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Voting Green in a Swing State

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If Romney is elected, he will re-empower neocons and serve the interests of the national security state with (perhaps) greater zeal than Obama would, but with this difference: his every move will be scrutinized and hampered by a determined opposition. Also if Romney is elected, he will try to privatize Social Security and Medicare and transfer even what little remains of the nation's wealth to the oligarchs--but he will face the same wall of opposition that stymied Bush on these issues. Obama, on the other hand, can continue to negotiate away Social Security and Medicare and progressive taxation and face only whimpers from his own base. Romney may nominate a justice likely to reverse Roe v. Wade, but it would be with the certain knowledge he was engendering an electoral tsunami against Republicans that would last a generation, if not forever. Obama will nominate another corporatist jurist certain to further indenture flesh-and-blood citizens to their corporate-citizen betters, and pay no political price. From the bank bailouts to climate change to Israel/Palestine to the Patriot Act--one could go on for pages, and the story would in every case be the same.

This dynamic at work in American politics is now evident even to the willfully blinkered. It is a dynamic that will not change if Obama is re-elected with solid liberal support. Why would it? It will also not change if Romney eeks out a victory despite solid support for Obama, because whatever new reactionary or militaristic policies Romney succeeds in perpetrating will be loudly condemned by the next Democratic presidential candidate, who, if elected, will then adopt them.

The only point of leverage is here: whether Obama wins or loses, if progressive third party candidates get enough support to scuttle the Democrat in a close race, change is possible. This is not wishful thinking, but an empirical observation. Every successful progressive movement in our history has illuminated this path to change. Politicians are not ideologues but pragmatists. They need your vote to get elected. If you deny it to them, the next one will learn to whistle your tune.

The partisan argument for progessives to hold their nose with one hand and vote for Obama with the other is thus refuted, but the larger point introduced above bears emphasis.

As I have documented elsewhere9, the partisan duopoly disenfranchises the entire electorate, left, right, and center. The American people as a whole, irrespective of ideology, have been locked out of running their own country as the writers of the Constitution intended they would. The mechanism at its root is dead simple and works in exactly the same way on both "liberal" and "conservative" voters. You are offered two choices, each of whom has been carefully vetted by the owners and is dedicated to serving elite interests. You are then pursuaded that one of them is bad and must be voted against.

This is not to say that there aren't real issues between the two; on the contrary, without the presence and validity of such issues the trick wouldn't work. People aren't stupid. But from the point of view of those whose interests the elected candidate will first serve, those issues are of minor importance.

Once voters are pursuaded of the validity of a vote-against it only remains to ensure that the two political "sides" remain in approximate parity, a task ably handled by the corporate media in collusion with the parties themselves.

The only escape from this trap is to understand that the call of civic duty is a call to active participation (activism) in the political process. To those who answer such a call, voting-against doesn't even make sense, because it means giving up on one's own commitment to self-government. It is only when voting for the actual changes one wishes to see that it is rational to hope those changes will someday happen.

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As I have shown in my book The Good American: A Situation Report for Citizens, the real challenges facing America and the world are far more dire than most people realize, even those who make an effort to be informed. Unless Americans reclaim their government, and soon, we stand to lose everything; our democracy, our livelihoods, our liberty, and the ecological foundation of civilization. It will not require a wholesale conversion of the electorate to political activism. It only requires enough of us refusing to play the partisan game to break the duopoly's lockdown on political discourse. At that point the gates of the political arena are unlocked, and the course of the nation can once more become subject to the will of the people.

My vote for Jill Stein in swing-state Virginia isn't a protest vote, it isn't an angry vote, and it isn't elitist. It is a well-informed vote for the political agenda I think is best for my country. The United States of America is (or can be) a Jeffersonian democracy, and I am a citizen. Casting this vote is my civic responsibility. What's yours?


1. Michael Eric Dyson

2. Rebecca Solnit

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5. It is formally valid by disjunctive syllogism (modus tollendo ponens): ((O or R) and notR) implies O.

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B. Sidney Smith is a recovering math professor, gardener, and creative loafer living near Appomattox, Virginia. His autobio, curriculum vitae, favorite recipes, and much more besides can be found on his website,

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The topic of this article differs from most in the... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 6:05:15 AM
Plus, you have many mistakes in assessing the situ... by BFalcon on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 10:54:32 PM
It is the only way to make the system work because... by B. Sidney Smith on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 2:03:57 AM
For improvement, not some abstract ideal candidate... by BFalcon on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 2:14:47 AM
And rome didn't crumble in a day.Little by little ... by kappie on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 10:06:09 AM
True Stein can't win, but  Green congressper... by Arthur M. Howard-(Scotoni) on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 2:49:12 AM
Liberties lost are seldom regained without force o... by John Reed on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 6:20:26 AM
I disagree with the premise. I do not believe Romn... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 9:05:47 AM
Anyone who votes for a murderer, liar, thief, need... by Daniel Geery on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 1:03:44 PM
"the people retain a breathtaking power: they can ... by Laura Stein on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 1:36:06 PM
Those in charge of the present system are unscrupu... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 2:32:03 PM
and informing others about what is at stake?? Or ... by Laura Stein on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 7:48:00 AM
I did not mean to suggest that I thought you were ... by B. Sidney Smith on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 9:47:25 AM
If the use of nuclear terror as a practical deploy... by Michael Daly, artist on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 8:50:17 PM
Let's face it, Democratic presidents feel the need... by Rob Kall on Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012 at 10:13:45 AM
@John Reed:   Any vote is a kill vote. &nb... by Ned Lud on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 6:46:36 AM
@B. Sidney Smith:   Do you find any corresp... by Ned Lud on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 6:52:48 AM
You didn't actually take the time to refute any of... by Leftcoast7 on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 2:46:03 PM
reply to Michael Sumner:   Hi Mike (can I c... by Ned Lud on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 5:48:13 PM
.................Mr. Smith, along with those you h... by Robert P. Philipps on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 6:14:23 PM
The current trajectory is indeed alarming. All we ... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 8:29:36 PM
, B. Sidney.  Some good comments, too.  ... by j dial on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 7:09:39 PM
Mr. Silbur expresses well what so many of us feel,... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 8:39:32 PM
Finally, I have found someone who thinks like I do... by Michael McIlwain on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 7:57:59 PM
I'm a Christian too, as it happens. The Christian ... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 8:58:47 PM
I'm a supporter of the Occupy movement and Green P... by Michael Daly, artist on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 8:35:14 PM
Not just Ellsburg, but Greenwald and Chomsky have ... by B. Sidney Smith on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 9:20:07 PM
Before I let myself get intimidated here in the la... by Jennifer Sullivan on Friday, Oct 26, 2012 at 10:43:56 PM
A few things were omitted and need further conside... by Robert Cowen on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 6:47:05 AM
Robert, here is how this will play out. Obama will... by Shepherd Johnson on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 8:21:24 AM
As I argue in the article, the "acceleration" gene... by B. Sidney Smith on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 10:55:00 AM
Deja vu all over again?Many voted for Ralph Nader ... by Robert Cowen on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 5:28:45 PM
Great article Mr. Smith: I also live in Virginia a... by Nancy Lewis on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 7:41:14 AM
Thank you for writing this, Mr. Smith. Very though... by Susan Savia on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 8:44:01 AM
HOW can we get "enough of us refusing to play the... by Randy Moor on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 10:17:49 AM
It seems to me you are asking people to vote their... by B. Sidney Smith on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 11:01:05 AM
I'm talking about voting in ways that will most l... by Randy Moor on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 11:46:42 AM
We could debate history, but there isn't time. My ... by B. Sidney Smith on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 at 1:29:08 PM
I agree that we need to hold leaders' elections ho... by Randy Moor on Sunday, Oct 28, 2012 at 8:15:50 AM
I very much agree with your larger point, that con... by B. Sidney Smith on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 10:06:25 AM