Tag Archives: election

“An Open Letter to Nonvoters on the Left” by Ari Feld

Dear friends,

Representative democracy is not ideal. The Electoral College is faulty. The two party system stymies political innovation. Both Republicans and Democrats cozy up with dubious sources of funding. You are right to condemn the disingenuousness of politics— the unremitting hedging and double-talk, the pandering and outright silliness of both parties. You are wrong to believe that participation in electoral democracy legitimizes a hopelessly flawed system. Despite everything, voting remains the most powerful non-violent method of effective political action.

Voters elect the president. The president appoints Supreme Court justices and a host of other judges. Voters elect state and national representatives. These people work in concert (or conflict), with or without your permission, to arbitrate legal reality. Whether you like it or not, we are all subjects to their decisions. To say otherwise is foolish. To say that Democrats and Republicans pursue comparable domestic policies is a departure from reason. To say elections don’t affect you is, at best, to delude yourself. At worst, it disavows other people’s civil rights and empowers the most reactionary and destructive forces in our society.

Which political party advances women’s and minorities’ rights, gay rights, the rights of the poor, and sounder drug and environmental policies? In general, who does more of that, Democrats or Republicans? In the broadest strokes possible, which of these parties and their judicial appointees will enact and uphold laws to improve and protect the lives of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised citizens?

Your abstention facilitates Republican victories. I understand that you abstainers have personal convictions that make it difficult for you to vote for the Democrats. You certainly have a right to your conscience. Indeed, individual rights and freedoms are a cornerstone of our democracy. However, you take these precepts too far by elevating your desire to simply express them (by not voting) over seeking their full realization for all Americans. In other words, expressing your conscience comes at the expense of women’s access to safe, effective family planning services. Your conscience gets in the way of equal marriage rights for all. Your conscience has far less to struggle with than single mothers denied vital social services by Republican policies. Your conscience is of no avail to citizens imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses. Your conscience is merely self-righteous.

Self-righteousness disguised as conscience or personal conviction is the worst kind of American individualism. There are convictions and then there is trenchant unwillingness to acknowledge any reality beyond the frontiers of your own experience or circumstance. That is solipsism, not a conviction. Citizens of a democracy have a responsibility to share struggles that are not their own. This admonishment applies equally to those of you who would “vote your conscience” by supporting unelectable independents. Until you have succeeded in implementing instant run-off voting in your community, or unless this nation becomes a parliamentary democracy, someone will be elected and it won’t be your candidate. Compromise is the reality of politics, except in totalitarian states.

Progressive and radical citizens who refuse to compromise elicit comparison with the Tea Party and their debt-limit intransigence last year. Their refusal exemplifies the most anti-intellectual strain of American politics. But to say that I am arguing for all of us on the left to fall in with a party line is to utterly miss the point: we need votes not for the sake of Obama and the Democrats but for the sake of the most vulnerable people— women, children and the elderly—who will benefit from their policies.

Voters defer to reality. We shape it. We criticize and castigate. We honor those who are maimed and killed fighting for this right. We remember that not so long ago women and African-Americans in this country struggled in this way. Nonvoters must certainly remember such history as well. Perhaps today’s struggles seem less dire. Perhaps current candidates fail to excite you.

Make no mistake, the Democrats may be nothing to get excited about this year. Who cares if you’re excited? Your excitement is of great concern to no one (except possibly to you, which in itself is a luxury). The unemployed, the marginalized and unprivileged know that reality dictates acting for reasons other than excitement. Least-worst choices are all we have for the moment. There is no time to transform America during a presidential election. To say it another way, there is no time to re-make America in your own image this year. That’s what every other year is for. Realistically, though, all I hope for is a defense and perhaps a gradual advance of progressive domestic policy. It seems that only non-voters have lower aspirations.

Indeed, what are the politics of inaction? What do you hope to rectify with your power of inertia? What is the message of civil discourse that says nothing at the national level? Before you opt out, think about what’s at stake. And remember your awesome power: nonvoters make up a greater part of the potential electorate than either Democrats or Republicans and almost as much as both of them combined. If you persist in your abstention, you persist in subservience to a ruling elite: voters.

Sincerely,

Ari Feld

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A million people can blog it but I can blog it worse.

I voted Friday.

I chose the candidate who is marginally more popular in America and exponentially more popular abroad. The one whose death would not suddenly thrust the presidency into enormously incompetent hands. The one less inclined to be at war. The one with the cleaner campaign record. The one with an even temperament, who manages to keep himself from scowling. The one who doesn’t use the word eloquent as an insult. The one who will restore checks and balances to the federal government.

I also chose the one who broke his promise to stick to public financing.

I’m hopeful, nervous, all that. I’ll be glad for it to be over.

I’d also like for Nader to get his 5%. It would be good for democracy. It would make him less ignorable.

Liz showed me a YouTube video where celebs say “don’t vote,” then they say “vote.” It may have done some good. It came off as pretty smug. I hope Sasha Cohen watches it, sees how bad his contribution was, then dramatically sets a 100-pack of Borat staches ablaze in his backyard. This video is funnier.

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A couple months ago, I wrote something topical.

It was about the election. Then I forgot about it for awhile. Then I remembered. Then I considered adding some stuff about Palin and pitbulls and all that Rich Comedic Material. Then I didn’t. Here it is!

Grandad Remembers the 2008 Presidential Election

Now Adam, you’re going to want to start your history report with some context to give your reader a sense of the political climate back then.

The election was a big one, since this was going to be the president that followed Bush II. Now if you recall, he’s the one that got himself elected because the Florida governor, Chad Bush, allowed the use of Opposite Day Ballots. But after folks cast their votes for the opposite of the one they wanted, Chad Bush told them he was just kidding about it being Opposite Day. Everybody agreed it was a funny joke, including the Supreme Court, who thought it was so funny that they said, “Oh tell you what, we’ll just make it easier on everyone and decide who is president.”

The day after inauguration was 9/11, which was an event in which terrorists mailed an American flag to each citizen and told us they’d bomb us if we didn’t wave them from our cars. And then the next day we went to war with Smoking Crater IV, then known as Iraq.

And then in 2004, Bush II stayed president. I forget what he was running against, an inanimate object of some kind. Pretty sure it was a loaf—yes—a loaf of bread. And one thing that happened during that time: a young senator, Tupac Obama, got up at the convention and gave a speech about the loaf that made us Democrats go, “Whoa baby now, maybe we should’ve nominated a person after all.”

The Iraq war was still going on in 2008 in which millions of US troops died and I think a couple dozen Iraqis died too. And at home Bush II was flying around the country, personally bombing abortion clinics and building megachurches in their places, and then, in the summertime, drilling endangered animals for oil.

Now I seem to recall that the 2008 primary began around November of 2004. All of America watched, discussed, analyzed political strategies like they were plays in a football game. It was fun for us. It felt like it mattered. There were all kinds of crazy characters—a famous actor, a porn star, Gary Coleman, even a minister! Billy Graham was the minister’s name and he had the funniest commercial with him and Burt Reynolds trading lines where Billy Graham would say, “Burt Reynolds’ tears cure AIDS” and then Burt Reynolds would say, “Billy Graham is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.” But this guy John McBain won the Republican nomination because he’d spent a couple weeks in an ACLU camp.

And then on the Democrat side, there was Hillary Clinton who ran a campaign platform of, “I should be president because I already was president, sort of.” And then there was Obama who nobody thought would win, but his superpower was hypnosis, and every time he asked a rich person for a campaign donation, they shelled out. And his campaign slogan was, “Remember when I gave that great speech?” and then he switched it to “Hoping for Change in a Hopefully Changing World,” and people liked those words.

That primary lasted over three years and Clinton and Obama got as mean as they could be without hitting each other. Clinton would say, “Mr. Obama is a worthless prick who would make a fine Vice President,” and Obama would counter, “Mrs. Clinton is bitch whom I greatly admire. She’s running a great race.” And then Obama’s minister, Jesse James, said some things about how it was cool to be racist, in a way, and Obama gave a speech about how it’s actually not cool but racism is complicated, and it was such a good speech that he started running with the slogan, “That’s two amazing speeches now.” And then Clinton had her own scandal when her husband got drunk and made a YouTube video challenging Obama to a fistfight. And, uh, she lost in a really slow and anticlimactic way, and she kept saying that she was still running when she wasn’t, exactly. I don’t know. Look it up if you can. Has wikipedia been blocked?

Here’s the part I remember clearly, though. A little while after the primaries, some time around late September of 2008, all of Americas simultaneously stopped caring. Myself included. When election coverage came on the TV, people changed the channel. Many cancelled their newspaper subscriptions. Internet news outlets had to post election coverage next photos of naked people to get any hits at all. So they adapted, gave up covering the campaigns altogether. Obama and McBain continued to give speeches, but the rallies were sparsely attended and only covered on CSPAN.

It was burnout, Adam. The kind of political engagement that Americans showed throughout the years of primary was just not sustainable through the general election. We thought we’d rally come November, but just—I don’t know—didn’t. The number of votes was, I believe, in the hundreds. The Supreme Court said that wasn’t enough to elect either candidate, called off the election, and told Bush II to keep his job another four years or so. He accepted. And I guess he figured he could do what he wanted and declared war on Iran, Syria, North Korea… uh, some others. Nine in total.

You’ll want to conclude this report the usual way, Adam, which is to quickly muse that it’s good that history played itself out the way it did so that the American Empire could be taken under the mighty nurturing wing of Mother China. That way our family won’t disappear in the night. But I don’t need to tell you to do that, do I?

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