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Progressive Civil Disobedience

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Try to suppress your initial, gut reactions and let the following ideas sink in.

We tend to think of exercising power through the application of force or by strong overt action. Another, perhaps more Eastern, way of seeing power is through withholding something or through denial. For effective patriotic behavior today we must deny the corrupt political and economic system of what it wants from us our participation. Through denial we can remove credibility and legitimacy and open opportunities for fundamental change that no exercise of traditional raw power can achieve. Populist power is the goal.

What the loose and fragmented progressive movement in this country needs is a broad strategy to actually accomplish something other than talking, writing and complaining. I propose the application of civil disobedience to fit our times and needs. We can learn from the pioneering thinking and actions of great revolutionaries.

From Henry David Thoreau we must learn that we do not have to physically fight the government if we think it no longer gives us a trustworthy representative democracy, but instead not support it in ways that give it legitimacy and empower it to serve the interests of political and economic elites rather than working- and middle-class Americans.

Mahatma Gandhi said "Civil disobedience is the inherent right of a citizen to be civil, implies discipline, thought, care, attention and sacrifice." This is asking a lot of Americans that to an incredible extent have become actually have been conditioned and trained to become disengaged from civic life and responsibility, and too consumed with materialistic consumption to fully comprehend the many ways their democracy and economic system no longer serve their interests. Their democracy has let them down, and they have let their democracy down. It gives little satisfaction to say that the public has gotten the government it deserves. A great many of us know that we have not gotten the government we deserve. But what are we to do?

From Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement we must learn that although great rhetoric is important in building public support, people must take concrete actions to reveal and oppose evil forces in our society. It seems impractical today, however, to expect large numbers of people to break laws and suffer the consequences of police brutality and imprisonment. Or to think that doing so is sufficient to overturn our corrupt political system. Such violent protest is more likely to hasten the path to a police state.

I propose two forms of civil disobedience that suit these times and the nature of the political and economic repressive forces that now reign supreme in America.

On the political front, no restoration of American democracy is possible until we break the stranglehold of the corrupt two-party duopoly. What I like to call the Democraps and Republicrooks have been irreversibly corrupted by money from corporate and other special interests, creating a MISrepresentative democracy that no longer serves public interests. By marginalizing third parties the range and quality of political discourse in our nation have been terribly eroded. Nor has our mainstream media performed its vital function to safeguard our democracy, because like the political system they too have been corrupted by corporate interests.
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It has become rational for many thoughtful people to not vote at all, while many others have become lesser-evil voters out of desperation. Lesser-evil voting sustains the two-party duopoly and, at best, produces cosmetic change, while not touching underlying root problems. Only a tiny fraction of the electorate is committed to minor political parties, too few to create any competing party nationally and with very few exceptions even locally.

My first proposed act of progressive civil disobedience is for all Americans to NOT vote in any election for either Democraps or Republicrooks. You are likely among the many who vehemently hate the Bush regime. And so proposing that you NOT vote for Democraps this November will at first seem ludicrous. But with deeper reflection, you just may come to see that for obtaining major political change it would help to NOT vote for Democraps.

The goal is to sharply reduce the already low voter turnout figures in all elections, but especially presidential elections, to such low figures that the government visibly has little legitimacy as a representative democracy that is accountable to the will of the people. Legitimacy of the American government is rarely discussed, at least here in America. But it is exactly the loss of legitimacy worldwide that has risen in recent years. What we need to do is shove the legitimacy of our democracy off the cliff and by doing so open our political arena to truly bold, new independent thinkers and leaders. To rescue and restore our currently sick democracy we must first de-legitimize it.

The objective of such non-voting civil disobedience is not to abdicate our responsibility, but take our civic responsibility to a higher level. We must exercise power by withholding our votes from a system that no longer deserves our votes. In this way we can demand and receive a host of political and policy reforms that reenergizes and restores our democracy. Most important are reforms to greatly balance or really offset the power of elected representatives with much greater participatory and direct democracy by we the sovereign people. Such reforms must also open up the political system to third parties and eliminate the corrupting influence of money from corporate and other special interests.

The best way to NOT waste your vote is to NOT vote for candidates from both major parties. Stop being enablers of a fraudulent government.
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The second part of the strategy is on the economic front where class warfare is being waged. It is necessary to stop a number of destructive forces that manipulate the economy, penalizing the vast majority of Americans through their consumer spending while making the rich richer. Worsening economic inequality makes economic slaves out of working- and middle-class Americans. The system has been rigged by an alignment of political and economic elites and is rapidly creating a two-class system. The middle class is being attacked and steadily destroyed. The Upper Class through globalization, outsourcing, illegal immigration, union busting and other tactics is creating a large Lower Class of the working poor. The necessary progressive act of civil disobedience is the conversion of consumer spending power into political power.

This can be accomplished by motivating millions of Americans to suspend their discretionary spending for critical times to achieve specific political and economic concessions from the plutocratic Ruling Class. Many millions of successful Americans are incredibly discontent with our political and economic system and every week they collectively spend enormous sums of money on big and little things and activities that truly are unnecessary. Such discretionary spending has become habitual and addictive.

Some 70 percent of the American economy is driven by consumer spending that now works against the interests of non-wealthy Americans. We need national "buycotts" that require no formal membership in organizations, but merely voluntary spending reductions. They can be coordinated by widespread messages from many progressive groups, especially Internet sites. Sharp, sustained reductions in consumer spending can compel the Ruling Class to grant concessions. Even the rich want to maintain a vibrant economy to safeguard their wealth and living style. In reality, if American consumers use their inherent spending power they have the power to bring the entire global economic system down. The plutocracy knows this and that is why they always emphasize maintaining "consumer confidence." At critical times the power elites manipulate events to maintain consumer borrowing and spending, such as the recent steep cuts in gas prices and stock market highs. Fiscal and monetary policies are also used to maintain abundant borrowing and spending.

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Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. His current political writings have been greatly influenced by working as a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress and for the (more...)
 

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In addition to cable TV, what other industries sho... by Amanda Butler on Monday, Oct 16, 2006 at 2:37:31 PM
First, as to consumer debt, the facts should depre... by Joel S. Hirschhorn on Monday, Oct 16, 2006 at 3:44:27 PM
If ten million cable TV subscribers wanted Bush an... by Mark E. Smith on Sunday, Oct 15, 2006 at 4:46:32 AM
Thanks for your great ideas. Money is power. Cor... by Joel S. Hirschhorn on Sunday, Oct 15, 2006 at 11:40:20 AM