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, 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

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 was an election integrity activist for many years and advocated for hand-counted paper ballots. But as the years went on, I began to see other problems with our electoral system, such as that we don't really get to choose who is on the ballot, that it won't solve the problem to ensure that votes are counted honestly if votes don't have to be counted at all, that even the most free and fair election imaginable can lead to tragedy if the Supreme Court has the power to nullify and overturn it, etc.

Unfortunately for those who support capitalism but would like to be part of the Occupy Movement, the concept of getting money out of politics is anti-capitalist, as is the idea of revoking corporate personhood. Maybe both concepts reek of anti-capitalism, but they are, as Victoria correctly points out, areas where the 99% could agree, if they weren't more concerned with preserving capitalism.

I'm reminded of the time I was standing in line for a flu shot at a supermarket (before I realized that flu shots weren't necessarily effective or healthy and stopped getting them) and was talking with a Navy mom in front of me, who had a toddler in a stroller. We were talking about health care and Navy mom said, "I think that everyone should have access to health care, but I'm against socialized medicine."

Duh. There wasn't anything I could say to that, Quite a few years later Michael Moore's movie, "Sicko" came out, so I'd refer somebody like that to the film, but it didn't yet exist. I suppose I could have tried saying something like the reason not everyone here has access to health care is because those who opposed universal access to health care have labeled it socialized medicine, but it would probably just have caused cognitive dissonance. 

It is the same thing here, I think. We all want an end to corporate personhood and corporate money out of politics, but some are horrified at such anti-capitalist sentiments as ending corporate personhood and getting corporate money out of politics.

Don't ask me--maybe Gisele can reconcile this one. I'm afraid to even try.

Anyway, my continuing gratitude, Victoria, for your civil and rational comments, and many thanks to Gisele for making me seem perhaps a bit less crazy than I am.  ;)

Well, actually, I don't think everyone who supports capitalism feels the way you say, Mark. In fact I think quite a lot don't. They can see the difference between free enterprise and a corporatocracy. Not all the wealthy believe in corporatocracy or that they shouldn't ever be taxed or that there should be no government regulations on industry. A lot of small business people see how the big companies screw them via the government. A lot of workers who support industry see their jobs outsourced to China and know this isn't good for business in the end.

I've owned a business and I support entrepreneurs fully and I believe more should be done to make it easier to start a business and grow it until it's somewhat stable and maybe there should be different tax codes and regulations for different stages of business. Certainly small mom and pop shops can be really hurt by unnecessary regulations and compliances and taxes and can't afford to pay Western medicine health care rates now for all their employees when they struggle with cash flow and all the uncertainties of the first three years of operation. I know this is true, I went through it. Most businesses fail in the first three years. But it is small business that drives the economy. We have been decimated by the corporatocracy, by job outsourcing and cheap crap imports, by Big Box swarms and the death of the town and city centers, the metastacizing of "sprawl" -- 40 years of hideous development choices driven by major industries with an exploitative model, a model based on a cancer cell, that doesn't care for the place or the people it affects. 

Anyway, I argue that some people can think in the middle and don't always have to go off to the extremes, though I don't know what percentage of the population that is, and given that Fox News spends every minute of the day trying to kill subtle thought, the numbers are dwindling. For that matter, a lot of though on the "left" isn't very subtle either. Knee-jerk reactions abound on all sides and precious little real understanding, but that's what all this conversation is about, right?

I would love to hear more concessions in a national debate from all sides, where we can all admit that some of our enemies have a point. That goes for the Left as well.


Thank you, Gisele. Long before I stopped voting I endured years of coordinated tagteam attacks from political operatives on various websites, and often I was banned. First it was because I criticized voting machines. That was a taboo topic for many years and people who mentioned it were called conspiracy theorists. When it was finally proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that voting machines are not reliable, I never got a single apology and not one website that had banned me invited me back. 

Later it was because I criticized individual politicians or political parties for harmful decisions. Many people believe that their political parties and their candidates should not be subjected to criticism and that anyone who does so must be a member of an opposition party.

And within the last five years, of course, it has been for my election boycott advocacy. Voters and political party operatives come out of a milieu where personal attacks are the norm and the more vicious the better. They believe in a winner-take-all competitive system and reject any attempts at cooperative or collective self-governance. So I've grown wary and weary of them, perhaps to the point of paranoia. But like they say, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you, so my concerns are not imaginary and do have a basis in reality, even if I've become overly suspicious, and I do apologize for that. 

Oh, and Gisele -- because you don't know this about me, I will tell you -- I care about this issue more than anything else in life right now. I have waited literally my entire life for this moment -- for the moment when people finally reach their tipping point and WAKE UP. I didn't know when it would come, but I knew it would.

I grew up in a family of activists who have dedicated their lives to the cause of democracy, and sacrificed a tremendous amount.

I believe that this is the 11th hour and we have a very, very small window of opportunity to act correctly. I think mistakes now will really cost us. I take this seriously. So seriously, that I will come here to an obscure page on the Occupy site and argue this point -- we NEED to try to act together now, in 2012, if we can.

Why don't we just go the route of trying to take back the system from within, in massive electoral insurgencies, and if and when it doesn't work, then we can deal with the next step. But the truth is, we have never tried it. We've never tried to seize the controls of the ship. I do not want to dissuade people from this last attempt to claim the controls of the nation through legal means. At the very least, the act of doing so will call even more attention to the ways the system is rigged against us. We have been asleep, apathetic, for so long now -- who is to say what we can possibly do together if we wake up and strategize now?


Thank you for this. And your point of urgency, our small window is what we must all understand and use the best way we can.  We are very literaly at the edge of the abyss.  We have been asleep so long, disengaged so long it is not at all clear enough of us can wake up at once to create a meanginful and effective shift towards an eventually complete course correction.

I agree 100% with your stratgey for using this tiny window..I agree that the targets you  set are core and universal,those are the ones that will stand the best chance of mass awakening, mass action.




So why is it, Lindsay, that I have been hearing that same message at every election for the past fifty years, since I've been old enough to vote? Each time, we're told that we're at the edge of the abyss, that this is the most important election of our lifetimes, and that if we don't seize this tiny window of opportunity, all will be lost. And each time, when the election is over, no matter who wins, the result is that we draw closer to the abyss we'd sought to avoid. I'm getting tired of hearing the same message over and over and I stopped believing in it five years ago. My upstairs neighbor, a woman my age but much more intelligent than I am, tells me that she stopped voting back when she was in college because it never seemed to change anything. 


Thank you for your clarity and passion.

"I'd like to see a united movement in 2012 to end corporate personhood, enact full campaign finance reform, and institute hand counted paper ballots in every precinct so that when Occupy - aligned candidates start to run (and they will, that is already starting) they will have a strong populist platform, and they will have a chance of getting real support, and their votes will be counted."

Indeed. I also agree with Lindsay when she says "...the targets you  set are core and universal,those are the ones that will stand the best chance of mass awakening, mass action."

So far, Occupy as a whole doesn't seem to be rallying around these kinds of politically engaged solutions, which is a pity. I know that when I tried to convince my local GA to be involved in Occupy Congress, their eyes glazed over whenever I brought up corporate personhood and corporate money in politics. The movement, if it got behind the concepts you mentioned, could serve as a catalyst for the mass awakening of the 99%. (And yes, we might have changed the conversation in this country, but I don't consider the 99% to be awake yet.)

If you have any ideas on how to move Occupy from obstruction and protest to political engagement, I'd love to hear them.

Well, it's so diverse and spread out now, I'm just watching it develop myself. But my friends in other OWS camps are actually telling me the movement on their end IS gelling around the core issues of corporate personhood and campaign finance. 

But we are all converging toward that point in 2012. There are many other movements headed in that direction and they're growing fast. There's a new awareness we've never had before. I too hope that Occupy remains relevant and powerful in relation to the need for these core reforms.

What is the point of Occupying Wall Street if you don't demand an end to the corporate control of government? This is core political understanding, and if Occupy doesn't have that, it just won't end up being the movement that changes the game -- though it certainly has done a tremendous amount to light a fire for us all. I have good hope though, that the right decisions will be made. This conversation is all part of it.

The point, Victoria, is not to demand, but to do.

For example, a child can demand that their parents give it candy.

An adult can choose to buy candy or not, as they please.

If you demand that government end corporate control, what will you give government to take the place of the money they are getting from corporations? And what will you do if government doesn't comply with your demands, throw a tantrum and hold your breath until you turn blue? Government has plenty of tear gas, pepper spray, and jail cells to deal with people who throw tantrums when their demands aren't met.

This isn't about making demands on authority, it is about replacing authority with self-governance. Or at least it is for some of us. Obviously not for those who would prefer to co-opt the movement into electoral politics as usual, but it was direct democracy, not representative government, that was the founding principle of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

I think the awakening around these core issues of reform of the political process, the legislative process is happening and I don't think anyone is waiting for occupy to say its ok.  Occupy is playing itself out of the limelight in not taking on these issues in a meaningful and constructive way.

It is the work on these issues, victory on these issues that matters. This is the moment to take these issues on.  There isn't time to lose on getting Occupy on board.  It is the movement itself that must go forward.

Why are so many people trying to get Occupy on board with politics as usual? The movement won't go forward by moving backward or standing still.

The core issue isn't "reform of the political process," Lindsay, the core issue is changing the game to a less destructive and more constructive process. 

The legislative process has been happening for about 217 years and is responsible for every single item on the Occupy Wall Street List of Grievances. The legislative process is harmful to the 99%, to this nation's economy, to millions of people forced into poverty or murdered, and to the planet which is being destroyed by elected officials who act without consulting the people they were supposed to represent,

While politicians seek the limelight, I think Occupiers should seek consensus instead. Fame and glory are for the power hungry, and such people tend to be corrupt. 

You don't change the game  by playing the game, you change the game by playing a different game. Occupy, if it isn't co-opted or fearmongered into politics as usual, has the potential to be the game-changer most people have been waiting for all our lives. 

I'm not the only one who would like to change the game from, "I win, you lose," to "everyone wins, nobody loses." There really are games like that, called win/win games. They're not as popular or profitable for the 1% as pro sports, but they exist and some people prefer them.

Of course political organizers aren't waiting for Occupy to tell them it is okay to try to deliver the vote for the 2012 election which, no matter how many good people win, will continue to keep the 1% in power for many more years with the consent of those of the governed foolish enough to consent or ignorant enough not to realize that their vote, no matter who or what they vote for, is their consent. Political organizers have the billions of dollars of the 1% behind them to help get out the vote, by any means necessary, through any pretext, with any lies, promises, or threats that might encourage people to vote.

There are people who have been voting for fifty or more years, who still believe that this time will be different, this time there will be the magic that transforms a corrupt system into a system that works for the people instead of for the rich.

If we can just get an honest vote count, if we can just elect enough good people, if we can just get the money out of politics, if we can just pass a Constitutional amendment, if we can just keep pretending that representative government is democracy, then maybe this time really will be different. But those are a lot of ifs and only the last one is possible before the 2012 election--and that one is just a pretense, not even a dream or a possibility.

It isn't the candidates or the issues that matter, it is the system that matters. Why aren't you trying to find enough good people to join the Mafia or the KKK or the drug cartels so that you can reform those organizations from the inside and make them less corrupt? The US government is a larger organized crime syndicate, but it differs only in size from any other organized crime syndicate. 


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