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Forum Post: Occupy the Vote: Removing Consent to Governance

Posted 1 year ago on April 30, 2012, 7:45 p.m. EST by DSams (-71)
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Just a few thoughts regarding removing consent to be governed in federal elections.

Several times I’ve referred to an “undeniable enumeration” of supporters for any political goal and course of action we decide upon. Specifically, I’ve also made statements that traditional protest tactics, including civil disobedience and labor activities, play a useful but supporting role in pursuit of that goal and course of action.

When OWS was originally organized and sprang into existence, a decision was made to not issue any formal demands. This was, IMO, a stroke of genius insofar as it allowed any person to project their particular grievance(s) upon the object of the movement and, as a consequence, the movement captured the public’s imagination and grew rapidly.

There is however a down side to not issuing any demands whatsoever and merely cataloging everyones’ grievances. In particular, it creates a situation wherein not only is there no coherent voice but, worse yet, no shared vision with regard to where the movement is headed. Essentially, the GA recognizes only a limited political reality outside itself. This is a consequence of a consensus based decision-making process wherein any minority can block for any reason, or even no reason at all. Thus if any forward-looking proposal does not include a minority’s grievance, or “solution”, or pushes the movement forward in a direction they wish not to go, they block and the movement stalls.

This is the single most important issue the movement must face and resolve at the moment. IMO, it would be better to adopt a forward-looking goal and strategy than continue wandering aimlessly and die slowly, even if that means some of our compatriots choose not to come with us.

There is, however, one feature of the GA which I’ve come to appreciate — you must attend to participate. Political decisions are made by the body politic in attendance. Despite its shortcomings, this one rule is quite valuable insofar as it requires a degree of commitment on the part of the participants.

This is very similar to the way our elections operate as well, albeit on a much larger scale. You must show up at the appointed time and place to participate. Despite both systems’ flaws (the GA and republican self-governance), you must be willing to commit and participate directly to affect a political outcome.

In this regard, traditional forms of protest are only indirect means of influencing direct actors (voters and elected officials) similar to the way that those of us who can only participate in this forum are merely attempting to influence those attending the GA. This why traditional protest has a limited effect in our republican system — it’s not that it cannot accomplish anything, but rather that it can only accomplish whatever the direct actors are willing to allow…

In our little republic, we, the people, democratically elect representatives who, in turn, are supposed to represent our best interests by making, modifying and annulling the laws by which we govern ourselves. However, at this point in history, our ballot is dominated by a “twin party” system which is beholden to moneyed interests and our representatives are, essentially, bribed and corrupted by those elite and corporate interests to do their bidding. It may be an old political saw, but we really do have the best government money can buy (from an elite point of view).

This is the great open secret of American politics: The system is corrupt, but to challenge it systemically (that is by independently offering a full slate of candidates for election) is not only extremely expensive, but requires a high degree of commitment and discipline because it takes significant time to change it. This is because, simply, the founders designed our system of governance for stability so that it could overcome any “momentary passions” of a democratic majority (which they referred to as “mobocracy”). Moreover, any challenge which proceeds on the current basis of “party” politics and campaign financing is open to the same corrupting influences (witness the Tea Party).

The problem is that while the founders may have protected minority rights (read that as the rights of the 1%) from possible tyranny of a democratic majority (the 99%), they neglected to provide equal safeguards to protect us from them. Despite positive affirmations of individual rights and prohibitions circumscribing police power, there is no direct, democratic mechanism by which we, the people, can challenge a despotic and tyrannical government. Even Article V places Congress in a “gatekeeper” role when the states petition for an Article V Convention…

What the radically democratic idea called “None of the Above” ultimately proposes is that our democratic franchise, the vote, must be expanded to meet this very real and present danger to the republic. Expansion of the voting franchise has occurred several times, most notably by incorporating former slaves and women into the voting population. However this proposal differs insofar as it expands the range of political choice available to each and every voter. That choice is, at base, a rejection of all candidates for a particular office, be it a seat in the House of Representatives, Senate, or even the Presidency of the United States.

But, since such candidate rejection is not now law, what can be done?

Democracy (in this case defined as the ability of people to elect honest representatives in a republic), in and of itself, is a normative value. That value holds that no form of governance is valid that does not originate in the people themselves. That this nation is “self-governing” and does not rely on a grant of permission or power from outside the people themselves. Normally, if our elected officials plainly do not represent us, we replace them in the following election with candidates who do (and who proceed to alter or abolish the offending law and its resultant policy).

But if our elected officials are corrupt and plainly do not represent us, and if the political process for selecting candidates for the ballot (i.e.: the two party system) is corrupt as well, then there is little to no choice to be had. Though deceit and treachery our ability to self-govern has been subverted and the resulting government (defined as the sitting Congress and President), although having been elevated to office using democratic forms and processes, is illegitimate.

Since we cannot simply reject all corrupt candidates, the only other mechanism available is petitioning our elected representatives for redress of our grievances as provided in the Constitution. Unfortunately, such petitions tend to fall on deaf ears, insofar as we are petitioning the very representatives beholden to elite interests…

Fortunately, the Constitution does not strictly define “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Thus, no avenue for political protest is Constitutionally foreclosed so long as it is peaceful. This encompasses the full range of “traditional” political protest including OWS itself.

These traditional methods of political protest, however, as well as their attendant petitions for a redress of grievances, fall outside any recognized, Constitutional means for compelling elected representatives to take notice and act. Most particularly, there is no method of accurately determining exactly who (that is to say, how many voters) are demanding a specific act by elected officials to redress their grievances.

Thus I suggest we remove this ambiguity by moving our protest and petition for redress of our grievances into the electoral process itself — the vote. If no real difference of opinion exists between candidates for an office on critical issues of governance (for example, both agree that current laws and methods of campaign finance and campaigning need no reform or have not supported such reform in the past), then we ought advocate voters write-in a consistent “mark” (for example “NO CONSENT”) in that race.

If we adequately prepare for an election in which this protest is used, the net effect will be that our protest must be officially recorded and all votes for “NO CONSENT” counted. This is an undeniable enumeration of voter support for a specific redress of our grievances (for example, removal of elite and corporate money from both electoral and representative political processes), because we will have made the solution to our grievances the direct object of our protest vote.

Although such protest may not be considered legal by the government, the situation is actually far more complex — voting is a normative democratic value which serves as our implied consent to governance under the Constitution. As such, our government cannot be considered legitimate without citizens voting for representation — voting is the means by which the “will of the people” is determined and expressed to representative government. Thus, when the political process for selecting candidates to appear on the ballot becomes corrupt and government ceases to be representative, it then becomes necessary to express the “will of the people” directly, on the ballot itself, as their petition for redress of grievances as provided in the Constitution.

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[-] 0 points by DSams (-71) 1 year ago

The real question is: Exactly how many of us are "disaffected with things as they are"?

If few, then either a D or R candidate will be elected (and our vote may simply swing the election one way or the other).

If many, however, a completely different political circumstance emerges because of the normative democratic value of voting and its implicit "consent of the governed". Read the Declaration of Independence as a statement of democratic values -- would any candidate be seen as a legitimate Representative, Senator or President if a plurality opposed them by explicitly withdrawing their consent to be governed in the election?

What happens if a majority opposes "things as they are"?

Not voting is an abdication of democratic responsibility. By putting withdrawal of consent on the electoral table, one chooses to either support the status-quo (by voting for a candidate), or oppose the status-quo (by withdrawing consent to be governed). This is a very powerful normative democratic political statement that cannot be ignored -- given a sufficient number of votes it will de-legitimize the current twin party political process and any government that process seats. It is a direct, peaceful and Constitutional challenge to elite rule.

Unity and growth must be our most important priorities. Direct action, no matter how useful, will only be effective if it supports an explicit political confrontation that allows anyone and everyone to participate. Direct action alone cannot accomplish the goal of removing corporate money from politics. It will not, by itself, rip the reins of government from elite control.

People voting to remove their consent to be governed in the 2012 elections is a simple, black and white choice -- either support the status-quo or oppose it. Choose your side. Take a stand. Be counted.

In the meantime, get the message out, register voters, demand transparent and accurate vote counting, do whatever it takes to make our voices heard and our message clear. We support democracy, demand corporate money out of politics, and intend to end elite domination over our government.