Why I’m Not Voting

If you are one of the six people currently not on Facebook, then perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the latest online  campaign, “Commit to Vote.” A red, white and blue button with a ribbon—can progressives please jettison the empire’s color scheme?—carries that slogan with the iconic Obama “O” image that once indicated change in some distant future. Now we all know that over the “O” horizon there are hordes of desperate people seeking jobs alongside a toxic swamp in the Gulf.

The online campaign includes a message asking the receiver to commit to vote for the Democrats in the midterm elections. I respect the sentiment behind this appeal, but I am not going to vote for the Democrats on November 2, 2010.

Like tens of millions of progressives in this country, I am horrified and anxiety-ridden about the rise of the right and the unbelievable rebound of the Republicans, a political party so discredited two years ago that major news outlets across the board wrote them off for decades to come. So please, don’t send me notes detailing the racism, homophobia and solipsistic idiocy of this Flat Earth Society of knuckle draggers. I get it.

The reason I won’t vote for the Dems is because I do not believe for one second that the rise of the right here has anything do with some stealth genius strategy of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Co. They are the same nincompoops as before and they have no policy or program for millions of ordinary people to rally around, with one exception. They simply need to point to the miserable outcome of two years of the Democrats’ lying, cravenly pro-corporate, anti-people policies that have betrayed every section of their base, except for the handful of Wall Streeters who received little fanfare for shoveling cash their way in 2008.

I have to agree with Frank Rich of the New York Times when he concludes his Op-Ed piece,

But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the [economic] bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual.

Liberals and the broad left will not be able to stanch the stunning rightward shift in  politics by voting for the very political party that helped create the conditions for the rise of the right, the Democrats. In control of Congress for four years and the White House as well for the last two, the Democrats not only have not delivered the goods, once again they have earned  the moniker given them by former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips: they are “the world’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party.”

But I am not a cynic nor do I promote passivity in the face of an onslaught of crappy policies and electoral options. More than ever in my lifetime it is urgent that we build an activist left independent of the Democrats.

Look at the mass strikes and protests in France involving millions of workers and youth who are defying policies that will gut their welfare state. They are showing an alternative route to social and economic change that is more likely to have a profound impact on their future than anything that happens at the ballot box.

For those who believe the French upheaval is something that can never happen here, please consider some historical facts. Slavery ended through civil war, not the vote. Civil rights were won through mass protest, not the vote. Women’s right to abortion is inconceivable without the dynamism of the women’s movement. Social Security, the weekend, workplace safety standards and on and on are the legacy of masses of working-class people acting in defiance of their bosses and politicians.

Forests have been felled detailing the colossal failures of the Dems these past two years, and Tariq Ali’s latest quickie read, The Obama Syndrome, is a great place to start your self-education. By far the best analysis of why and how the Democrats operate as they do, which debunks the myths of the FDR and JFK administrations, can be found in the pages of Lance Selfa’s The Democrats: A Critical History.  I encourage the discouraged to read them both.

Whether you decide to vote or not on November 2, this is no time for inaction. Our future is at stake and we can’t afford to leave it in the hands of a party that’s shown its fealty to the system of profit over human need. The time to organize and protest is now.

P.S. The current post was 30 minutes old when I started receiving notes about how we just need to elect better Dems. I’ll be blunt, as usual. You cannot end prostitution by bringing virgins into brothels.

I’ll be speaking Friday, Nov. 5 at University of North Carolina-Greensboro, on Fighting the Right. Details to come.

17 responses to “Why I’m Not Voting

  1. I was madly enthused to hear a kindred voice in the fight against not merely tryanny broadly speaking but particularly against the staunch parade being marshalled forth to hype up support for the re-election of more or “better” Dems in the upcoming midterm election. When Michael Moore characterized the whole bunch as “spineless and gutless,” and unwilling to stand up “under the courage of their own convictions” he was more than accurate. Some among the “left” with lingering attachements to the Dems might have taken his cencorship as overly caustic and somewhat disloyal to voice dissent anywhere but internally but I FELT that it was right on time. Their cowardness or inability to take uncompromising stands against racism, bigotry, war, and various other areas of social unrest is the chief reason why this country has continued to drift rightward. Obama has been more than reluctant to address the racist pandering and stampede being steadily unleashed by the Right daily in this country. As a working class African American young male I am madly sickened by his reticence, indeed craven surrender to the race mongering. He will not touch racially charged issues (such as police brutality or the criminal injustice system or discrepancies in housing, healthcare, schooling, etc) with a ten foot pole. As Time Wise correctly points out time and again in his most recent work Colorblind Obama has essentially given more ammunition to da Right and its racist supporters by purveying this false reality that somehow america has embarked upon a new age of post racialism….ie that it not race so much but class inequities and barriers that inhibit the progress of african americans. Through a lense of such delusion we as african americans in the eye of too many americans are believed to be incapable of suceeding in this age, not because of systemic barriers or institutionalized racism, but because of cultural vices or shortcomings or as Wise calls the “culture of pathology.” Obama should be keen to the fact that the two, race and class, go hand in hand. Anyhow just wanted to express my appreciation to Ms Wolf and the time she takes daily to call out the bs, either by the Right or Dems and those amongst us foolish enough to entertain or commit with our time, talent, and money their madness, insincerity, and folly. Once again thanks.

  2. Well, now, I’m one of those “six people not currently on Facebook” and I intend to stay in that category. I’ve flip-flopped over whether or not to vote, also, because I am also sorely disappointed in Obama and the Democrats. But you know what? I’m going to vote. And I’m going to vote to cancel hatred, bigotry, and ignorance. If my one vote can cancel out the vote of a person who spews hatred, then it will be worthwhile. Do I think my vote will bring change or a happy future. Hell, no. But if I can neutralize a regressive, then it is worthwhile.

    This country was founded on an individualistic ethos and I truly don’t see any organized opposition to any of these policies in my lifetime or my nephew’s grandson’s lifetime. Ain’t gonna happen. What is happening in France is never going to happen here – it is a cultural thing.

    The Civil War was not fought to end slavery – it was fought by the capitalist class in the North to keep the resources of the South as part of the Union. The end of slavery (which actually continued for another 100 years) was just a side effect. Civil rights for Blacks came about after they had destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of capital investment by the capitalist class in the riots of the 1960s. And the laws passed with a great deal of protest, I might add. It was only because of the strong-arm tactics of LBJ that the laws passed. If it had been up to the capitalist class, the laws wouldn’t have passed. Same thing with Social Security – FDR got that passed over fierce opposition from the capitalist class. FDR saved capitalism from the capitalists – he didn’t get Social Security enacted because he felt sympathy for the plight of the working class. Abortion? What rights to abortion? How much right to an abortion does a woman have now compared to 30 years ago? Weekends and decent wages? Sure, that was because of unions. Have you checked the numbers of union members in the private sector recently? Pathetically low. Why? Because the union hierarchy sold the working class down the river so that they could hob nob with the capitalist class, that’s why. It’s called business unionism.

    No, I’m going to vote to spit in the face of the regressives. No other reason. I think all progressives should do the same. Living with the dream that progressives have can be very counter-productive. Stay up in that little pure castle and bemoan the rise of the right. But when the right builds a ladder up to that castle and sets fire to it, don’t say that you couldn’t see them coming. If it’s war that these bastards want, then let’s start shooting, damn it!

    And yes, you are a cynic. Because what you are calling for will never happen in this country.

    • Jeff,

      If Sherry’s supposedly a cynic for her analysis of what’s going on in France and the possibility of that happening here, than your analysis is ahistorical for its absence of US working class radicalism.

      Seattle 1919 is a great look at what a general strike was like in the United States. The strikes of the 30s and 40s show the magnitude US workers had at halting industry. The radicalization of the early 1900s and the civil rights movement which rippled and birthed new movements, counter your analysis of a “cultural thing” that prohibits US workers from organizing mass movements.

      We certainly have cultural differences with the French, but what we share is the same. We have wage labor, bosses, and the power to stop them from churning a profit. While France is at point in which its unfurling a long rooted labor tradition, in no way can one say that’s not possibly in the United States. You don’t get something from nothing. And the French didn’t just one day wake up and strike. It was organizing and long fought battles.

      As for the rest of your arguments, well it’d be exhaustive to nitpick them. I do despise an online debate.

      • Interesting that you “despise an online debate.” Workers in the early 1900s were far more radical than workers now and the strikes of the 1930s and 1940s were at the behest of unions, before their leadership sold out to the capitalist class. Several years ago, I spoke to a 95 year-old man who was heavily involved in the union movement in those days – he explained exactly how the union hierarchy sold itself out. How convenient to dismiss the rest of my arguments because it would “be exhaustive to nitpick them.” Is that the best you can do? To nitpick them? You live in a dream world. There is widespread agreement among scholars of social movements that my arguments are exactly right.

  3. This line totally summed it up “You cannot end prostitution by bringing virgins into brothels.” Damn straight LMAO Loved the article.. superb perfection

  4. John Patrick Dawkins

    Thank you for expressing what i did not have the words for once again.

  5. Capitalism was named by its enemies. It always should have just been called “Freedom”. I’d suggest reading Atlas Shrugged. It was written by someone who just barely got out of Communist Russia, Ayn Rand knew exactly what she was writing about, she’d seen what happens when Freedom comes to an end and Collectivism replaces it.

    One of my favorite speeches from Atlas Shrugged is Francisco’s Money Speech: http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/index.php?news=1826

    Atlas Shrugged was supposed to be a warning, NOT a newspaper!

  6. I will vote, but not for the democrats. I am voting Green. Love your quote.
    “More than ever in my lifetime it is urgent that we build an activist left independent of the Democrats.”

  7. hey guys….focus on building up ur progressive 3rd party while at the same time voting in this election. Im sorry but the stakes r too high. Ok ok in 2 years u havnt gotten all u want but dont u guys realize what the right wing of this country is attempting to do? How a progressive could sit this election out ios beyond me. A non vote from us is basically a vote for the ignorant racist homophobic repubs. There is no excuse!

  8. To recap what happened when we had a Republican administration for 8 yrs, we had a Supreme Court who refused to recount votes as encouraged by a conservative electoral college influenced by FL’s secretary state Kathleen Harris who turned away 36,000 new voters names so underhandedly appointed a president. A President who started the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, invading sovereign nations, borrowing money from China, forgetting about Bin Laden, sending under-equipped troops off to fight, and kill and tortured civilians, prisoners, and loss of over 4000 American soldiers. Not to mention 10 billions in cash “disappeared” in Iraq. Remember the horrible conditions at Walter Reed or New Orleans after Katrina? Then of course, the trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans or that 200,000 citizens lost their lives ’cause they didn’t have health insurance. Still up in arms when Wall Street turned about everyone’s 401k into a 201k. So if you think this Administration has not tried here’s a list of what’s been accomplished. ‘Course many compromises were given to the other party who’ve tried to block most but before post, remember what’s at stake here is the T’Party who want to repeal our rights and services given through taxes for education, health care, unemployment insurance benefits, social security and more! See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/39880604#39880604 Countdown’s Keith Olbermann explains what these T’Party candidates mean as a step backward for the US.
    http://www.thepoliticalcarnival.net/2010/03/president-obamas-accomplishments/See more

  9. Republican Judge

    I help count the votes.

    Anyone eligible to vote who stays home will be considered to have cast a vote for the status quo, a specific endorsement for the way things are, an explicit vote AGAINST change. These people are either too apathetic to matter or too contented to bother driving to the polls. If you look at what the parties are offering, and look at the number of people not voting, you will see why the parties are not offering change. People don’t want change, then they don’t vote.

    That’s how we count ’em. Because things are what they are, here in reality.

    Anyone who votes for a third party is considered a potential major party voter. If you vote for one of the small constitutionalist parties, the majors will try to court your vote by trending more conservative. If you vote for one of the green or working-class parties, the majors will trend that way. They want the votes of the people willing to drive to the voting booth, those are the people that are looking for someone to vote for.

    If you choose not to vote, you still have made a choice. You’ve explicitly endorsed the way things are NOW.

    Complain about it if you will, but that’s how we’re going to count you.

    • So activists who spend hundreds of hours a year organizing protests, speakouts, rallies, solidarity campaigns and educational events are irrelevant if we don’t take 3 minutes to pull a lever for a candidate whose policies undermine our organizing efforts? I guess I’ll have to add Republican judges who count the votes to the list of “Not My Target Audience.”

  10. Why you should vote.

  11. I am a member of a socialist party, and I promote and vote Socialist & Green because we care about everyone, unlike the Democrats, Republicans and other capitalist parties, who enact a rich people’s agenda, to the detriment of everyone else, and nature, too.

    I recommend a combination of electoral participation and mass movement activism. The people of Venezuela are increasing human rights, equality and meaningful democracy hugely this way: by fighting for their goals on all fronts. Let’s learn from those who have been successful in the political goals that we have.🙂

    Here is a great non-capitalist source of information about Venezuela:
    http://venezuelanalysis.com

  12. Thank you Sherry.

  13. Dear Sherry:
    Here’s what I posted on my Facebook Page which I entitled: “My View of the 2010 Mid-Term Elections.” You may find it interesting. Hope you do. Best, Allan Greene a/k/a tompaine1917@yahoo.com

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=mynotes#!/note.php?note_id=163295130360039

  14. Daniel J. Sullivan

    I`m praying from now on. John Boehner,two dead guys from the presidency and total drunken chaos.

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