NOTE: This discussion was originally classified as "hosted" but has now been moved to the "member initiated" category.  In the view of the OC Stewards, what is taking place here is a debate rather than dialogue.  In a "hosted" discussion here at OC.org, we request that balanced participation be encouraged and that regular summaries occur recognizing all the views being presented.  

While we have no objections to people using the OC forum to engage in debates, as long as they don't cross the line into personal attacks, such discussion is not what we are seeking in the "hosted" category.  

Ben Roberts
12/31/11

We are delighted to have Occupy Cafe member Mark E. Smith offer this hosted discussion on the provocative idea of an "election boycott."  

As "host," Mark will strive to keep the conversation orderly, offer regular summaries of the perspectives being presented and encourage balanced participation among all those who are engaged.  Here's Mark's initial summary:

An election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government. It doesn't overthrow the government, it simply denies it the consent of the governed so that the government can no longer claim to have the people's consent. Among the many forms of noncompliance, such as removing money from big banks, boycotting corporate brands, withdrawing from the system and creating alternative systems, learning to live on less so as not to have to pay taxes, etc., refusing to vote can be one of the most crucial and effective tactics.

Thank you, Mark, for volunteering your services as "host!"

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I think it's going to be very difficult to convince the mainstream to just go ahead and overthrow the government. If it does happen it will still take years not months. In my opinion the truth of why people are not voting is besides the point. Assuming we want to reach the 99% their perception is the measure of our success not the correctness of our message. The last I heard support is down to only 38% for the Occupy movement. To me personally that represents a failure of the movement to reach out, which I am actively engaged in. No matter how right we are it won't matter without the support of the public.The general public doesn't engage in intellectual analysis of protest methodology.The Egyptians had popular support. We do not have popular support for a revolution.

Our opponents are masters of the sound-bite and masters of creating false narratives. Recall the lobbying group that recently proposed a multi-million dollar campaign against us. Our opponents are busy talking to soccer moms who do vote while we have academic arguments.

 

Yes, Gisele, but since you claim to be aware that "Our opponents are masters of the sound-bite and masters of creating false narratives," why would you believe that 38% nonsense?

And who could possibly have told you that anyone in the Occupy movement wants to overthrow the government or convince anyone to overthrow the government? It couldn't have been anyone in the Occupy movement, as that is not our goal, so it could only have been another of those false narratives that the mainstream media specializes in.

We're about creating a direct democracy and we're doing it now, at every General Assembly. It didn't take months or years, it happened immediately and continues to spread. 

The Egyptians had less popular support for their revolution than we have. But now, as their government uses US-made chemical weapons on tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Tahrir Square, more and more popular support is building. 

We are the 99%. We are the general public. We are not only engaging in intellectual analysis, but we are also voting--the difference is that we are voting in General Assemblies where our votes are counted and our voices heard, instead of voting for corporate puppets we can't hold accountable in "elections" where the votes don't even have to be counted.

You're the most negative person I've even encountered who claimed to be an Occupy participant. Everyone else is positive, optimistic, creative, and imbued with new possibilities. Which Occupy are you participating in? Where do you Occupy? Is your participation more than just trying to get people here at Occupy Cafe to support the status quo and stop trying to bring about social change?

If you'd bothered to read the articles I posted above, you'd see the email I got from a political partisan who also accused me of trying to overthrow the government, and my response. Since you didn't bother to read it, it would be a waste of my time to repost it just for you. If you wish to take part in a discussion, it is helpful to first read what has already been said before you repeat nonsense that has long since been refuted.

It is not only difficult, but it is completely impossible to convince people who are happy with the status quo to help bring about change. Fortunately, 99% of us are not happy with the status quo. The other 1% consist of the wealthy elites who have destroyed our economy and are destroying the planet for profit, and those who believe their false narratives. Do you really think that only 38% are opposed to the tax breaks and bailouts for the rich? Do you really think that only 38% oppose spending our tax money on wars instead of education, health care, infrastructure, housing, and nutritional needs at home? Congress only has a 9% approval rating right now--where is that mythical 62% (subtract 38% from 100% and you get 62%) who still have faith in the system and won't support the Occupy movement?

It isn't enough to parrot what somebody else said to the effect that the mainstream media is a master of false narratives--in order to demonstrate any understanding of Occupy you have do your own independent research in order to know why those narratives are false and stop believing them. But that doesn't necessarily mean intellectual analysis. Many people in the US support Occupy because they or their neighbors, family, or friends have personally seen their pensions dwindle, their jobs outsourced, their homes foreclosed, their health care needs go unmet, while the rich rake in trillions for causing all that suffering, and they intuitively understand that there has to be change in order for their children and grandchildren to have a future. It ain't rocket science.

 

 

 

I believe we are miscommunicating. Perhaps I am not expressing myself clearly enough. I am an active partipant of Occupy Montreal. Although I don't live there I do go very often and attended the last 3 GAs as well as many committee meetings. I just got home from tonight's GA where we discussed the lastest notice from the City of Montreal: Notice to remove installations and structures on public property and to respect opening and closing hours of park.Any structure or installation occupying Victoria square must be removed immediately. Any structure or installation that is not removed following this notice will be removed by the City. It is prohibited to occupy Victoria square between midnight and 6 a.m. signed, Montreal, this November 23rd, 2011. By-law concerning the occupancy of pubic property. (R.R.V.M O-0.1,2 et 8) and two other By-laws.

We also agreed on announcing a big GA at noon on Saturday for the public. We will have a proposal that the public can debate and participate in deciding on. The proposal might even be mine although that hasn't been decided yet.

I simply think it's a more powerful message to actively ruin a ballot. An unusually high number of ruined ballots could even trigger a recount if the opposition doesn't trust the results. By actively ruining a ballot people who might not get the message you intend will understand that it is a deliberate political act. I get that you don't agree with me but my opinion does have merit and is logical. I am part of the movement because I want people to become informed and to believe change is possible.

 

Thanks you for Occupying Montreal, Gisele, and I send you solidarity from Occupy San Diego. We too were evicted, and we are working on attempts to reoccupy. Although our tents were not allowed, and people were not allowed to sleep overnight, strong people stood awake all night long to keep the space Occupied. The laws used against us were similar, but they were improperly used, as they contain an exception for political protests and are unconstitutional. Getting the courts to enforce the laws is problematic, but your laws might have similar exceptions.

Although the Canadian electoral system may differ from the one here in the US, Gisele, the results, inasfar as rule by the 1%, wars, environmental degradation, etc., appear to be the same. 

Please read the links I posted below where Egyptians explain why they are boycotting the upcoming Egyptian election. Perhaps they can explain my position to you better than I can.

There are many reasons why an election boycott might not succeed, just as there are many aerodynamic reasons that bumblebees can't fly. The Wright brothers and other who experimented with early flying machine were mocked and jeered at, but they persisted anyway. It was, for most of human history, impossible to do many things that we take for granted today. In every case, somebody ignored the naysayers and went right ahead to do what could not be done. That's how things happen. Nothing changes if people don't believe that change is possible, and merely continue to do things in the same old ways because they don't believe that change is possible. If you want people to believe that change is possible, you might start by believing that change is possible yourself.

Change is indeed possible, but it cannot come about by continuing to repeat the same mistakes and do things in the same ways that created all the problems we have today. Change will only come when we dare to do things in new and different ways, even if people mock us and tell us that what we're trying to do isn't possible. It isn't possible working within the old corrupt systems, but it becomes possible when we create new systems.

 

We haven't actually been evicted yet but it is coming soon. In other cities in Canada Mayors have gotten eviction orders from the courts before physically emptying the parks. I think we have at least a couple of more days and possibly more before they can force us out.

I do believe change is possible and that the Occupy movement is enduring. I just think the battle is going to be very difficult. It's not enough to be right. We have to help the middle-class to see the truth through the smokescreen. The revolution will happen when mainstream people realize it's the 1% taking all the money not entitlement programs for the poor. I don't see spoiling ballots as doing things the same old way.

Our situation is very different from that of Egypt. Many people still believe in the sham of our democracy. Most people definitely don't want to overthrow the government or do more than tinker with the system. People still want stability, certainly in Canada. I personally think the movement is still needs to focus on people who don't read past the headlines if they read the news at all. They aren't stupid people they are just focused elsewhere.

Remind yourself that Snooki was paid $32,000 to speak at Rutgers University at a casual Q&A. To add insult to injury Toni Morrison, for speaking at the commencement address, only got $30.000. She has won both the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize.

Because they have just overthown a dictator in Egypt the expectation would be for an extremely high voter turnout. Refusing to vote repudiates the military's attempt to hide behind a veneer of legitimacy based on a false democracy.

As far as I can tell very few people (outside of academics and activists) have begun to question whether or not North-Americans live in a genuine democracy. People accepted the Patriot Act. So for me, step one is proving to the middle-class that they are being robbed blind and it's not the poor doing it. Once that happens we win.

 

I don't think most people accepted the Patriot Act, Gisele. I don't think most people accept the wars. I don't think most people blame the poor instead of the rich. There are a tiny minority who do, or who are paid to pretend that they do, but the corporate-owned media covers them to the exclusion of the majority. 

I think Canada has a bit more of a veneer of democracy, in that you have a national health care system and I think you even have proportional representation and less fraudulent elections (I could be wrong, as I don't know much about Canada). 

Here in the US, the majority of the public is opposed to the wars, so even if we don't get any mainstream media coverage, enough people have seen through the lies so that a majority oppose the wars despite the fact that the mainstream media keeps promoting wars. We just don't have a voice in government so no matter who wins the sham elections, the military junta that rules the USA will continue to dominate the puppet civilian government. The Pentagon hasn't even pretended to allow the civilian government any oversight or real power since JFK was assassinated.

The Occupy San Diego Twitter Feed @OccupySD is constantly spammed by three or four Tea Party trolls. They post constantly, but there are no more than three or four of them. There are at least 14,000 supporters of Occupy San Diego, (that's how many were on the Facebook page before it crashed), but most only post if they have some information to impart, so to a casual observer it might look like the trolls are the majority. Appearances can be deceptive.

University administrations are puppets of the 1%. The students usually don't agree with the administrations and will often mic check or walk out on right wing speakers invited by the administrations.

About 50% of people in the US don't vote. That's half the country. Of the other half, the ones who are less intelligent or insane enough to think that they can get different results by repeating the same failed experiment over and over, the overwhelming majority say that they don't approve of the government they're voting for. They simply have to be made aware that they are, by voting, consenting to the very government they don't approve of.

Did you ever get around to reading the original posts which with I opened this discussion, Gisele? Is there anything I wrote that you disagree with specifically and can logically refute?

At least half of the electorate here in the US do not think we live in a genuine democracy and therefore don't vote. The other half are waking up and seeing that no matter which party is in power, our economy continues to get worse.

There will be a much lower voter turnout in 2012 than there was in 2008 because most Democrats are sick of Obama and Hillary, and the Republicans haven't found any popular candidates to run. Every one they try self-destructs before they can be taken seriously. The majority of voters will probably be voting for independent or third party candidates, write-ins, or casting blank or spoiled ballots. That will be counted as part of the turnout for whichever corporate puppet the 1% want to put in office. It will still be a much lower turnout than in 2008, even if those casting what they think are protest votes cannot understand that they are still consenting to a government they don't like, want, or trust.

If there are really people who cannot understand that their vote is their consent, no matter who they vote for or whether they do or don't spoil their ballots, then the government might be able to claim the consent of the governed with even a 30% or 35% turnout. If those claiming that they don't understand aren't being honest, but are just political party operatives and government agents using every trick in the book to try to help the 1% in their multi-billion dollar campaign to get out the vote to legitimize their sham government, then the turnout will be much lower and the government will not be able to demonstrate the consent of the governed. Political party operatives and government agents try to dominate cyberspace, and there are many huge rooms with a multitude of cubicles where Air Force specialists, paid political party operatives, and other government agents spend their work days trying to infiltrate and influence any forums they can find that aren't pro-government and pro-1%.

In my experience, people who don't consider or respond to my arguments, and who instead just keep repeating the election myths I've refuted, usually turn out to be political party operatives or government agents, not ordinary citizens. The Occupy movement is fairly well saturated with those sorts of infiltrators, but you can usually spot them because they don't have open minds, can't accept new ideas, and either believe the government lies or try to convince people that most other people do. That's a technique straight out of the old KUBARK psy-ops manual, where prisoners being interrogated are persuaded that they are not part of the mainstream so as to isolate them. It rarely works because those aligned with populist movements know that they're in the majority and can't be persuaded otherwise, not even through psychological techniques or torture.

The reason there's an Occupy movement is because the majority of the middle class know that they're being robbed blind, have known it for a long time, and are now angry enough to support an Occupy movement. For each activist Occupier, there are at least a thousand middle class and working class people supporting them who have never attended a GA but donate food, money, or just tell other people about Occupy, because they see it as the only hope for their future and the future of their children and grandchildren. The middle class women who bring food and even marched in the rain for us here, outnumbered the active Occupiers. The churches, unions, and school groups supporting us way outnumber us. Despite the Tea Party and mainstream media claim that we're just a bunch of jobless losers, the homeless and unemployed aren't donating the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars that every major US Occupation gets. Jobless losers don't have that kind of money to donate.

So if all it takes for us to win is to convince the middle class that the 1% and not the poor are robbing them blind, we've already won. Obviously, we haven't yet won, because our corrupt governments are still in power and are still actively trying to suppress civil dissent and disrupt the Occupy movement. Until people stop voting, the corrupt governments will continue to claim the consent of the governed, based on election turnout, and will remain in power. Once people stop voting, corrupt governments can no longer claim the consent of the governed, can no longer claim legitimacy based on election turnout, and any further power they exert is illegitimate. Only then will we have won. 

 

 

 

I have done the reading, and I agree you have a good argument, but I just don't think the situation in Canada or the US is as drastic enough for a majority of people to support revolution as opposed to trying to fix the system. If voting results are so easily rigged then the turnout can be exagerated too. Yes, many people support the Occupy cause but don't turn out, but that's just it. People are not coming out in the numbers that they did for the Civil Rights movement or the anti-Vietnam war protests. On the other hand, this is just the beginning. For a movement that has only been around for a couple of months growth and support has been astronomical. So I have to admit you could be right. You could be getting close enough to critical mass to make not-voting an effective strategy.

Off-topic. I'm crying this morning. We are being evicted right now. At last night's GA we decided that we were going to leave voluntarily and we were cleaning up the site and paying to have graffiti removed from the statue. This morning the streets were blocked around the park and the police moved in and started taking down tents. There has been no violence at this time. Riot police are there but are being kept a few blocks away. I don't think they will be used because we are all peaceful.

Things are not as bad here as in the US in terms of draconian laws. We have our own version of the Patriot Act but it doesn't go as far. I find it so odd. We have laws against hate speech which have been criticised as being an infringement on the right to free speech, but Americans are allowing far more intrusion into private life than we are in Canada. We still have the same basic problem of almost always voting for the lessor evil rather than someone we actually support.

To get back on topic we have had voter fraud here too. During the last referendum on separation from Canada (in Quebec) votes were fixed by being pickier when rejecting federalist votes. Separatists still lost, but there was no criminal investication into the ballot box stuffing even though evidence existed.

Canada went into Haiti too for the overthrow of Aristide. We now have Steven Harper as Prime Minister who is pretty much Bush lite. The Liberal party is considered center left here although in the States I think they would be considered much far left. Our real left party is the NDP which is gaining in popularity. The Liberals and NDP spilt the vote allowing the Conservatives led by Steven Harper to come up the middle and win a majority government with approximately 35% of the vote. So even though Canadians lean left Harper claims his government has a mandate for his reforms.

 

I'm so sorry you're being evicted, Gisele. I do hope that the riot police won't attack you. Here in the US the fact that protesters have been completely peaceful hasn't stopped riot police from attacking. I don't think that they really care what the circumstances are. In my opinion they're just trying to justify their Homeland Security budget by finding ways to use the crowd control gear and training that they've been given, even in situations where it is obviously inappropriate.

Although things may not be as bad in Canada, from what you say about ballot choices, election fraud, and the government making decisions without majority public support, it sounds like you have the same basic problems we do.

The choice isn't between reform or revolution. Occupy isn't a revolution and I don't think many people believe that a revolution against any government that has or can claim popular support is likely to be successful. The choice is between accepting and supporting the status quo, or withholding our consent and creating better alternatives.

It is possible to attempt to fake the turnout, but that's a lot more difficult than manipulating the votes. The Egyptian military junta will probably try to fake the turnout numbers to show that they have popular support, but since only one political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, hasn't announced its intention to boycott the election, and many Brotherhood youth have split with their party and joined the protesters in Tahrir, if the junta tries to claim a turnout larger than is reasonably possible, nobody will believe them. I've heard that the junta might try to postpone the election, and I suspect that might be due to the difficult of trying to claim popular support when only one segment of a single party has announced its intention to vote and all the other parties are boycotting the election. 

In the US and Canada we cannot look to the support of any political parties in an election boycott. All US and Canadian political parties are either controlled by the 1% or owe their existence to their willingness to work within a system that is controlled by the 1%. That's why the major parties here in the US have been losing members. At present, no US party has a viable candidate, so political party operatives and agents of the 1% are reduced to trying to get people to vote by urging that people vote for "none of the above," cast blank ballots, or, as you suggest, spoil their ballots. 

As the Occupy movement grows, I believe that more and more people who have the opportunity to vote in General Assemblies where their votes actually count and are meaningful, will recognize the absurdity of voting to consent to be governed by a system that is destroying them, and the even greater absurdity of casting meaningless ballots when there are no good options, in elections where their write-in, blank, or spoiled ballots cannot possibly bring about the change they want.

 

Gisele- thanks for sharing.

My hope is that you guys take the time necessary to grieve the loss of your encampment. I know the encampment is important to lots of people, and taking that time to grieve is so important.

Hi, Mark.

First, to get past the sort of ad hominem objections you leveled at Giselle, I am an active member of several committees at OccupySF and I have read every single response in this thread.

“The system is collapsing and I hope that enough people will understand that, and, since it is going to collapse on us whether we want it to or not, choose a "controlled demolition" over a reactionary Armageddon.”

From your statement, I conclude that you think that an election boycott won’t have any effect on fixing our system, just making its eventual and certain collapse more manageable. I’m not that the collapse of our system is a desirable outcome.

First of all, that is likely to take a fairly long time, and given the state of the economy, the environment, civil rights, etc., we can’t afford to wait. Secondly, our history has shown that it is not necessary to let the government collapse in order to have successful reform. (Just because these reforms were eroded over time doesn’t make them any less successful. It simply means that they weren’t thorough enough. And please read the rest of this post before you start objecting.)

“…elected representatives are not obligated to represent their constituents but can represent their personal beliefs or philosophies, their big donors, or whatever they wish, and cannot be held accountable as long as they continue in office, which is the only time that people need them to represent the interests of the people.”

It is not that our representatives are unaccountable. It’s that the people haven’t forced them to be accountable. Americans have been bought off with baubles and toys. They’ve been trained to be consumers rather than educated to be citizens. They’ve been fed lies by the mainstream media and haven’t taken the necessary time to search out the facts.

Fortunately, the Occupy movement has woken people up. The next step is to get people past outrage and into constructive engagement, which has been done before in our country’s history.

“Those who are not satisfied with the status quo would be wasting their time, efforts, and energy trying to reform a broken system, as we can see from the fact that the reforms made after the Great Depression were taken away and have now resulted in a new economic crisis.”

As you so helpfully pointed out, massive pressure from the left has forced piecemeal reform in the past (The New Deal, The Great Society, 40 Hour Workweek, the end of child labor, etc.) It’s not that pressure from the left didn’t work. It’s that there were unaddressed elements in the system which led to the slow and eventual deterioration of progressive reforms.

I would say the reason we are losing those reforms now is because our government has been bought by corporations and the rich, and our elected representatives now work pretty much exclusively for the 1%.

Now, how did this happen? The root of the problem is corporate personhood, a legal fiction rooted in the 14th Amendment, which was supposed to pertain to slaves (natural persons), but instead by legal slight of hand was extended to artificial persons, i.e. corporations. This allowed corporations over the years to assume more and more rights, the culmination being Citizens United, which equated money with free speech.

This is hardly a new problem. Our progressive past has proved that we can have an effect on politicians who have been bought.

The mistake our forbearers made was not to nip the problem in the bud so that it could never appear again. There are currently several Constitutional amendments in the works which would eliminate corporation personhood and eliminate corporate participation in the political process, to greater or lesser degrees.

If these reforms are successful (again, if we look to the lessons from our progressive past, this is possible), they will stunt at least and at best eliminate the tendency of our democracy to move relentlessly in the direction of oligarchy and feudalism.

Then we would return to being an actual (representative) democracy, that being a government by the people, for the people, and of the people.

There would be a lot of work to do after that, of course. Corporations and the rich have corrupted pretty much every aspect of our society. There is a lot to be undone. But it can be done. Our own history attests to it. Unless you want to completely ignore our own progressive history.

So, how do we get there? The Occupy movement is off to a great start. It has changed the conversation to include income inequality and capture of the government and regulatory agencies by corporations and the rich.

The next step is action. The shutdown of the port in Oakland is one kind of action. Boycotts are another. Sitdown strikes are another. These sorts of actions serve to put the 1% on notice that the 99% are aware of their power and intend to use it.

Then there is engagement in the political process. Let me quote Ralph Nader on this, who is quite eloquent on the subject:

What Power Do The American People Have?

 "The American people know who rules them. They know who runs them. They have to take it every day. They go to Walmart and they get $9 an hour, they know the boss is making $11,000 an hour, every hour. When they can’t
 get health care, they know why.  It’s Aetna, it’s Cigna, it’s United Health Care. When they get their pensions looted and drained, they know why. It’s Wall Street, messing around, speculating, gambling with their hard earned money. What’s missing is the sense that they can do something about it. And that sense comes from this phrase “Enough is enough,” which reflects fire in the belly….

 …we have to get rid of exaggerating the power of our opponents. These corporations and these government agencies, they are collaborating against the interests of the average person in this country because we grow up being told we’re powerless in a thousand ways starting in the first grade. We grow up being told you can’t fight city hall, it doesn’t matter, whatever will be will be, just sort of get a job, have a few hobbies, raise some kids, shut up and keep shopping. That’s the message. And what we have to do is deconstruct how powerful they really are.

 Congress is the most powerful branch of government, far more powerful under the Constitution than the White House and the courts. It has the
 taxing power, the spending power, the war declaration power, the investigatory power, and on and on.

 Now, what is the Congress? Well, you can say it’s a puppet of Wall Street. You can say it sold itself to the highest bidders. You can say that it’s full of cowards. You can say that is has people who can barely think in popular terms, but you know what it really is? It’s 535 men and women who put their shoes on every day like you and I. 1500 corporations get their way with most of those 535 people. They don’t have a single vote.

Where’s the vote? It’s back home, unorganized.

So, once you realize that the only thing they really care about is not campaign money – campaign money is designed to get them votes – all
 they care about is votes. All they care about is competition by other
 candidates who might get votes.

 So, imagine if this Occupy movement begins first to have one day where all over the country they encircle the office of each Senator and representative back home. The first thing that happens is there is a run in Congress on underarm deodorant.

 Congress is a bubble now. They haven’t felt what the Occupy movement has done. It’s not been directed toward them. They haven’t even changed anything. They’re still talking the same old, same old. They’ve still got these fundraising parties by these vendors that are buying them and renting them.

So, now it’s time to move to another stage, in addition to what’s going on, and that’s to encircle the offices of the members of Congress back in the districts all over the country. And then you will start seeing a little bit of sweating on Capitol Hill.

 535 put their shoes on every day. They want something you can withhold or give them. That’s your vote. So the more people do their homework, the more they demand more choices on the ballot, the more they push to get campaign money out of public elections – public elections should be funded by public money—it could be done. It would be the biggest bargain in  history.

These guys are buying the U.S. government for $5 billion every four years. To show you what $5 billion is, $5 billion is less than what we spend as a nation on dog food, not counting gourmet dog food."

Nader goes on to say that we need to break our addiction to the two party system. As you so helpfully point out, we are locked into an abusive relationship with our politicians, which I like to call Battered Voter Syndrome. People continue to vote for Democrats, even though they have shown over and over again that they represent the interest of the 1%. You also point out that the excuse people give is that if they don’t vote for the Democrats, the Republicans will win. The old lesser of two evils argument. They have a minor point.

Voting for a Democrat is like taking strychnine. Voting for a Republican is like taking cyanide. Both will kill you, but the strychnine gives you more time. Republicans might put such repressive measures in place so quickly and destroy the economy so utterly, that a collapse of society will be unavoidable.

If, as Nadar alleges, it doesn’t matter so much who is in office, as long as citizens pressure them enough, you could argue that you’re better off pressuring Democrats, who are less destructive than Republicans.

But I say that it’s more important to break out of Battered Voter Syndrome. That is to say, people should start voting for folks that might actually serve their interests, like members of independent parties who don’t take corporate money. And, if there is no one on the ballot who represents their interests, then I agree they shouldn't vote.

Now, that approach does have risks. Until people get used to voting for what they believe in, instead of the lesser of two evils, that will tend to reinforce the legitimacy of corporate rule, as you say. However, as the numbers shift, more and more people will start to vote their conscience.

That’s where occupying Congress and political engagement in general comes in. Just as the Occupy movement has changed the conversation from the “debt crisis” to income inequality, such efforts can change the mindset of the American people from “lesser of two evils” to “candidates I believe in who don't take corporate money.”

“6. Just because things didn't work out the way we wanted last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, doesn't mean that they won't this time.

Some say that Einstein defined insanity as repeating the same experiment over and over and expecting different results.”

I agree. The problem with your argument is that things are different this time. It is not the same experiment. There has been a shift in the American consciousness, thanks to the Occupy movement. With proper political engagement and direct action, that shift will only grow wider with time. The voters are not the same.

Do I think the results will be radically different? I would like to think so, but I rather doubt it, at least in the immediate future. It will be a process and require a bit of patience. But there's a good chance that weaning citizens from Battered Voter Syndrome, along with Occupying Congress, and a steady change in political consciousness brought about by the Occupy movements and it's offshoots will eventually result in actual democracy, with actual votes that count.

I’m actually quite surprised that so many constitutional amendments to overturn Citizens United, repeal corporate personhood and take corporate money out of politics have come out. I expected that to take much more time.

Will a good constitutional amendment pass? I think that depends on the political engagement of the people and the continued viability of the Occupy movement.

I don’t know how much you actually talk to people outside of the Occupy movement, that is, the great bulk of the 99%, but I do. And the ones who basically agree with the movement are dying for something to do. They are getting frustrated with what they see as a movement that is all about camping and protesting rather than actually getting anything done. Now, I am not talking about what the media is saying. I’m talking about what people I’ve actually spoken with are saying. And yes, I know that the movement is only two months old. That people are this impatient at this juncture speaks volumes about our training as a society to go for instant gratification instead of the more substantial rewards achieved by steady strategy and effort. But still, we have to work with the reality. And that means we have to move on from simply shifting the zeitgeist to actually starting to implement change if we don’t want this movement to falter. We don’t have the luxury of solely gradually working through a microcosm of the society we want to build and hoping that the changes will happen by osmosis -- a kind of trickle up politics – although that is undeniably valuable. We need to start getting politically engaged as well.

If a constitutional amendment passes that radically reduces corporation participation in our democracy, that will radically alter the political landscape and make it much easier for independent candidates to get elected. Even though there are many systems in place to disenfranchise voters (Diebold machines, the Supreme Court, etc.), if we are able to get money out of politics, those obstacles to genuine democratic elections will be swept away in time. None of it will withstand a politically engaged 99% who are no longer willing to simply vote for the lesser of two evils.

Another point – I think that there are many Democrats in Congress who hold their noses while they’re screwing us over. Not everyone in Congress is there to defraud the voters. Some got into politics because they wanted to be public servants, not corporate servants. But the system we have in place makes that almost impossible if they want a viable career. Once the corporate money is taken out of politics, I think you will see Democratic politicians magically become much more progressive. Then again, I’ve always been an optimist. We shall see.

 

Mr. Blue, you claim that a representative democracy is a real democracy. It is not. 

Check the dictionary definition of a democracy. It is a system where supreme power over government is vested in the hands of the people.

There are two basic types of democracies, a direct or participatory democracy where the people exercise the supreme power vested in them directly, and a republic, where the people exercise the supreme power vested in them through their representatives.

The way that the people would exercise their supreme power in a republic, or representative democracy, is by electing representatives, which our Constitution did not grant us the right to do at the federal level. We have no Constitutional right to have our votes counted and the popular vote can be overridden by Congress or the Supreme Court. Without the right to have our votes counted, and the right to have our votes be the final say in determining the outcome of elections, a final say which cannot be overturned, we cannot elect our representatives, not even in publicly funded elections. The only possible way that the people could elect their representatives is if the votes of the people had to be counted, had to be counted accurately in a way that was transparent and verifiable, and in a way that could not be overturned by any higher power. If there is a higher power that can overturn the will of the people, it is not a democratic form of government because supreme power is not vested in the hands of the people but in a higher power.

But in order for the people to be able to exercise their will through their representatives, the people have to have a way to directly hold those representatives accountable during their terms of office, which is the only time that they are supposed to represent their constituents. They are not required to represent their constituents before they are sworn into office, or after their terms of office are over when the people can try to elect somebody different, they are only supposed to represent their constituents during their terms of office, so that in the only time that the people need to be able to hold their representatives accountable. Asking them, lobbying them, petitioning them, phoning them, faxing them, etc., is not a way to hold them accountable--those are just ways of pleading with them and begging them to represent us, which they do not have to do and often do not do. The only way to hold elected official accountable would be to have the power to remove them from office immediately if they betray their constituents, and this is not a power that the Constitution granted us--only Congress can remove its own members from office (Article 1, Section 5), something that Congress never does.

If you think that we don't have much time, it is strange that you would look to Constitutional amendments. Even if Congress allowed Constitutional Conventions to take place, it has been a long time since a Constitutional Amendment was ratified. It took 49 years for the Equal Rights Amendment to be introduced in Congress, and then, after having been ratified by both Houses, it took another ten years before it failed due to lack of ratification by a sufficient number of states. If you're in a hurry, that doesn't seem like the best way to go.

As for government reforms, if the government giveth, the government retaineth the power to taketh away at any time it so willeth.

The reason for having a democratic form of government where supreme power is vested in the hands of the people, is so that the people are not subject to the whims of tyrants.

Your continuing optimism with regard to the Democrats who are at this very moment supplying the Egyptian military with the money, training, and weapons with which to suppress civil dissent, using drone bombs to kill innocent children in Afghanistan, and who, like previous Republican administrations, do not allow public opinion to influence their policy decisions, and have said so openly, publicly, clearly, and distinctly, appears to be misplaced. I have nothing against optimists or people who believe in magic and engage in magical thinking, but I do not share your blind faith in the system's ability to reform itself, or the power of a minority of good people to have any influence in a corrupt bureaucracy that was designed to ensure that such a minority would never have any real influence.

Having endured over a decade of the most vile, vicious, obscene, vulgar, and disgusting personal attacks against me by Democratic Party operatives because I dared to suggest on public forums (all of which claimed to be liberal, progressive, and to support free speech, though many of them censored or banned me), I will continue to question political party operatives and people who are trying to get out the vote in support of a corrupt corporate tyranny. If they are sincere opponents of rule by the 1%, they will stop supporting what they wish to oppose, once they understand that in our present system, all elections can do is grant legitimacy and the consent of the governed to the 1%. If they're not sincere, but just infiltrators trying to co-opt the movement on behalf of a political party or directly on behalf of the 1%, they deserve to be exposed. 

As you do not believe that the collapse our our system is a desirable outcome, you may not understand that rule by the 1% was the intention of the framers, who wrote a Constitution to ensure that those who owned the country would always rule it. They did this by vesting supreme power in a Supreme Court, not in the hands of the people. They pretended that Congress could be a check on the supreme power of the supreme court, but since they gave the Supreme Court the sole power to interpret the Constitution, any attempt by Congress to legislate around a Supreme Court decision, can be struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The reason that you do not want the collapse of our system is that you seem to believe it is a democracy, or at least a republic. It is neither. And it is precisely because it is neither a democracy nor a republic, that I believe that the collapse of this corrupt system is indeed a desirable outcome. I think we need a system that vests power in the hands of the people, a system of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. You think we already have such a system and that the majority of people who say that they oppose wars are liars and that they really secretly support wars because they're consumers. I don't think they're liars, I also talk with many people who are not Occupiers, and I think that when they say that they oppose the wars, they are telling the truth. I think many people who opposed the bailouts didn't secretly support the bailouts of vote for the bailouts because they wanted the bailouts, I think they were tricked into voting and didn't realize that they were voting against their own interests, and that many of them figured out the truth long before Occupy Wall Street mentioned it.

I think it is hilarious for somebody who is optimistic about the Democrats to be quoting Ralph Nader, the most loathed person in the world as far as Democrats are concerned, but it makes sense that without a popular candidate of their own, the agents of the 1% are reduced to urging people to vote third party, independent, none-of-the-above, write-ins, blank or spoiled ballots, or any other way they can get out the vote to help the 1% in their multi-billion dollar campaign to get a fig leaf of consent with which to cover their illegitimate rule.

 

Hi, again, Mark.

I think it is hilarious for somebody who is optimistic about the Democrats to be quoting Ralph Nader, the most loathed person in the world as far as Democrats are concerned, but it makes sense that without a popular candidate of their own, the agents of the 1% are reduced to urging people to vote third party, independent, none-of-the-above, write-ins, blank or spoiled ballots, or any other way they can get out the vote to help the 1% in their multi-billion dollar campaign to get a fig leaf of consent with which to cover their illegitimate rule.

You mean, agents of the 1% like Ralph Nadar and Michael Moore? They don’t seem to have a problem advocating putting pressure on members of Congress.

Are you being deliberately obtuse? I fully acknowledged in my response to you that Democrats have engaged in all sorts of vile conduct in support of the 1%. I suspect, as do Nadar, Chomsky, Hedges and other “agents of the 1%,” that these folks behave this way in large part because they want to be reelected, or they want to get cushy jobs in private industry once they leave public life. The behavior doesn’t necessarily stem from their personal convictions. (That’s kind of loathsome in and of itself, but that’s a topic for another time.) I was making a guess that their behavior would be moderated if a constitutional amendment was passed that got money out of politics and eliminated corporate personhood. Without money in the equation, our elected representatives would have to respond to the people or lose their jobs, as Nader so eloquently explained.

I have nothing against optimists or people who believe in magic and engage in magical thinking, but I do not share your blind faith in the system's ability to reform itself, or the power of a minority of good people to have any influence in a corrupt bureaucracy that was designed to ensure that such a minority would never have any real influence.

There is nothing or blind or irrational or magical about my reasoning and saying so won’t make it so, no matter how many times you repeat it. What’s more, it’s a rather pathetic debating technique. You might want to tone it down. It comes off like you’re frothing at the mouth.

If you think that we don't have much time, it is strange that you would look to Constitutional amendments. Even if Congress allowed Constitutional Conventions to take place, it has been a long time since a Constitutional Amendment was ratified. It took 49 years for the Equal Rights Amendment to be introduced in Congress, and then, after having been ratified by both Houses, it took another ten years before it failed due to lack of ratification by a sufficient number of states. If you're in a hurry, that doesn't seem like the best way to go.

It is true that many times, passing a constitutional amendment can be a lengthy, even failed process. But there are exceptions, such as the repealing of prohibition, which happened very quickly. The key is, how much public passion is there to pass the amendment? How politically engaged is the public?

When the Berlin Wall fell, organizers felt maybe the East Germans would allow traffic back and forth in a few years. A few hours later, the wall wasn’t even there.

Once a popular revolt like Occupy starts, events can move faster than the most optimistic predictions. I’m not saying that an amendment eliminating corporate personhood and removing corporate money from elections will definitely pass, but there is historical precedent to justify cautious optimism. That’s one of the reasons I pointed out that the proposed amendments are being created and brought forth faster than I thought they would be.

I think it’s interesting that you chose not to reply to the substance of my argument that the elimination of corporate personhood and getting money out of politics could radically alter the political calculus, hopefully leading to such reforms as a guarantee to count all ballots, elimination of the Electoral College, etc.

You think we already have such a system and that the majority of people who say that they oppose wars are liars and that they really secretly support wars because they're consumers. I don't think they're liars, I also talk with many people who are not Occupiers, and I think that when they say that they oppose the wars, they are telling the truth. I think many people who opposed the bailouts didn't secretly support the bailouts of vote for the bailouts because they wanted the bailouts, I think they were tricked into voting and didn't realize that they were voting against their own interests, and that many of them figured out the truth long before Occupy Wall Street mentioned it.

I also find it interesting that when I write something like that people I talk to are dying to actually do something, you change the subject and accuse me of saying something I never actually did, e.g. that people were lying about not supporting the bailouts, etc.

All this smacks of someone who does not actually want to engage in honest debate, but instead wants to just bully others until they shut up.

That said, I have responded in good faith to your arguments, but I won’t engage in any further debate with someone who isn’t truly interested in what others have to say.

I’m sure you will have the last word. Enjoy yourself.

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