Why You Should Vote
(By American Zen's @mikeflannigan59, on loan from Ari)
Q: Talk about the role of the opposition party, the Democrats.
Vidal: It isn’t an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican. Gore Vidal, Aug 2006
W.E.B. DuBois, the leading African American activist and reformer of his generation, was born at a crucial crossroads in history: Technically a contemporary of abolitionist Frederick Douglass (DuBois was 27 when Douglass died in 1895), DuBois lived long enough to witness the horrifying nuclear age and beyond, nearly seeing the end of the Kennedy administration at his own death at 95 in 1963.
He passed away just five days before the famous March on Washington of August 28th and his name, of course, was invoked by some of the speakers. A year later, many of the reforms for which DuBois had tirelessly advocated for decades finally saw fruition with the passage of the Civil Rights Act a year later.
But perhaps "tirelessly" is a misleading word.
By 1956, when Eisenhower was up for re-election, DuBois was by then a tired, used up man of 87 or 88 and he wrote a pessimistic article for The Nation simply entitled, "I Won't Vote." In equally plain language, he argued his case by saying that Democracy no longer existed, which was the thrust of another piece he'd written for the oldest liberal publication in the country. Reprinted on its online edition 14 years ago, the power of the article rests not in its prescience because what DuBois observed in his own country are dysfunctions of Democracy that are still prevalent today. And, in some cases, they're even worse.
In fact, with the switching of some names, adjusting the dollar figures and updating the language for a 21st century readership, this piece could've been written by any Sanders backer today. I'll even go one bit further-It's so nearly perfectly descriptive of America 60 years after its composition, The Nation would be remiss if it didn't reissue it again during this election cycle.
He begins the article by writing,
Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils.
Now, it ought to be shocking to anyone reading this today that DuBois continues,
Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration.
Of course, DuBois had the legal right to vote. So said the 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870 just before DuBois turned two. But he reports disenfranchisement and it took nearly a century of Jim Crow laws comprised of poll taxes, tests and so forth before the 15th Amendment finally got some teeth in the form of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As I said, this should be shocking that the pre-eminent African American scholar of his day couldn't even vote without serious challenges and obstacles thrown his way by white men.
But, sadly, it isn't.
The Two-Headed Monster
The frustration over lack of a choice at a party level is certainly not a new one. Six decades ago in this very article, DuBois wrote,
I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a “Socialist” Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist”...
This is where the shadow of Sanders looms large indeed. How many times have we heard during this very election cycle sneers over Sanders' platform composed entirely of "dreams", as if dreams were suddenly too hard to attain? How many times have we heard in this byline and in that of independent journalist Michael Collins of how there is only one party and that it ought to be called "the Money Party"?
And when had Jill Stein ever been invited to a debate? The two party system we've set up is so entrenched we've been conditioned to believe that no candidate of a third party should even be invited to a corporately-sponsored debate and that a third choice would be tantamount to foolishness at best, heresy at worst. But we do not live in a two party system and I would urge you to remember that with the insistence of grim death.
In DuBois' youth, there were several political parties represented in Congress. And in the 19th century, we still had the Whigs, the nativist Know Nothings and many others. Granted, many of them were mere tails to kites, as DuBois had derisively described so-called liberal parties in his day, but the party variegation in Congress consisted of far more than the very occasional Independent such as Sanders.
And even for members of one monolithic party of another, certain fund-raising goals have to met before being given a chair at the grown up table. Those who underperform are literally barred from the front door. That is how crooked the election process is: It's literally pay-to-play.
But what if an insurgent candidate such as Bernie Sanders exceeds all fundraising goals and earns enough votes, states and delegates to keep sitting at the grownup table? Well, that's where party insiders like the disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz come in, As we all now know (and we have Wikileaks to thank for proving it), Schultz valiently sacrified her political career in part by scheduling fewer debates and at times when she was assured fewer people would be watching. She knew Hillary didn't need a debate megaphone- Her last name and Debbie's crazed, brazen cheerleading alone would conspicuously keep Clinton in the public eye like a splinter and if that didn't somehow work, there was always the endlessly compliant and supine stenographers of the MSM.
Disenfranchisement is an Art
As a friend of this blogmaster used to sign off her emails, disenfranchisement is an art and the Democratic convention in the sarcastically-selected city of Philadelphia, the birth of democracy, was the perfect delineation of that. And, as in DuBois' day, the government and its usual dependable stooges of party insiders, appointed and elected officials and the media lapdogs faithfully played their part to ensure that proud Tammany-era tradition of voter suppression would continue.
Time and again, we'd seen voter rolls purged to unprecedented levels that would make Republicans Green Party green with envy (126,000 in Brooklyn alone, about 40,000 greater than Katherine Harris and Choicepoint had struck from the rolls for the entire state of Florida in 2000). We'd witnessed on video state party rules changed heedless of voice votes, polling places getting shut down in droves, producing longer lines at the polls. We'd heard of hackable voting machines being used and always, coincidentally enough, the results always benefiting Clinton. We'd heard of Republican exit polls perfectly aligning across the board with actual balloting while in many, many states on the Democratic side, exit polls were suddenly off by double digits.
Eyewitness accounts, cell phone and periscope videos live-streamed (until they were censored, shades of Tehran and Pyongyang) proved democratically-elected state delegates in Philly had their seats given away to paid actors, others having their credentials threatened for holding up Sanders signs, whips and security literally strong-arming people from their seats, white noise machines set up to suppress protests, collusion with the TV media to use tight shots and to not show the protesters, the empty seats and to seat the Clinton delegates closer to the stage to manufacture the image of party unity and consensus.
Then they had the nerve to demand of Sanders delegates and voters, "Stick with us. We're stronger together!" And that's just the beginning. God only knows what the American voter doesn't know (Julian Assange has promised us more disclosures will come).
And, the Democrats being the crime family it is, it will never allow two sperm cells to enter the big egg of the White House. Orthodoxy, no matter how vastly inferior to the "Other" message, will be enforced no matter how corrupt or unsuitable the candidate. As DuBois complained six decades ago,
This Administration is dominated and directed by wealth and for the accumulation of wealth. It runs smoothly like a well-organized industry and should do so because industry runs it for the benefit of industry. Corporate wealth profits as never before in history. We turn over the national resources to private profit and have few funds left for education, health or housing...
We let men take wealth which is not theirs; if the seizure is “legal” we call it high profits and the profiteers help decide what is legal. If the theft is “illegal” the thief can fight it out in court, with excellent chances to win if he receives the accolade of the right newspapers. Gambling in home, church and on the stock market is increasing and all prices are rising. It costs three times his salary to elect a Senator and many millions to elect a President. This money comes from the very corporations which today are the government. This in a real democracy would be enough to turn the party responsible out of power. Yet this we cannot do.
"The People Should Not be Afraid of its Government. The Government Should be Afraid of its People."
Of course, DuBois was absolutely correct. But nowadays things have gotten much worse. Remember, DuBois was writing this 54 years before Citizen's United that opened the spigots for corporate payola and graft to flood the electoral process without restriction. He'd probably have a coronary if he were told it would cost a cool billion to mount even a marginally viable presidential candidacy and that any Senate candidate spending only three times a lawmakers' $174,000 salary to get elected would be considered a responsible fiscal conservative.
So, understandably, an 88 year-old man, hammered flat by corruption, racism and the disenfranchisement in which it inevitably results would be too disspirited to vote. Repeated disappointment going back nearly seven decades will do that. But is not voting really the answer? DuBois never actually exhorted people to adopt his new stance of non-involvement. However, his dream was that 25,000,000 withheld votes would finally awaken the progressive political establishment and they would finally begin to court the black vote that it still is loath to do today.
It was certainly fair of DuBois to ask his contemporaries in 1956 why they were voting Republican or Democrat. But he was very irresponsible in 1) aligning himself with the repressive and genocidal Communist leaders in China and the USSR and 2) espousing non-involvement with the political process. That's akin to being discouraged by crime in your neighborhood and not locking your door in protest and waiting for the police to notice your house has been burgled.
Amendments such as the 13th and 15th were won by votes of our elected officials, not the absence of them. And those officials earned their public office by the same process. No revolution was ever won by people sitting on their asses.
Consider why corporations and our governments lie to us. They would not do that if they didn't think we were worth the time and effort to spin and disseminate these lies. They lie because they fear us and rightfully so. They may have superior weaponry and money but we have sheer force of numbers. Without our spending power, our votes, our obedient, unquestioning compliance, they have nothing and would be in no better position than Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
So remember that next time the Democratic National Committee is caught lying to you, the next time you see a Wikileaks or Guccifer disclosure proving yet again the subterranean depths of its duplicity, depravity and utter lack of transparency. They need you more than you need them. And they fear public opinion, and reaction, far more than we should fear them and their incipiently fascist legislation and agenda.