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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Change that last part to:

Victoria (wearing an "I'm on strike" button: Hi

Waitress: Who's on strike?

Victoria: I'm on a vote-strike

Waitress: yeah I get it (laughing). I did go vote for “newbie”.  I was right. She wasn’t any better than the rest.

Victoria: That’s not really fair, she tried but she got blocked by the others every time. That’s why I’m striking. We elected someone good and they stopped her from doing her job.

Waitress: Figures. Heaven forbid minimum wage gets raised (rolls eyes)

Victoria: Well I’m not going quietly. That’s why I have this strike button. I have some more do you want one?

Waitress: Sure. It totally sucks that she couldn’t get minimum-wage raised.  I was really hoping for that. Like it would kill for them to give us an extra dollar an hour. How did she get stopped?

Victoria: blah blah blah. I’m going to a march on Saturday with Occupy.  Want to come with me and a few of my friends? We can talk some more about it then. I’d love for you to meet them.

Waitress: Yeah sure, why not. The weather is going to be good and I can get a tan at the same time ha ha.

Victoria: okay, meet me at X and we can go together.

Victoria and the waitress arrive at Occupy on Saturday.

They see a voter registration table and 200 people urging everyone to register to vote.

Victoria asks her Occupy friends, "But I thought we'd consensed on a vote strike?"

They say, "Yes, but we're not going to vote. Somebody made a proposal that we register voters so that they can sign a petition that would get corporate money out of politics, reverse corporate personhood, and ensure honest elections, so we consensed on registering voters so that everyone could sign the petition."

Victoria: But who are they sending that petition to?

Occupiers: To their elected officials, of course.

Victoria: Are their elected officials likely to support those things?

Occupiers: No, but once people see that their elected officials don't represent them, they can vote for better ones.

Victoria: But the elections are still rigged!

Occupiers: Please be positive, Victoria. This is a way that we can get people politically engaged. Take that button off and join us. There are a bunch of voter registration forms and clipboards on the table. Why don't you and your friend each take one and help us Occupy Electoral Politics?

Victoria to waitress friend: You know, it just occurred to me that we might get a better tan if we went to the beach. I'm going to go home and get my bathing suit--would you like to get yours and we can go to the beach?

For what it's worth, I think the folks at Occupy SF would be more receptive to a voting strike than any sort of attempt at reform. I'm sure they aren't alone, either.

That would be too bad any place that happens..this year of all years.i pray that Occupy has more wisdom than to use its voice in such a non constructive , reactive way.  Vote but have pre election demonstrtaions that protest electoral signs or t shirts or face book posts :I am voting but willit count and be counted" or something.  This conversation and the links have  provided a wealth of material for public awareness and wealty of materials for public awareness campaigns.  I hope it will be well used to call for electoral support candidtaes who are wlling to work for electoral reform, to lobby for elecroral reform. 

Perhaps people who already don't vote could make their non-voting more meaningful through Occupying the voting booths on election day and telling the world WHY they don't vote. 

C'mon, Victoria. You know we're not allowed to get within fifty feet of a polling place, or whatever safe distance the law requires. And you know better than anyone that if we tried that we'd get lynched by Occupiers who'd think we were trying to take away their precious right to vote. 

But since you're much more in touch with activist communities than I am, do you know of any other election integrity activists or other activists or any type besides me and S. Brian Willson who intend not to vote? As far as I can see, we're the only ones left--everyone else seems to have changed their minds.

What we're allowed to do, and what we can do, are two different things.

As for activists, I don't know of any who are planning to make not voting a loud issue. They just don't vote.

Mark, you mentioned Aikido at one point. I studied martial arts for some years. My father was a black belt. My approach to things right now is more Aikido when it comes to activism. You have to know where the energy is flowing in order to direct it. Where is the activist energy flowing? What do people want? What are they already leaning toward? What are they willing to do?

If I come into an activist group and say, you're all a bunch of assholes supporting a genocidal regime unless you absolutely refuse to consent to ALL engagement with this system . . . 

Well, some people might align with that energy if they are already headed that way.

For others, it would be the equivalent of an attack, and they would go into their own defense or attack mode.

My interest right now -- as I've been doing for the past year and a half -- is just in testing the waters, engaging with many activists, feeling where people are individually and collectively.

My final sense is that we may be right on the edge of a major tipping point. 

I don't want to engage with activists in a way that makes them pull back from me, thereby actually causing energy to move away from me and from my ultimate goals.

To align with their energy, I have to align with them. They want to vote? Ok. They can vote. I won't stand in the way of that. I will talk to them about it, I will show them the problems. I will even help them to vote for good people, all the while explaining how they're being screwed. They will listen to me more because I'm not judging them or calling them fools (I used to) and because I have their best interest in mind, not just a need to assert my own agenda. And that's how I can influence people who are NOT the choir, who are not already living in an anarchist encampment in the desert, waiting for The End.

And this is the best I can do. I can't save the world by myself. 

I'm looking for alternative systems that make sense. I'd like to be able to point to them -- to scaleable models -- as our system inexorably collapses, and as people realize their engagement in the process only counts for so much, and that the 1% have got the game rigged and they ain't giving it up without a fight. 

I can show them that only if they like me, if they trust me, if they don't need to fight me.

Anyway -- I have a radio show tonight on something called Progressive Blitz where I will probably be talking to lots of Democrats =)

My condolences, Victoria. ;)

Can we have a link? Sounds like it might be entertaining, in a gallows humor kind of way.

Call in number - 424-675-8317

I agree about the tipping point. The price of rebellion, no matter what the style, is only going to get higher. We are of the same mind in gathering the energy too. We have to remember who our enemies are. It is not our neighbours and friends, not even the ones who vote Republican.

Sure, Lindsay. I could dig out my old, "Prevent Unplanned Presidencies," button. And there are probably lots of old, "I Voted--I think?" stickers floating around. 

Oh, well if you don;t need them I'll take them,,list them on ebay.


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