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Death By Election

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message David Swanson       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments

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There must be a Star Trek episode (if there's not, there should be) in which all the best minds in the leftist political opposition on some planet are diverted into an obsession with a virtual reality game, leaving all the right-wingers free to drive the planet into inevitable war and destruction. A game is a harmless thing when not put to such use. Elections are a fundamental pillar of democracy when not put to such use. That makes the case I want to argue all the more difficult. My thesis is that, if we do not change our thinking, elections are going to be the death of U.S. democracy.

How can that be? Without elections, there can be no democracy. And participating in elections is the principal, if not sole, duty of the citizens of a democracy. The health of our democracy can be measured by the wide range of candidate choices we've been offered. We've even got a woman and an African American. What in the world can you be talking about?

Well, I would make a slight modification to one of the claims above: Without HONEST AND CREDIBLE elections, there can be no democracy. We have not had anything approaching those in the past 8 years, and we have left in place a system that will deny us those again in November 2008: Citizens who are busy working to create a credible election system in certain states, and perhaps someday in the entire United States, are doing crucial work. They should be encouraged, joined, and supported.

I would make another slight modification: Without honest and credible elections and an INFORMED ELECTORATE, there can be no democracy. The corporate media that dominates the U.S. information system does not provide useful electoral information. While we are developing an independent, web-based, and radio communications system, much of that system currently, voluntarily, and self-destructively submits to the frames of the corporate media, serving as critic rather than educator, boosting cynicism rather than participation. Leftists, liberals, and progressives, and those who share their views but run in fear from their names, have more than enough money to create honest democratic television news. In fact, every election cycle, we dump that much money into election advertising that funds the destructive corporate media. It's as if we're hooked on the game and keep feeding it quarters without stopping to think.

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I could go on modifying the claim about elections to rule out systems that have legalized massive bribery, imposed undemocratic primaries, locked out new parties and movements, developed election seasons that last from one election to the next, or in the immediate instance already weeded out any truly decent candidates. (Yes, you should vote for Kucinich. Yes, you should believe anything is possible. But you're going up against the televised voices in everyone's heads.)

Well, what are we supposed to do, ignore elections until we can fix them? That'll just get us more elected officials less likely to fix them, won't it?

That depends. Certainly focusing on the elections will do that, given that the elections are now routinely stolen. And I wouldn't want you to ignore elections in order to watch football. I would ask you to ignore elections in order to fix the election system now and in order to fix other pressing problems that you don't need elections to fix. I would modify this claim:

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"And participating in elections is the principal, if not sole, duty of the citizens of a democracy."

to read:

Participating in honest, credible, informed elections is one of the LESS IMPORTANT of the many necessary duties of the citizens of a democracy. Participating in non-credible elections is a DISTRACTION. Of course, in the current system, the primaries offer more real choices, less fraud, and many fewer voters than the general election. They also don't put anyone in office.

Have you ever noticed that the U.S. Constitution doesn't mention primaries? Or political parties? Or corporations? Or churches? It provides no right to vote. Instead, it mentions the freedoms to speak, to assemble, to publish news, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. And it goes on repeatedly, at some length, to establish the power of the people's representatives in the House of Representatives to hold an outlaw executive or judiciary in check through impeachment.

O.K. But how do we petition our government for a redress of grievances except by waiting until the next election and voting it out?

Is it possible we really have to be told this again? We do it by assembling, by speaking, by publishing news, and by drawing on the traditions of Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr., the tradition of suffragettes and labor, the lessons of abolitionists and populists. We resist injustice here and now through creative nonviolent action. In early January, the peace movement will announce a series of major actions in March 2008. Resistance to the new American policy of torture is planned for January 11: A growing list of members of the House Judiciary Committee is pushing for hearings to begin in January on Dick Cheney's impeachment: On January 26, we can join the world for World Social Forum events: On January 31, we can all help end global warming: On February 15, we can demand an end to the occupation of Iraq: By the time March comes around, we can build the activist culture needed to revive a democracy that is wilting under the heat of election madness.

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And not a moment too soon. Scientists agree that we have a limited number of years to reverse the current climate change, or we will be past the point of no return. The common acceptance that we must waste the next year before acting is evidence, I think, of greater self-destructive tendencies than ever surfaced during the Cold War. We do NOT have to wait another year. We have to impeach Cheney and Bush. We have to work at the state level. We have to work internationally. We have to educate and mobilize, pressure, resist, and sacrifice. The occupation of Iraq is worse every year. The attack on Iran is still a threat. Pakistan, a nation that really DOES have nuclear weapons, is in turmoil. And where is the so-called progressive online media? Where is the blogosphere? Why, it's got its nose so far up the ass of the November 2008 elections it can taste the inaugural champagne.

Is it really true that the health of our democracy can be measured by the wide range of candidate choices we've been offered? Take this 1-minute test, and then tell me if you still believe that:

How closely did any of the candidates come to agreeing with you? Did those who came closest fall into the category of corporate-acceptable "viability"? Why can't you find anything about this situation or any substantive reporting on candidates' positions at all? Because for some politics is a sport, and the fascination lies in the techniques and maneuvers, not in what it might mean for the world. For others, politics is a soap opera, an excuse to obsess over whether in the next episode Obama will take his shirt off or Giuliani's ex-wife's ex-husband will claim to have Hillary's child. Think I'm exaggerating? Not much.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)

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