Elections & Voting
Elections matter, or do they?
By Nick Egnatz
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 28, 2009, 00:23

As the U.S. Empire, now under President Obama, continues the Bush agenda, many question where is the peace/antiwar movement?

While many of us continue to soldier on with regular demonstrations, there is no doubt that the ranks have been thinned since Obama�s election. Hypnotized by the siren song of hope and change from a masterful public speaker, millions enthusiastically followed this Pied Piper to the polls. Waking now with a hangover, it is ever so difficult to confront the reality that there is no significant difference between our two corporate political parties.

How many of the faithful:

  • Expected Obama to champion �health insurance reform� which would actually increase the insurance companies� already obscene profits by requiring everyone to purchase from them?

  • Expected Obama to require these purchases (only some of which would be subsidized by the government) to take effect in four years? Meanwhile, 180,000 Americans will die for lack of health insurance. This according to the just released Harvard Medical School Study that currently 45,000 (up from the 2002 estimate of 18,000) are dying each year from treatable illnesses after not seeking help because of lack of insurance.

  • Expected Obama to continue the Iraq war and occupation under the Bush timetable (Status of Forces Agreement, neither ratified by the U.S. Senate nor approved in referendum by the Iraqi people)?

  • Expected Obama to escalate the immoral, illegal, unwinnable, �good war� in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

  • Expected Obama to continue the so-called �free trade� agreements which have led to massive job losses in the U.S. and devastated foreign economies alike?

  • Expected Obama to shirk his constitutional duty as chief executive by refusing to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute, as required by treaty and the Constitution, the war crimes of initiating wars of aggression and torture; thus becoming complicit in the crimes himself?
  • Expected Obama to allow the Federal Reserve to advance and guarantee the criminal Wall Street banks responsible for the financial meltdown another $12 trillion of the American peoples� money in addition to the $850 billion voted by Congress? While the Fed refuses to accurately give an accounting, the best estimate is $10,000 paid upfront for every man, woman and child in the country, with another $32,000 guaranteed.

  • Expected Obama to jettison the card check provision in the proposed Employee Free Choice Act promised to organized labor?

Since our youth, we have been schooled to believe that elections matter. But do they? Every election cycle we are told that this is the most important election in our history. If we let the bad guys from the other party get in, we are certainly doomed. So we rally around the hopes and aspirations we think our candidate stands for. Then we are jolted awake with the hangover when we discover that he�s just doing basically the same thing the guy from the other party was doing.

Both corporate parties support:

  • War over peace

  • Torture over humane treatment

  • A separate rule of law for government officials and the rest of Americans

  • Free trade over fair trade

  • Overseas sweatshops over American jobs

  • Corporate for-profit healthcare insurance over non-profit government paid healthcare for all

  • Subsidizing Wall Street capitalists while American workers are unemployed, underemployed, foreclosed and overwhelmed with debt brought on by the post 1980 decline in real wages for the working class, while the wealthy were raking in record incomes.

Capitalism by its nature creates progressively greater and greater inequality. From 1980-2000 we had a 40 percent increase in productivity in the U.S., yet we saw real wages adjusted for inflation decline. Of course, while this was going on those at the top more than doubled their wealth, as we saw average CEO pay go from 20 times that of an average worker in 1965 to 485 times the average worker�s in 2000. Now the wealthiest 1 percent in the U.S. has as much financial wealth as the bottom 95 percent!

Any attempt to justify continuing the basic inequality of capitalism must address these pathetic outcomes. How is it possible to have a functioning democracy with such gross inequality? Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, �We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. We cannot have both.�

In this elite capitalist system, the people are helpless. Many get excited about changing things through the electoral process. We have been told since infancy that elections matter, this is a democracy and we have a duty to vote. But every election cycle we are served up on a platter pre-selected candidates already vetted by the wealthy elite. Obama became a legitimate candidate when the first fundraising totals were announced and he was leading the pack. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton was right up with Obama and John Edwards, while significantly behind the two front runners, had enough funds to be considered viable.

All others were immediately discounted by the media as minor candidates and never given serious consideration for any views they may have entertained outside the accepted Establishment box. Candidate Dennis Kucinich who advocated immediately ending the wars, government single-payer healthcare for all Americans, changing free trade agreements to fair trade, and an end to bank bailouts was not a �serious� candidate. Why? Because he did not have corporate funding, yet the American people were more and more progressively agreeing with the Kucinich positions. Only allowed by the media and corporate parties to appear in the early debates, he was ridiculed with questions about UFOs.

Obama was the perfect candidate for the capitalist establishment, a �rags to riches� story and a candidate of color unlike any other black candidate who preceded him. Raised in humble white society, he was non-threatening to the majority of the white population. Not because he was half-white, but because he was selling the American dream that capitalism allows anyone to be fabulously successful. Blacks, on the other hand, were not immediately comfortable with him. Perhaps, their primary concerns were with the other 300 million Americans, not so fabulously successful.

Clinton, with strong ties to the black Democratic political community from her husband�s presidency, had the support of black pols and many in the black community. Skin color trumps quite a bit and Obama utilizing his superb oratorical skills was able to win over the black vote. Meanwhile, Wall Street and corporate America couldn�t have been happier. Obama could inspire and drive the vote without compromising capitalism. America�s voters, many with both tears and stars in their eyes, went to the polls believing that their knight in shining armor actually wanted to change the basic injustice of American capitalistic society.

While the people are helpless in the elite capitalist system, they are not so if they step outside the system. Whatever gains the labor movement made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came about by the workers stepping outside the system demanding change. Those who are quick to derogatorily use the term socialist, should remember that the leaders of this labor movement were socialists and most of us would be working 70 hour weeks and making $2 a day if all those brave workers of a century ago had not stood for social justice. When the labor movement became part of the system, it lost its vitality and as a result has seen both its numbers and influence shrink to relative insignificance.

The same loss of vitality took place when the Grange Movement, Farmers Alliance and Populist Party of the late 19th and early 20th Century decided to work within the elite capitalist system.

Orator Mary Ellen Lease speaking to the 1890 National Populist Party Convention in Topeka, Kansas is surreally prescience as her words ring just as true in 2009: �Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street . . . Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags . . . when 10,000 little children starve to death every year in the U.S. and over 100,000 shop girls in New York are forced to sell their virtue for bread.

�There are thirty men in the United States whose aggregate wealth is over one and one-half billion dollars. There are half a million looking for work . . . We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the accursed foreclosure system wiped out . . . We will stand by our homes and stay by our firesides by force if necessary, and we will not pay our debts to the loan-shark companies until the Government pays its debts to us.

�The people are at bay, the bloodhounds of money who have dogged us thus far beware.�

It�s a rigged game. I�ve played a fair amount of poker in my time and know a crooked game when I see it. Elite capitalism with two-party electoral politics is such a game. Addicted gamblers continue to play because it is the only game in town. We all need to take the pledge and just say no.

�Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.� --Helen Keller

Participating in elections only gives the system credibility and a sense of legitimacy. Stand up and say no to two-party, corporate controlled and funded elections. Stand up and say no to two-party, corporate controlled media. Antonio Gramsci wrote his Prison Notebook from a Mussolini jail. He told us that elite domination of the working class only becomes complete or hegemony when the domination is consensual. Voting for capitalist candidates that represent corporate interests and not the peoples gives the system legitimacy. Withhold your consent and tell them about it. Send your congressperson, senators and president a �Dear John� letter of why you refuse to participate in their rigged system. Send the same letter to newspapers and online sites. Stand on a street corner with a megaphone and let the public know what you think of the monstrous system that is U.S. elite capitalism. Others will join you.

For those at the top and those at the bottom; the Wall Street hedge fund honchos and the unemployed, underemployed, part time, foreclosed working class a special message from a timeless source:

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what�s wrong and what�s right;
But when asked how �bout something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet

You will eat, bye and bye,

In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You�ll get pie in the sky when you die . . .

Workingmen of all countries, unite

Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we�ll sing this refrain

You will eat, bye and bye,

When you�ve learned how to cook and how to fry;
Chop some wood, �twill do you good
Then you�ll eat in the sweet bye and bye

Swedish immigrant Joe Hill was a socialist and member of the International Workers of the World (Wobblies). He lived on hay, wrote and sang songs as he travelled the country advocating social justice for workers. He was executed in Salt Lake City, Utah, after a trumped up murder conviction. He was 36. Thirty thousand working people turned out for his funeral procession in Chicago. His last message from jail: �Don�t mourn, organize.� The above words are from his song �Preacher and the Slave� and sung to the tune of �Sweet Bye and Bye.� He was cremated and everyday Americans took his ashes and scattered them in every state of the Union, except Utah.

�If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing . . . Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.� --Frederick Douglass

Nick Egnatz of Munster, Indiana, is a Vietnam veteran and member of Veterans For Peace. He has been actively protesting our government�s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named �Citizen of the Year� for Northwest Indiana in 2006 by the National Association of Social Workers for his peace activism.

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