Doubling-Down on Not Voting

I recently wrote a piece here and for OpEdNews entitled “Why I Won’t Vote in November.” It evoked passionate response from readers I greatly respect. They saw it as conceding the reelection of Donald Trump. It was an exercise, I was told, in elitism. It ignored the plight of children in cages at our border as well as Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. It overlooked what should be the main goal of progressives – the defeat of Donald J. Trump at all costs.

My point however was that the goal of defeating Donald Trump is indeed not enough. It won’t cure what’s wrong in America. And that’s because it’s the entire system we live under that must be replaced. It’s entirely corrupted. Democracy has already been all but exterminated in our country. And I deceive myself if I think otherwise.

The whole system (from the executive office to the Congress to the Supreme Court) is anti-worker, anti-people, and pro-corporation. It must be allowed to fall and be replaced. More specifically, the nation’s voting system is corrupt beyond recall, Democratic candidates (like Biden) are perennially pathetic – only marginally different from the Republicans – and Joe Biden epitomizes the pathos and systemic failure as few have before him. 

A Corrupt Voting System

Begin with the voting system.

They don’t even want us to vote! They’re quite clear about that. And I’m not just talking about the Republicans. No one – Republican or Democrat – is  taking serious steps towards eliminating the Electoral College, instituting public funding of all campaigns, creating a voting holiday, establishing same-day voting registration, eliminating hackable voting machines, or turning over the electoral process to a bi-partisan centralized commission to eliminate gerrymandering and ensure that the same rules apply to every state. That’s how bad it is.

As a result of all that, voting has become a complete sham. It contradicts the received wisdom insisting that “every vote counts.” That’s a lie. Look at all the electoral shenanigans in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere. The whole point is to remove partisan-threatening voters from the rosters. No wonder fewer than 60% of eligible voters participate. Consciously or unconsciously, the dropouts know the system’s rigged. They have no dog in the fight.

And let’s be clear, it’s not the “elites” that aren’t voting. It’s the poor, minorities, and working classes who long ago came to the conclusion that their votes don’t matter. To begin with, their ballots might not be counted. But even if they are, those elected won’t attend to the concerns of wage workers, the unemployed, homeless and uninsured.

Still, our overseers (and others) want to shame the rest of us into voting, even when the “lesser of two evils” brings us the same tired polices that serve no one but themselves and their rich employers. What I’m saying is that despite those efforts at shaming, I more and more see the point of working-class non-voters. And if nothing fundamental changes, I’m going to join them.

Perennially Weak Candidates

As for the position of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that my not voting equals a vote for Donald Trump. . . How about huge VOTE that the DNC itself has cast for Trump by its absurd choice of yet another milk toast candidate – this one far weaker than their last? She couldn’t beat Trump; so, how can he? He’s weaker than Hillary, Gore, Kerry, Dukakis, or Mondale. And how did those centrists work out for us? No, it’s the Democratic Party that’s voting for Donald Trump. They love Republican policies. In fact, they’d rather have Trump than Bernie Sanders. They are champions of the status quo.

That’s shown by the fact that their “victors” like Clinton and Obama came to represent nothing more than Republican Lite. What disappointments both of them turned out to be! Big promises followed by the same neo-liberalism, the same trickle-down nonsense, the same wars, the same destruction of the planet. Despite Obama’s slogan, there was no hope, no change.

It all makes me wonder why the Democratic Party keeps giving us such uninspiring, self-defeating choices? That’s on them. It’s on them for giving us a candidate this time who, even in the midst of the present pandemic, insists that he’d veto Medicare for All – which the majority of Americans desperately need. He’s also like Trump in wanting us all to go back to work even if it means that many will die as a result – for the sake of the economy and Wall Street profits. And don’t even talk about his positions on the Green New Deal, free college tuition, forgiveness of debt, or Social Security.

The Case of Joe Biden

In fact, have you ever heard Mr. Biden offer a single defining policy initiative of any kind? Even one? I haven’t.  And that’s because (Correct me if I’m wrong) he hasn’t given us any. His only claim is that he’s not Donald Trump. That’s it.

I’m asking then: do citizens deserve blame for perceiving that the fight is fixed in favor of the donor class of both parties? Both candidates are their champions not ours. So, are we blameworthy for realizing that we’ve seen this movie before? Should we be ashamed for demanding that Biden actually earn our votes – that he take action to convince voters that he’s worth voting for as someone other than a leering old man marginally nicer than the other imbecile?

In fact, Biden’s not that much better. Like Trump he’s a pathological liar. He’s also a worse mass murderer. Remember, Biden promoted the Iraq war. (It was no mistake. Anyone paying attention could see right through his justifications and those of Colin Powell.) That war has killed more than a million Iraqis. Even Trump hasn’t gone that far.

Moreover, the immigration policy Biden cooperated with was overseen by a president who quickly became known as the “Deporter-in-Chief.” Additionally, with the cooperation of the mass media, Biden has managed to evade addressing credible charges of sexual assault.

As I said, the system’s rigged. The Democratic Party is as bought-off as the Republicans. Neither the reigning system of political economy nor the Democratic Party is worth supporting. We’ve got to let them fall and be replaced. And the sooner we all realize that, the better.

Conclusion

Yes, I agree that it might make one feel heroic (in a quixotic sort of way) to pledge standing for hours in a driving rain to vote for a near corpse to save us all from Donald Trump. Still, those in soaking sneakers will surely know that their votes very literally might not count. And even if, by some miracle they do, voting for the geezer in question won’t significantly inhibit the inexorable process of climate change. Neither will it lessen the prospect of nuclear war. (After all, it was the Obama administration that decided to modernize the nuclear arsenal.) And it won’t bring us Medicare for All, forgiveness of student debt, or even guarantee the salvation of Social Security.

But you can bet it will mean millions, billions and trillions for the donor class.

Remember, our savior from Mr. Trump has promised those all-important constituents that “Nothing fundamental will change.” Take him at his word. What’s the point?

Published by

Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

13 thoughts on “Doubling-Down on Not Voting”

    1. Thank you, Larry. There’s no denying my privilege as a white male American who (at this point) doesn’t have to worry about shelter, clothing, or where my next meal is coming from. My privilege is undeniable. But I wish you had explained more fully the meaning of your critique — to help me see my error more clearly.

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  1. I agree with Mike—-the entire system is totally corrupt and serves the oligarchy, not The People. There’s an analysis that states 95% of the 2 Trillion Stimulus will go to those already wealthy, and 5% to the middle and lower class. I will probably end up gagging on the thought of voting for Biden, simply to prevent Trump from getting another term in power and proclaiming himself President for life. What we really need is another Revolution, this time like the French Revolution—-only more long lasting and much more thorough.

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    1. I’ll begin with two statements: 1)
      I agree with Walter – the system is totally corrupt, and 2) when this election cycle began Biden was absolutely my last choice among Democrats.
      For the past several years my reading project has been centered around the Oxford Press’ American History Series, a group of 11 (so far) written on commission from an overall Series editor. Each book is an exhaustive 800-1000 page treatment of a discrete period of our history. I am on my 5th book but I have just recently acquired all eleven.
      I believe I can say unequivocally that our current predicament is Who We Are; that trump is the culmination (and, one hopes, our low point) of our national character and identity. For too many cultural faults and flaws to mention (you already know them) our national “story” and mythology is largely a lie. Like the Germans after Hitler we need to recognize, admit, and purge these “sins”.
      So why Biden?
      Because another 4 years of trumpism (which isn’t just trump but McConnell, a political and corrupt SCOTUS, the many mini-trumps waiting in the wings, and the seething anger and hate on full display at every trump rally.
      There is a lot to be said for looking out for the fortunes and interests of the millions in this country who do not share the privilege you and I have by virtue of race, gender, age, social status, and education, but even beyond that there is the crying need to stop our collective descent into the worst elements of our REAL national ethos – racism, exceptionalism, the hubris of being God’s new Chosen People, and quite simply the corruption of power and money that, while it has always been present, now has a stranglehold on our politics.
      To be quite honest, there is some macabre attraction (for me) to the ‘Burn it all Down’ impulse. The system is corrupt.
      But I have 3 children, 8 grandchildren, and in September my first great-grandchild. I have black friends, I have gay friends, I have older friends who are not as “set” as we are. And most of all, I have a sense of resisting the evil that Donald Trump embodies but that his many enablers will solidify if given the opportunity.
      And so like Walter I will hold my nose, vote for Biden, hope that he selects a better person as VP, and hold out some slim hope (I am not optimistic long term, based on the historical record) for the redemption of our high ideals, as yet unrealized.

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      1. Dear Larry,

        Thanks so much for this very thoughtful and detailed response. I appreciate your serious study and knowledge of U.S. history. I agree, it’s so important for us to review the “official story” and distinguish it from its alternative told from the viewpoint of the victims of that saga.

        My own passion, liberation theology, dedicates much of its effort to elaborating that counter-narrative. It’s sent me to reading not just the Global South analysis that liberation theology always embodies and not merely Zinn’s “People’s History” and Stone and Kuznick’s “The Untold History of the United States,” but sources like Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America,” Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” and (most recently) Vijay Prashad’s “The Poorer Nations: a possible history of the global south.”

        Those sources and virtually the entire corpus of liberation theology have forced me to view everything from the viewpoint of the poor and oppressed not just here in the United States, but in the colonial and neocolonial world.

        For better or worse, that standpoint has convinced me that the United States never was the idealistic force-for-good we’ve been told. The so-called Founding Fathers supervised, directed, aided and abetted genocide, slavery and the institution of a system that insured that wealth and property would stay in their privileged hands. Their famous “all men are created equal” was announced to justify their theft of land from unsuspecting indigenous nations. (On this, see Chapter 13 of my “The Magic Glasses of Critical Thinking: seeing through alternative fact and fake news.” The chapter is called “How the Wealthy Privatized the Commons.”)

        Only from the period of the New Deal till about 1980 has there been anything even approximating government of, by, and for the people. But most of those gains (including those of the Civil Rights, Feminist, Gay Rights, Indigenous Rights, prison reform, and anti-war movements) have been successfully reversed by the corporatization of “America” that reasserted elite rule. It defeated organized labor, the two socialist parties, and the Communist Party that largely forced Roosevelt to implement his reforms which were minimal in any case compared to the much more comprehensive changes in the rest of the industrialized world.

        Such realizations have increasingly driven me to view “our” country as a foreigner, as an impoverished citizen from the Global South, might. That view reveals the United States to be (as Dr. King said) “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” It is a nearly unmitigated force for evil. If it dropped off the map tomorrow – if its system collapsed entirely as the Soviet Union’s did in 1989 – the world would be infinitely better off. (There is so much more to be said about this. But virtually all of my blog entries and publications try to make that point.)

        Yes, as I watch the whole thing disintegrate, I feel sorry for your children and grandchildren as I do for my own. You’re right: life for me has been easy, extremely privileged, and comfortable. (I have the New Deal and those protest movements to thank for that.) And I’m angry that the future of those I love won’t be the same.

        My only hope is that the Second Great Depression now showing itself on our horizon might have the same and even more profound effect on reforming capitalism as the first one had.

        In all of this, both Trump and Biden (and the white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchy as represented by them) are irrelevant. The U.S. represents only 5% of the world’s population. It is uprisings in the Global South driven by the inevitable inequities of capitalism, by hunger, poverty, and by the devastation of climate change that will bring it all down. And the sooner, the better.

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  2. I agree. The situation is deplorable. “Democracy”, as we have practiced it, is not democracy. We have elected a deranged man who takes his cues from and upon whom he bestows the highest citizen honor, Rush Limbaugh. Right, the other geezer isn’t much better. I guess we are doomed because like the pandemic arc in NYC for so long, the arc of ignorance and death of truth as we knew it is rising. No sign even of a plateau. Yes, our biggest threat is climate change, and there is no sign we are willing to sacrifice our “comforts” to fight it. We are looking for a daddy figure (authoritarian) to save us from the fears the “daddy” figure has created. All we can do is cling to our beliefs that there is hope and good, work for those beliefs, knowing deep down that we are actually impotent.
    Evil seems to have the upper hand. Or maybe this is our asteroid.

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    1. Thanks Marion. I agree with your thoughts 100%. We must remember that Truth and Love are on our side, and prevail in spite of the failure and despair all around us. Better to fail in the eyes o the world than to prevail in the name of evil. We already have our beautiful success in the daily pursuit of our ideals, in company with great Souls like Jesus who inspire us to follow their example in our own lives. To do this is to succeed in a way far superior to what the worldly mind calls success.

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  3. Bravo Mike! It often takes courage to do the right thing. And more courage to do it openly in the face of those who will fault you for your honest move, and even impute some unworthy motives for your decision. I ran into the same blind critiques from my relatives, who are caught up in the contrived dramas of electoral politics. Those who follow a different drummer, who sounds the music of peace and love instead of war and lies, will often stand alone among their fellows, and must learn to steer a steady course in the face of contrary winds.

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  4. Dear Mike, on this topic I side with the 91-year-old Noam Chomsky who has seen a thing or two and stand against your “Never-Biden” position. As almost always, I have great appreciation for where you are coming from. In my more desperate moments, I can let myself fall into “Oh, let it all come…and wash away this fully corrupt “civilization” that we’ve created. The only way is to start over on a clean slate” etc. However, when I consider this situation thoughtfully, with help from arithmetic, climate change science, and most importantly from history, I cannot agree with you. We are at a point where we must consider first thing first–Trump must go. If that is the ONLY thing we are able to accomplish through means that we have available to us (election), that is fine with me. After that, we can begin to think again–with all the idealism our beautiful planet and the wondrous humanity deserve. So, let’s listen to old Noam on this topic too:

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    1. Thanks, Neylan, for sending this interview — and even more importantly for your own keen insights. I had seen the interview as well as similar appearances on “Democracy Now.” Like you, I think anything Chomsky says is more than worth listening to; he is one of my heroes too. I’d however put more emphasis on insisting that Mr. Biden actually earn progressives’ votes by adopting something much closer to the extremely popular positions espoused by Bernie Sanders. For instance, Biden’s “shift” on healthcare to lowering the eligible age to 60 was pathetic. Even in 2016, Hillary was proposing lowering the age to 50. Biden’s apparent strategy is to remain more or less silent and allow Trump to hang himself with his mishandling of the pandemic. I don’t think that plan can work. Moreover, his “return to normal” seems suicidal for us, our children, grandchildren, and the planet. “Normal” is what got us Trump and to this crucial moment in history. As I said, as things now stand, Biden simply isn’t winning my vote. And, of course, this is only my very fallible opinion. The thoughts you expressed in your comment have much to recommend them and make me think.

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  5. Well, Mike it appears that we are more in agreement than not. (With the exception of our vote this year. 😎)
    I have argued for years with friends and fellow travellers that our view of our country and it’s history is warped by the fact that the period in which we have grown up and come of age (arbitrarily 1935-80, which is the same as you noted) was in many ways an complete anomaly to the rest of American History. And also that (as you also say) those hard won and very incremental bits of progress are now rapidly being undone.
    Nevertheless, I’ll cast my vote once again for (sigh!) the lesser of two evils.
    I find it interesting that the two of us, with radically different backgrounds and life experiences, have reached essentially the same conclusion regarding our country and culture. It’s sad, given the ideals embodied in our founding documents (conceived by deeply flawed but idealistic men), that entire thing is near to collapse.
    I’m afraid our children and grandchildren will live in trying times, as so many generations around the world have. Perhaps they’ll at least throw the concept of American Exceptionalism out the window.
    Cheers to you, and thanks again for thought provoking posts (even when I disagree.
    🌎

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    1. Larry, I find it encouraging that (except for the difference you note) that your very informed judgment about U.S. history and identity in the world coincides with my own. It also struck me today that Biden is not yet the Party’s official candidate. He’s the presumed candidate, but could still (for health and family reasons) withdraw his candidacy. Then the national convention would have to select someone else. Could happen! Thanks again, Larry.

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