How long shall we allow the system to kick us in the head, take our money, insult us after taking our money, and still expect us to participate in its frauds? With every passing year, the differences between the two ruling political parties in the U.S. diminish further, and their outlook, conduct and even advertising campaigns merge so much so that their members can be mistaken one for the other.
By now it must be clear that the ‘two-party’ system is not only no such thing; it is corrupt to the bone.
It should be instructive to recount some major points of Obama’s record:
Barack Obama has voted for all the war funding bills that have gone through the Congress; Obama has voted for USA PATRIOT ACT that effectively suspended habeas corpus, and he voted for the FISA bill that gave free reign to government to spy on all Americans; his Democratic Party has gone along with policies allowing torture, and we have not heard a single word out of candidate Obama regarding the evils of torturing people; had it not been for the Supreme Court rulings, the Democrats would not have been the ones to come to the defense of habeas corpus, this oldest of legal protections granted to human beings against arbitrary government harassment, and neither have we heard anything from Obama, although he is reported to be a constitutional lawyer; it was with the energetic pushing and shoving of the Democratic presidential nominee, Barak Obama, that the theft of people’s money was given legal cover in the recent $700 billion bailout of the banking industry (the actual figures are much higher).
Moreover, as pertains to how the American imperial machinations work beyond the American borders, Obama, or at least his rhetoric, is every bit as dangerous and bloodthirsty as McCain’s. He was one of the first people to advocate publicly (and on campaign trail, which is even more telling) that Pakistani sovereignty be disregarded and indeed violated completely if, with regards to the ‘war on terror’, the Pakistani government ‘can’t do the job’. He is a strong advocate of increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and to intensify the bloodletting in that country, in a war of occupation every bit as barbaric and immoral as that in Iraq. As regards the war of occupation in Iraq, Obama has never said he will end the occupation; in his stated policy, he will leave a substantial number of troops in Iraq to ‘fight the terrorists’ and protect the embassy, ‘aid workers’, etc., which is to say he too will leave substantial troops in Iraq, into an indefinite future. Finally, as regards the ongoing, brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people, the theft of their lands, water and resources under one of the most barbaric contemporary colonial ventures, he is every bit a slave to the Israeli lobby and government.
If all these were not enough, we are now witnessing the defection of ‘moderate’ (the lesser of the bigger evil) Republicans onto the bandwagon of this able champion of empire; not just any Republican (for example, Ron Paul), but the likes of the war criminal Colin Powell, whose UN speech in February 2003 — while holding up some supposedly evidential glass vial, with the CIA chief, Tenet, and the hated Negroponte right behind him — is now remembered only too painfully by the world that continues to pay in blood, tears and humiliation for the crimes of the American empire.
His running mate’s resume is even darker, but we need not go there.
Despite all this, a good section of the American left is still agonizing over whether or not to vote for this ‘lesser’ evil! Luminaries as large as Chomsky and Zinn, The Nation magazine, and even the Communist Party USA, as they did in the 2004 presidential elections, are again raising the specter of the ‘necessity’ of voting, albeit with noses well held, for Obama. Some qualify this support with: “But, don’t have any illusions!” Anybody who supports, even qualified twenty-fold, the notion of voting for an imperial (hence criminal) Democratic Party candidate is already filled with illusions.
What on earth is the point of voting at all when the two evils under consideration do not present much noticeable degree of difference in their dispositions? Such recommendations coming from the ‘left’ are stunningly amusing if it weren’t so infuriating to hear such talk always certified with tons of qualifications, which in turn make the recommendations not just absurd but insane.
A nice sample of such was posted on Dissident Voice (“Taking Politics Seriously“). The authors, Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood, after stating that they would be voting for Obama, proceed to acknowledge all the horrible qualities of Obama the candidate, leaving the reader to wonder why then they are voting for him! And the answer is simple: it is a vote against McCain. Basically, they argue that the Obama-Biden ticket is less scary than McCain-Palin. Obama’s own qualities do not make him a very desirable candidate to be supported by the left, but since the left must by all means necessary defeat the crazy far right, then by simplistic syllogism they conclude that the left must vote for Obama.
The other point they make is that a vote for Obama is a slap in the face of racism. To think that one is fighting racism while voting for a candidate that upholds every racist element of the structures of imperialism is to venture into political oblivion.
Such arguments can only come from people who do nothing whatsoever to change the really existing political life of the U.S. in between presidential elections. But, of course, every four years they must express some political recommendation of sorts, and out of desperate frustration, due to seeing the political field as only what the system presents (i.e., due to the fact that they do not act as subjective agencies), they can only decide which system-provided choice is less harmful. This is the gist of their dilemma.
So long as the left in the U.S. does not create its own independent institutions, so long as there is no institutional alternative that can channel people’s grievances, and so long as there is no political party representing the working classes along a socialist outlook, the current balance of forces will continue to work increasingly against the working people and those interested in a more just society, and no matter how learned we might be, we will end up supporting the ‘lesser’ of the two evil parties dominating the people; in other words, supporting the imperial system.
What to do then? For starters, a good half of the eligible voters have been conducting a de facto boycott of the presidential elections, since they instinctively and correctly realize that the two ruling parties do not represent them. So, why not join them?
The only thing that can transform ‘apathy’ into an actual political force is to recognize that a boycott of the elections must be done loudly and with the purpose of announcing to the non-voting public that another way must be sought and created to bring about political change. This other way must engage them, the non-voting population, in a serious effort to build a real party of opposition.
This, in turn, requires a genuine opposition party-building effort. The Populists in the 19th century did not agonize over whether or not to vote for the lesser evils of their days. They built their own party. Granted, by the end of the 19th century, the Democrats had pretty much swallowed them whole, by adopting key elements of their platform reflecting their social demands, while watering them down, and blunting their force. But, the organizing spirit of the Populists is something to learn from. The lesson: Build your own party! Oppose both ruling parties consistently.
Within the context of building a real opposition party, then, a boycott as a tactical move makes good political sense. It would bring coherence and political direction to energies not wasted in the electoral fraud (yet sitting still), not burned in the electoral game presented by the system as an opiate (to paraphrase Max Kantar).
In my opinion, at this point, the tiny benefits of getting the independent candidates, such as McKinney or Nader, enough votes to bring them Federal dollars and a place on the presidential debates in the next election, is simply not worth the participation in the fraud created by this machinery of deception called ‘voting’, which in turn only helps feed the illusion that there is strong democracy in America.
The American people are fed this lie every four years that their voices can make a difference. Really? It didn’t make a jot of difference in 2006, when people, out of pure illusion, voted into the Congress a majority of Democrats with the hope that they would bring the war of occupation in Iraq to a speedy end. As George Carlin would have said, people might as well have wished on a rabbit’s foot!
It didn’t make any difference when a huge majority of the American people kept yelling down the jammed Congressional telephone lines, and over-stuffed Congressional email inboxes with, “Don’t give my money away to those scum sucking swine!” The people’s ‘representatives’ stole people’s money anyway and handed it over to the banksters in broad daylight!
So, to repeat, what’s the point of voting for these people? Except getting demoralized, such behavior has no other effect.
If people such as Chomsky and Zinn had spent the last thirty years of their lives, using their immense authority and influence, building truly oppositional parties, maybe for the past two presidential elections they wouldn’t have to recommend voting for such a corrupt bunch of people and instead could recommend voting for a truly oppositional party that really channeled people’s grievances, with some (even if symbolic) presence in the legislature.
The irony of it all is that Mr. Chomsky has built himself a reputation (at least he used to talk about this in his lectures and interviews) for not telling people what they should do, since, according to him, such is not desirable in his anarchist belief system. Yet, in the last two presidential elections, he has chosen to recommend supporting one of the major (and arguably the most successful) pillars of American imperialism!
Whence the contradictions? These contradictions come from the material conditions of lack of political alternatives, which, fret not, can be built starting now.
So, instead of wringing our hands over whether or not to vote for an evil, which is only a tiny bit less so, let us recognize the necessity of building a truly oppositional party. The first step in that direction is a loud boycott of these elections with an even louder declaration that voting is bunk until real political alternatives representing people’s needs are built. Don’t waste your vote, and don’t encourage the bastards. Invest your time vociferously boycotting the voting farce, and build an oppositional socialist party.