ground, our eyes open and be fully engaged, participating and will be there to call account when the system completely fails and have people on the ready, on the ground, to take action. Opting out is not action.
Snagged from TomDispatch, a letter to activists written by author Rebecca Solnit:
The Rain on Our Parade
A Letter to My Dismal Allies
By Rebecca Solnit
Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.
O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.
Leftists Explain Things to Me
The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.
The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was impossible to discuss what Schwarzenegger was doing on climate change (and unnecessary for my interlocutors to know about it, no less figure out how to use it).
Read the rest of this excellent letter here: Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, We Could be Heroes
No person who gets elected to public office is going to do things the way you want 100% of the time. That is the bottom line. Politics (and life for that matter) is balancing good and bad. For me, the scales are a little out of balance for Obama and a lot for Romney which means one needs to vote. Staying home never gets you anywhere. Thanks for this post.
If the Republican Party “wishes to return America back a couple of centuries, or at least about half a century,” that would make them more progressive party–something I do not and cannot believe.
You see there was a time that the King of England could imprison or kill anyone he wanted because he had the Divine Right of Kings. That changed in the 13th Century when a group of noblemen forced the king to sign the Magna Carta. From then until the 21st Century no king or President could throw people into dungeons or kill them at will, but had to bring them to court and allow them something called due process. Only if they were found guilty in a court of law could they be caged or killed.
That changed when the Democratic Party pushed through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Now, any President of the United States can indefinitely detain or even kill anyone he wants without due process. This is all the more troublesome in light of the fact that the US government under both Republican and Democratic administrations has continued to hold prisoners in Guantanamo that the government has already admitted are innocent of any crime. We are now officially back in the Dark Ages of the 12th Century, so a half a Century or even a few centuries more would hardly make much difference.
I support the Election Boycott Movement because third parties have no chance of winning in our winner-take-all system, and both major parties represent Wall Street and the military-industrial complex instead of representing Main Street and democracy. To vote for the Democratic Party, which has just taken us back nine centuries, for fear that the Republican Party might take us back a century or so more, is irrational, but it is apparently the best argument that the Democrats have.
No Debra, that changed when Ronald Reagan ratcheted up his attack on poor blacks in this country who only two decades before had been able to loose from them the chains of Jim Crow oppression.
And before that those who framed the constitution had no interest in allowing the rabble the possibility to vote.
I gave a talk at the San Diego Public Library today as part of their series on “Searching for Democracy: A Public Conversation about the Constitution,” and one of the things I addressed is why doing nothing is better than voting. Of course I also explained why an election boycott is not “doing nothing.” A transcript of my talk can be found here:
My book, Consent to Tyranny: Voting in the USA, is also available on my website for free, or, for those who prefer, the exact same book can be purchased on amazon Kindle for a buck. It is copyleft and can be reposted freely.
Here’s the excerpt from my talk where I explain why I say that doing nothing is better than voting:
“I think that if you’re doing something wrong, or something that is self-destructive or hurting others, stopping might be a good idea, even if you have no alternative course of action and it means doing nothing.
If delegating your power to people you can’t hold accountable has resulted in the devastation of your economy, do you really want to keep doing it?
If granting your authority to people you can’t hold accountable has resulted in wars based on lies that have killed over a million innocent people, do you really want to keep doing it?
If granting your consent of the governed to people you can’t hold accountable has resulted in government operating on behalf of big corporations and the wealthy instead of on behalf of the people, do you really want to keep doing it?
Wouldn’t you be better off not doing anything at all?
Election boycotts have been successful in delegitimizing governments in other countries, so there’s no reason it couldn’t work here too. An election boycott cannot oust a government, but it can show that it no longer has the consent of the governed and no longer represents the will of the people it claims to represent.”
If you’re already voted, or still plan on voting in this election, I hope you’ll keep an eye on the results in the next few years, take responsibility for the part your vote played in legitimizing those results, and consider not making the same mistake again in 2016.
Mark makes a very compelling argument. In fact, I find the evidence and logic irrefutable. I urge all citizens of good conscience to read his book and join in this boycott. Instead of voting on election day we should be demonstrating.
That is the very least a boycotter could do because doing nothing is meaningless.