Posted 1 year ago on Oct. 17, 2012, 1:49 a.m. EST by skifreekiwi
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
So listen. We need to think carefully about the role of Occupy in electoral politics. I’m not just talking about the presidential election. This is not just another “vote!”/”don’t vote!” opinion piece.
I am not happy with things either. The bailout. A cowardly climate policy. Guantanamo open and no promise that it won’t someday house American citizens. Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for eleven months. Drones killing citizens in Pakistan, drones flying over Africa, drones being used domestically for surveillance. A state department which advocates for American arms manufacturers over any concern for peace, stability or security.
But it’s precisely these sorts of policies that show why we have to think tactically. Occupy is only one year old. By 2014, 2016, we can lay the groundwork for a campaign we can be satisfied with. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. Maybe we need congressional candidates who swear, by legal contract if possible, to vote according to a daily public poll open to all their constituents. That’s just an example -whatever it is, it will be fresh, and it will be creative, and like everything else the Occupy movement has done, it will remind everyone in this country that we might still be able to have a democracy.
It’s not just going to happen. We have to think clearly about how we’re going to get there, and we can’t let our frustration get the best of us. The legal and political climate will be more favorable under Obama. I can’t say that they won’t jail us or beat us or try to marginalize us, but we know that Romney will be even more fascistic. How many times have you heard this $2 trillion increase to the military budget mentioned in these debates? How many more drones, how much more surveillance and policing of the U.S. and the rest of the world, can be bought with $2 trillion dollars? How many more bombs? How many more gigatons of carbon will Romney’s administration emit?
This is not about taking a stand against the two party system by not voting. If not voting had the slightest efficacy as protest against the voting system, then you’d think that 45 percent of eligible voters staying home every four years would have brought it all crumbling down by now.
David Foster Wallace said it best in an essay about the 2000 presidential campaign, “If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/72062302/David-Foster-Wallace-Up-Simba )
A staffer at Greenpeace told me that when he first came to work at that organization, he asked a veteran activist “How can I avoid the things we’re campaigning against?” and the older activist said “You can’t. That’s why we’re campaigning against them.” We are not being given the option to vote against the bad policies of the democratic party. At this particular moment, we functionally have a choice only between Romney and Obama.
I am not saying that Occupy needs to ally itself with the democratic party. One of the reasons why Occupy resonated so strongly with the American people is because it stood apart from the two-party system which everyone is so fed up with. I really believe that this movement has the potential to make that system obsolete. I acknowledge that it’s been a tough year for the movement, but every indicator predicts growth. I say simply “movement” here because this isn’t just about Occupy. The movement is global, and it is going to grow as the demographic preponderance of youth becomes more extreme, as population pressures and climate catastrophe stress the system and expose the failings of neo-liberalism, and as the internet empowers more and more people in the “developing world” with free education and the ability to organize in unprecedented ways.
Now is not the time for despair or fatalism – and that’s what this talk about abstaining as some kind of political statement strikes me as: petulant and fatalistic.
There is nothing hypocritical or contradictory about Occupiers voting for the democrats this time around – it doesn’t mean that Occupy supports the democratic party, but rather that a democratic administration will make for an easier stepping stone to truly revolutionary elections in 2014 and 2016 than would a republican one. We’ll have the time and the momentum to make it so we won’t have to compromise next time.