Note: Dead links in the original post have been deleted from this version.
Norman Solomon has just posted a blog entry on the Huffington Post criticizing those who have decided not to vote this November. There’s no way to do it justice with a partial quote, so here’s the whole thing:
A pithy idea — now going around in some progressive circles — is that elections are a waste of time.
The idea can be catchy. It all depends on some tacit assumptions.
For instance: elections are a waste of time if you figure the U.S. government is so far gone that it can’t get much worse.
Elections are a waste of time if you’ve given up on grassroots organizing to sway voters before they cast ballots.
Elections are a waste of time if you think there’s not much difference on the Supreme Court between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, or Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito.
Elections are a waste of time if you’re so disgusted with Speaker Pelosi that you wouldn’t lift a finger to prevent Speaker Boehner.
Elections are a waste of time if you don’t see much value in reducing — even slightly — the extent of injustice and deprivation imposed on vulnerable people.
Or, if you see the organizing of protests, community groups, unions and the like as “either/or” in relation to working for the election of better candidates.
Or, if you think the goal of those who struggled and suffered for the right to vote — seeing the ballot as an essential component of democracy — is outdated and rendered moot by present-day frustrations and outrages.
Elections are a waste of time if you think corporate power has grown so immense that state power has become irrelevant.
Or, if you still believe it was smart when some of us progressives figured we had no stake in efforts to defeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 or George W. Bush in 2000.
Or, if you think it doesn’t much matter whether Californians elect to make possible Senator Carly Fiorina and Governor Meg Whitman, or whether Wisconsin voters remove Russ Feingold from the Senate.
Or, if you’d just as soon bypass any plausible path for electing more genuine progressives like Dennis Kucinich or Barbara Lee to government positions.
Or, if you see the raising of political awareness as an alternative to — rather than intertwined with — the building of progressive electoral power to challenge corporate power.
Elections are a waste of time if you don’t realize or care that the powerful forces behind Wall Street and the warfare state are thrilled if progressives retreat from electoral battles.
Elections are a waste of time if you conclude — due to chronic suppression of electoral democracy — that the ideal of electoral democracy should be discarded rather than pursued.
Elections are a waste of time if you think progressives should opt out of electoral struggles for government power, leaving it to uncontested dominance by the heartless and the spineless.
You’ll notice there’s an argument he doesn’t really deal with. Simply put, we’ve tried that. At this point, we’re no longer merely looking at voter participation as legitimating a sham but a definition attributed to Albert Einstein:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
(1) Obama could end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as commander-in-chief, in practice if not through legislation. But his Justice Department is defending it against a REPUBLICAN challenge.
(2) Obama didn’t have to cut a pre-election deal with the healthcare industry precluding bargaining over drug prices, imports from Canada, and a public option.
(3) Obama could close Guantanamo as commander-in-chief.
(4) Obama could renounce George Bush’s claim on dictatorial presidential powers, including assassination of American citizens, rather than extending them.
(5) Obama could order his Justice Department to prosecute Bush era war criminals.
(6) Obama could end the war in Afghanistan as commander-in-chief, ending the slaughter of wedding parties.
(7) Obama could use his powers to make recess appointments to give progressives such as Dawn Johnsen a foothold in his administration.
(8) Obama could end the Catfood Commission he insisted on after it was REJECTED by Congress.
(9) Obama could simply veto any extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, rather than pointedly refusing to promise to do.
(10) Obama could use the bully pulpit for so many causes, rather than cower in front of a Congress that has 59 senators.
My fingers grow weary, but others could add to this list.
At this point, it should be painfully obvious that voting for Democrats or Republicans means support for Republican policies. And voting for Republicans might at least mean they won’t seek power through a coup, a possibility which was arguably realized in passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and which I’ve worried about here, here, here, here, and here.
To vote Republican out of fear of a coup reifies the coup. To vote Democratic enables Democrats to continue to take progressive votes for granted. If one must vote, therefore, the only acceptable choice is a third party, such as (in California) the Peace and Freedom Party or the Green Party. It is essential to not further legitimate the two-party system or an electoral system corrupted by corporations where corporate media determine which candidates are “credible.”