Why Vote?

by Philip Greenspan

October 18, 2004   


(Swans - October 18, 2004)   With a presidential election approaching many options present themselves to potential voters. To determine what option to choose, one must envision the possible consequences of each option.

No one can predict the future irrespective of how bright or insightful one might be. I, a potential voter, am no better than any one else. Yet I, like others, must make what I believe is an educated guess based on my limited and flawed knowledge of the candidates and the world situation.

I differ from most of the electorate because one and only one issue guides me. That single issue is WAR and its subsidiary categories -- military forces, the draft, veterans, casualties, military budgets, bogus information, etc. That single issue has an impact on everything because it is so far reaching. Its astronomical costs may soon plunge this country into an economic collapse and cause the dollar to lose its status as the premier reserve currency.

What are my options? I can vote for any of the candidates qualified to appear on New York's, my state's, voting machine; or I could write in any other name (I would have to determine the procedure to do this and I've done it in the past); or I could intentionally not vote at all.

The most prominent choices are the candidates of the two major parties, Bush and Kerry.

Bush, after almost four years in office, is a known quantity. His performance has created a strong ABB following. But as objectionable as it has been, those ABBers should realize that he occupies an executive and not a legislative office. All of those abominable laws that were enacted during the past four years emanated from the Congress. When Bush asked for a blank check for war after 9/11, 98 senators and 420 representatives approved. Only ONE, yes ONE, o-n-e, lonely legislator, Barbara Lee, objected. That entire congress, Republican and Democratic alike, including John Kerry and John Edwards, are equally responsible for the Bush horrors.

Bad as he's been, four years under Kerry could be worse than another Bush term. Second terms do not necessarily continue and expand the policies of the initial term. Some second terms have caused unanticipated problems -- FDR after an unprecedented landslide victory was overwhelmed with opposition to his Supreme Court packing plan; (1) Nixon after his landslide win resigned to avoid impeachment.

The administration's lies have been exposed and its optimistic plans are collapsing. Opposition is arising from influential congressional Republicans; (2) former supporters and members of his administration are turning against him. (3) To moderate the heat and restore credibility, it's not unlikely for a new Bush administration to alter its staff and policies.

Kerry has supported and adopted all of the pro-war policies of this administration. His utterances have indicated that he is even more hawkish than Bush. He claims he will do everything better. He will increase US troop strength by 40,000. (4) He will seek the assistance of the Europeans who have been opposing the Bush tactics. (5)

That theatre of the absurd, alias "the Democratic Convention," was a disgrace. Most delegates were opposed to Kerry's pro-war views and were anticipating an airing of their thoughts and inserting a minority antiwar plank in the Democratic platform. (6) Didn't Dennis Kucinich continue campaigning well after Kerry had locked up the nomination for just that purpose?

In prior years, dramatic confrontations occurred at conventions and added excitement to the proceedings. In 1948, the victory of a civil rights platform plank at the Democratic Convention caused the southern delegations to walk out and create a party of their own with Strom Thurman as their candidate. In the election he won four southern states -- Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. (7)

This time, not only were opposing platform planks prohibited but free speech itself was prohibited. Dennis Kucinich, the pride of the antiwar Democrats, sold out to the party establishment and urged his followers to vote for the hawks who head the ticket. (8) Medea Benjamin was dragged out of the convention in handcuffs when she displayed a banner stating "End the Occupation of Iraq." (9) Isn't this a preview of what can be expected from a Kerry administration?

I've learned that election promises are bait to entice voters and that worse can be expected from the winning candidate. Wilson's campaign slogan, "He Kept Us Out of War," was followed in four months with a request for war. FDR campaigning for his third term declared, "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again; your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." All the while he was plotting to get the Japanese to attack and the following year Pearl Harbor brought the country into war. Those who recalled the antiwar campaign of Lyndon Johnson over the hawk Goldwater later joked, "We voted for Johnson but got Goldwater." (10)

I expect worse from a Kerry victory. Should he win, he may entice some foreign leaders to ally with the U.S. by offering them a share of the spoils that Bush has been hogging for the U.S. alone.

New presidents have enjoyed a honeymoon for the first few months until their policies become better known. That honeymoon, even if it is a short one, could have negative consequences for the peace movement. We may lose some of our supporters and many of our foreign allies who have sent millions of protesters into the streets.

My wife and I belong to an antiwar coalition that has been protesting every week on a busy street corner for two years. Before the U.S. commenced the war in Iraq, the size of our weekly protests kept increasing; and passing motorists who read our "HONK FOR PEACE" signs were responding in increasing numbers. Once the war started, membership and honks decreased. Those dropouts were discouraged and thought: "We didn't stop the war. We failed. No need to continue." A Kerry win may create a similar psychology and our effectiveness will again suffer. The numbers of protesters and sympathetic honkers will drop and momentum will be stalled.

As an activist, I am concerned that the millions of foreign protesters who have kept their governments out of the US coalition are aware that there is a large and strong antiwar opposition in the U.S. that they can count on. Arundhati Roy summarized it well when she said, "if the antiwar movement openly campaigns for Kerry, the rest of the world will think that it approves of his policies of 'sensitive' imperialism. Is US imperialism preferable if it is supported by the United Nations and European countries? Is it preferable if the UN asks Indian and Pakistani soldiers to do the killing and dying in Iraq instead of US soldiers? Is the only change that Iraqis can hope for that French, German, and Russian companies will share in the spoils of the occupation of their country?" (11)

Nader, the most prominent third party and antiwar candidate will not get elected although he is head, shoulders, chest, abdomen and more above those two turkeys. The cry baby Democrats have been blasting him for running against their previous nonstarter, Al Gore. How do they know what would have occurred had Nader not run? Just as a crystal ball can not predict the future neither can it rerun the past with a different cast of characters and/or a modified plot.

Before the 2000 election, I read that the new young voters who were flocking to Nader rallies preferred Bush over Gore. I was puzzled and wondered why. When I examined their positions I was surprised to discover that Gore, like Kerry, was more hawkish than Bush. Gore wanted a larger increase in military spending than Bush. And the Clinton-Gore team was soaked in blood from Kosovo, Iraq bombings, Waco, Somalia, etc. Based on pre-election promises, Bush seemed better.

The Democratic crybabies should search history to discover how a candidate overcomes adversities to run a winning campaign. In 1948, the Democrats split into three parties. Southern Democrats, angered by the adoption of a civil rights platform, bolted and created the Dixiecrat party. Leftists, angered by Truman's harsh anti-Soviet foreign policy, formed the Progressive party headed by Henry Wallace -- FDR's vice president prior to Truman, and a former cabinet member in FDR's and Truman's administrations. The loyal Democrats, aware of the unpopularity of Truman, were singing "I'm Just Mild About Harry," and expected the worst. Yet Truman knew how to campaign. He rolled up his sleeves, whistle-stopped across the country to castigate the "Republican do nothing Congress," and called them back into session to prove his point. Harry overcame all the obstacles to beat his overconfident opponent, Tom Dewey. (12)

The Dems are angry with Nader again. They have unleashed every weapon they can to prevent his appearing on the ballot in the various "swing" states. (13) Why didn't they fight for their candidate in 2000 when vicious tactics were unleashed on them? Are they frightened of the Republicans?

In 2000 Nader sent a message to the Democrats -- loud, clear, and unequivocal -- "Appeal to your liberal base or lose them." The message was ignored. Kerry is Gore repeated. His liberal base has not just been ignored as in 2000, but has been silenced and abused (see above). Kerry and the Democrats don't deserve any votes from that segment and I think they are fools to support him. Nader should continue to run, over and over, again and again, until the Dems heed the message!

As much as I admire Nader, a man who has done more for Americans than Bush, Gore and Kerry combined, I feel he could not overcome a callous and irreclaimable system. If the impossible were to occur and he was elected, the other two branches would tie him into knots, denigrate him, and their cohorts in the media would pile on with all the abuse available.

The system was designed by those venerated founding fathers to protect their power and wealth. (14) That's the way the political system has been working ever since. If some firebrand should intrude the powerful elite and their surrogates will pounce on the offender. The major parties always nominate a candidate who will obediently follow the desires of their elite masters, who have bought and paid for their loyalty to the system.

Expect recriminations to start once the blueprint of the new administration has been established. What might have occurred if the other candidate had won can never be known; but that won't stop the loser's supporters from spouting "Kerry/Bush would not have done this" to those who are disappointed with their winning selection.

The Green Party and their candidate David Cobb have dishonored themselves with their actions this year. No, I don't fault them for not naming Nader as their candidate. They certainly have the right to select one of their own for their candidate. But that idiotic suggestion that in swing states they should vote for Kerry belongs more appropriately in a slapstick comedy à la Three Stooges. Why run a candidate at all if you intend to support your opposition? How can you consider yourselves a serious political party if you do not have convictions strong enough to stand by your principles irrespective of any extenuating circumstances? If the candidate that you deferred to was espousing the major positions of your party I might find it excusable. But pro-war Kerry is the very opposite of what I assume your party stands for.

All of the other candidates have no chance, of course. And as I mentioned above if they miraculously won they would be clobbered by the system.

The remaining option, deliberately not voting, is what I intend to do.

The electoral system is so abominable that only the elite are represented. No tinkering here or there with periodic electoral reforms can fix this faulty system. By voting you endorse the system. Even if you vote for a third party or write in a name you have indicated your fealty to this abominable system. Accordingly, that is not my option.

A statement within an October 11, New York Times article, headed "Iraqis Fearing a Sunni Boycott of the Election," stated "American officials fear that if large numbers of Sunnis do not vote, the election will be regarded as illegitimate." (15)

I regard our American elections illegitimate and I'm hoping that eventually enough non-voters will make it apparent that we all consider American elections illegitimate. The number of non-voters always exceeds that of the winner's total. Yet you'd never know it. More and more people have given up on the system but the establishment does not want to recognize it. Efforts are continually made to get out the vote to maintain their system's legitimacy.

So how can we accomplish our goals if the electoral process ignores us?

Become a nuisance. Annoy the forces of law and order.

I find an analogous example in the supermarket. Often I hear some child tell mama that he wants some item he just spotted on a shelf. Mama says no, baby insists. The back and forth drama continues with the decibel level from the infant increasing until he has a tantrum. At that point mama usually gives in. Through protest that small vulnerable baby overcame the power, control and determination of mama.

Yes, we should have tantrums! Blacks defied Jim Crow laws that had existed for almost a hundred years. Their non-violent law breaking activities, an adult equivalent of tantrums, eventually crushed Jim Crow. The 1960s was a decade when other groups also had their tantrums -- antiwar, gay, women, environmental -- and each forced a change to the status quo.

People all over the world, in more restrictive environments, have done and continue to do it. Protest, protest, protest. Often they must endure extremely harsh repressive measures -- death, injury, civil rights abuses by the police and military, but by tenaciously holding on they achieve their objectives. Just a few of the supposedly firmly entrenched regimes, all supported by the U.S., that were toppled by protests were apartheid in South Africa; the Shah in Iran; and Marcos in the Philippines. Bolivia's third largest city, Cochabamba was able to oust a private water company that hiked rates beyond what most could afford. It's surprising that powerful states can be subdued by protest.

Irrespective of the party in power the corporate elite will call the shots. The government will ignore the demands of the citizens if there are no protests. Isn't there a saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil?" Well, we've got to get out there and squeak, squeak, squeak and throw tantrums!

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Notes and Resources

1.  "Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President," American Experience - Presidential Politics; PBS/WGBH - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/32_f_roosevelt/f_roosevelt_politics.html  (back)

2.  "Republicans criticise Bush 'mistakes' on Iraq," by Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters.uk, 19 September, 2004  (back)

3.  "Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bremer: Deserting a Sinking Ship," by Juan Cole, JuanCole.com, October 6, 2004  (back)

4.  "Kerry: 40,000 more troops key to U.S. global mission," by Noelle Straub, The Boston Herald, May 29, 2004  (back)

5.  "Allies Uber Alles: Why is John Kerry so obsessed with France and Germany?" by Tom Donnelly, The Weekly Standard, September 23, 2004  (back)

6.  "Poll: Delegates, Kerry Differ on Key Issues," by Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe, July 26, 2004  (back)

7.  "President Elect 1948," by John S. Cooper, December 10, 1999 - http://www.presidentelect.org/e1948.html  (back)

8.  "Did Dennis Kucinich Sell Out Anti-War Democrats?," Democracy Now, July 14, 2004  (back)

9.  "Medea Benjamin Dragged Off DNC Floor in Handcuffs For Unfurling 'End the Occupation of Iraq' Banner," Democracy Now, July 28, 2004  (back)

10.  "To Make War, Presidents Lie," by Robert Higgs LewRockwell.com, October 1, 2002

Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit : The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, Touchstone Books; 2001; ISBN: 0743201299  (back)

11.  "TIDE? OR IVORY SNOW? Public Power in the Age of Empire," Speech by Arundhati Roy in San Francisco, California on August 16, 2004  (back)

12.  ELECTION SURPRISES: TRUMAN'S 1948 VICTORY - http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/presidents_and_first_ladies/29362  (back)

13.  "The Unwritten Rules of the Duopoly: How Democrats Kicked Nader Off the Oregon Ballot," by Dan Meek, Counterpunch, September 28, 2004  (back)

14.  Jerry Fresia, Toward an American Revolution; Publisher: South End Press, Boston, 1988.  (back)

15.  "Iraqis Fearing a Sunni Boycott of the Election," by Dexter Filkins, The New York Times, October 11, 2004  (back)

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Published October 18, 2004
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