by Mark Honey.
Election Day is a ritual. After much well-reasoned thought, we make our way to the polls. Tell the kindly volunteers our name and address. We borrow the little eraserless pencils and tiptoe patriotically into the booth, pulling the thick curtain behind us to maintain our secrecy. Carefully, we mark our choices. We keep our markings well inside the lines. A gentle volunteer hands us a token of gratitude. A reminder of our participation in the noble rite which bolsters our blessed and representative democracy. “I voted today.” And it feels like we’ve done our part. We wisely spent 30 minutes and course corrected America. It’s joyous, ecstatic even. Amazing.
No. We’ve simply wasted paper.
Voting will not save us. Voting in the United States is little more than littering. No major positive change has ever been introduced to this country through the good will of a politician. The 8-hour day was won by striking union members, not given by a governor. Desegregation was won by sit-ins, boycotts, and riots; not given by Lyndon B. Johnson’s tender heart. The Black Panther Party had some better programs than welfare has ever had, like their free ambulance program and free health clinics. The government even copied the BPP free breakfast for children program in an attempt to undercut the Panthers’ popularity.
What’s the lesson? People on the ground make things happen. Not people on the hill.
Politicians don’t do much for us regular people, but our votes do heavy lifting for them. Those thousands of markings, well inside the lines, give these institutions the illusion of legitimacy. By these scraps of paper politicians claim to represent the people’s interest even as they kiss the rings of the ultra-rich.
No community wants to be imprisoned; yet more Americans are caged than anywhere else on Earth.
No neighborhood wants to be under military occupation; yet the police in America are armed like soldiers and kill thousands every year.
No village wants needless suffering; yet last January in Portland a 52-year-old woman was found frozen to death in a parking lot, evicted from her senior living home because she fell behind $338 in rent.
Do these well inside the lines politicians free the innocent from prison? No.
Do they disarm and demilitarize police? No.
Do they house the homeless? No.
Will voting for them save us?
The state primaries on May 15 are approaching. Don’t bother putting much stock in them. Party policy in Nebraska and across the country is dominated by upper class mega-donors who couldn’t give two shits less about the working class. Even a truly working class hero, once elected, is trapped in a system designed at every level to steal from the masses and protect the rich.
One could argue through the hours about which party is better. But at the end of the day, they are both capitalist parties who exploit the poor, whip up wars, break unions, spy on average people, fund right-wing death squads and religious extremists, coup democratically elected foreign governments, and generally deny the right of self-determination to people around the world. All in the pursuit of American dollars.
This election day, do something important. Start a garden and give the crops away. Help your neighbor stand up to the landlord. Start a union at work. Write an article for your local lefty magazine. Do anything but vote.