You've been radically misled to believe that the only thing, or the most important thing, or one of the super important things you can do is vote. Voting in a functioning democracy would be a fairly important thing to do, but wouldn't somehow eliminate the thousands of important things that would also need doing. Voting in a broken democracy is a mildly important thing to do, for the reasons you know by heart, but also for this reason: Seeing so many people so eager to do something alerts everyone else to the fact that you give a damn.
"I've been waiting two years to do something!" This remark, common on Tuesday, must sound joyous to many ears. But if you study history and notice that change comes primarily from organizing, educating, protesting, marching, disrupting, disobeying, and creating things anew, and if you've spent the past many years trying to get more people to do those things, then all the "All I can do is vote, oh helpless me" comments may have you pulling your hair out.
There are circumstances in which you can do very little. We are moving in that direction. But we are not there. We are still able to speak, write, assemble, and agitate -- and vote. I have to think that more of us would do more if we recognized the gravity of the situation. The planet's climate can no longer be saved, but the agony can be slowed and eased. Nuclear apocalypse is closer than ever before, but can be averted. Fascism can be undone, but not without actions that extend far beyond voting.
I'm not against elections. I think we should have one someday, with no private money, with no corporate media, with no gerrymandering, with fair ballot and debate and media access and public financing, with substantive platforms, with hand-counted paper ballots, with election day holiday and free food and drink, with instant runoff, with automatic registration -- elections meeting world standards. In fact, if I had my druthers, we'd abolish the Senate, enlarge the House, govern largely by public initiative, turn the president into an executive, lower the voting age, abolish the electoral college, and so forth. But even with the broken system we've got, I'm not against voting. I'm against imagining that voting is all you have to do, and that because somebody sticks an "I voted!" flag sticker on you, your country loves you and everything is going to be OK.
Your country is sending its military to the border to protect you from poor children hundreds of miles away who were made homeless with help from your country, because your country loves you. Well, not your country exactly, but the patriots in charge of it. They love you, although they would kill you in a heart beat.
Remember when your government proposed to kill you in Operation Northwoods? It was similar to the actual effort to kill you in Operation Tailwind, which had something in common with Operation Dick, as well as Operation Constitutional Scholar, not to mention the delaying of the end of WWII in order to use nukes, including on Hiroshima where captured U.S. pilots were killed alongside hundreds of thousands of mere non-Americans. Your country spends the majority of the money it makes decisions on each year on an enterprise that it knows endangers you. Its name is militarism. Its participants are killed first and foremost by suicide. They are your government killing itself.
Your country is first in the world in a number of things, including environmental destruction of various sorts, in which the U.S. military takes the lead; locking people up in prisons; and the most disastrous policies in the wealthy world on guns, healthcare, poverty, etc. If your country isn't killing you quickly, it is doing so slowly; in other countries people live longer. Please don't imagine that you have to defend this atrocity because you created it. You didn't. You let it happen. But it is run by an oligarchy that we just go on year after year pretending is a democracy or a republic.
Congress has long since marginalized itself. Nobody even thinks to expect Congress to halt an attack on starving children from Honduras, not because nobody cares, but because it's Congress, which its biggest fans and its own members admit has basically shut down.
So, I don't object to one day spent on an unaccountable voting system, choosing this or that generic platform-free candidate. I don't mind people getting their chance to vote against a president without the bother of having a second presidential candidate on the ballot whom they'd like to vote against as well. But don't imagine it's a substitute for impeachment. Don't imagine it's a fill in for nonviolent revolution. Don't imagine that in this bus careening toward a cliff, it's more than a change of windshield wipers.
When it's done, we should all be curious -- better late than never -- to find out what the people elected intend to do and what we can compel them to do instead. Here are some questions I think we should pose to them:
- What would you like the U.S. discretionary budget to look like? With 60% now going to militarism, what percentage would you like that to be?
- What program of economic conversion to peaceful enterprises would you support?
- Would you end, continue, or escalate U.S. war making in: Afghanistan? Iraq? Syria? Yemen? Pakistan? Libya? Somalia?
- Would you end the exemption for militarism in Kyoto, Paris, and other climate agreements?
- Would you sign / ratify any of these treaties: Paris Climate Agreement? Convention on the Rights of the Child? International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights? International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights optional protocols? Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women? Convention Against Torture optional protocol? International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families? International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance? The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities? International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries? Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court? Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Convention on Cluster Munitions? Land Mines Convention? Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Proposed treaties banning the weaponization of space and banning cyber crimes?
- Would you halt or continue expenditures on the production and so-called modernization of nuclear weapons?
- Would you end weapons sales and the provision of military training to any governments? Which?
- Would you close any foreign bases? Which?
- Would you halt or continue the practice of murder by missiles from drones?
- Do you recognize the ban on war, with exceptions, contained in the United Nations Charter? And the ban on threatening war?
- Do you recognize the ban on war, without exceptions, contained in the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
- Will you end discriminatory bans on immigrants?
- Should actual, non-military, no-strings-attached foreign aid be eliminated, reduced, maintained, or increased? How much?
- 84% of South Koreans want the war ended immediately. Should the United States block that?
- Should NATO be maintained or abolished?
- Should the CIA be maintained or abolished?
- Should the ROTC be maintained or abolished?
- Should domestic police forces be trained by, collaborate with, and be armed by militaries?
- Should the U.S. military pay sports leagues, secretly or openly, to celebrate militarism?
- How large should the U.S. military's advertising budget be, and how much should the U.S. government spend promoting the concepts of nonviolent dispute resolution and the abolition of war?
- Will you keep the United States in the INF Treaty?
- Will you impeach and remove Trump and Pence?
I'm sure you can think of dozens more concrete questions on various topics never asked or at least never answered during the election campaigns. They might include the election reform measures mentioned above. Remember that the way you use elections is not by electing people but by achieving the credible ability to unelect people.
Now, let's get to work. There are thousands of great local, national, and global organizations that you should consider at least as important as any electoral candidate. Here are two I work for and recommend. Here is a tiny fraction of the powerful tools waiting to be picked up and put to use. Like all tools, they can be ignored or put to harmful use. Putting them to good use, together, strategically, is our only path out of catastrophe. I quote:
THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions
Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
17. Mock elections