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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Ray Lutz is a prominent San Diego Occupier and made the news when he was arrested for setting up a table (prohibited structure) at Occupy for the purpose of registering voters. Ray is a long-time local Democratic Party leader, a former Democratic Congressional candidate, and thinks I'm an idiot for not voting. Ray also puts out a daily email blast about OSD and other matters that might be relevant to OSD. Ray also runs several forums to which I'm subscribed and sometimes post, including a Cops Watch forum, a Blackwater watch forum, and a Democratic Party forum. Ray solved the problem of me posting controversial stuff by starting an open forum where I, and anyone else who needed to, could post stuff that wouldn't be well received in the regular forums. In his latest email blast Ray posted about an Occupy sit-in at at Congresswoman Susan Davis' office to protest the NDAA and the results, and I noticed a question I couldn't resist responding to, so here's what I posted to his open forum:


In his Occupy San Diego email blast tonight, Ray Lutz (I think it was Ray, but since there's a team helping with the blast, correct me if I'm wrong) wrote:


OSD then took the protest to Congresswoman Susan Davis's office. The Congresswoman was in Washington D.C. She was contacted by her staff and issued an official statement from her office which was delivered to OSD by her San Diego Staffer Daniel.
  • Video of Daniel reading the Congresswoman's statement.
  • She says the bill does not apply to U.S. Citizens.
  • Unfortunately, this bill probably should not have been approved anyway, as it represents corporate welfare that largely only benefits the top 0.1% who run military-industrial complex corporations and is riddled with pork.
         See how Congress voted Here
  • I wonder why Bob Filner did not vote.
  • All but 6 Republicans voted for it. 90 Democrats voted against it, but most Democrats voted for it. This would have passed even if it was entirely in the hands of Democrats.

Obviously I can't know for sure why Bob didn't vote, as I haven't asked him, but I can take a guess.

Bob has a large military constituency and he cares deeply about our troops and their families, so he couldn't in good conscience vote against a Defense Authorization bill.

Bob saw that the bill had a provision that might be used against US citizens, so he couldn't in good conscience vote for it.

And it was obvious that Bob's was not a swing vote and wouldn't effect the outcome.

That's my guess as to why Bob didn't vote.

I think there are situations when it makes more sense not to vote than it does to vote, and this may have been one of them.

Ray is one of many people who believe that voting is the essence of democracy, a precious right, and that everyone who possibly can, should vote. Ray doesn't believe that there any circumstances in which a person should refuse to vote. It will be interesting to see if he responds, but I'm not expecting it because when he can't refute my logic he just ignores me. Can't say I blame him. 

There may be more to it than that. I've mentioned Representative Bob Filner earlier in this discussion. He's one of the good guys. He spent some time in jail in the south as a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement. He was, I believe, the only white person to stand with the Black Congressional Caucus to protest the fraudulent Florida electoral vote in 2000. I asked him afterward at a meeting of the Martin Luther King Democratic Club why he was the only white. He said he hadn't expected to be, that he thought that when he stood up, other white liberals and Democrats would follow him down the aisle. But when he looked back there was nobody there. He kept going anyway. That's Bob. I like him. He has also been on the House Armed Services Committee for a long time and has done a lot of good things for veterans and their families. Bob is leaving Congress and is running for Mayor of San Diego. He said in a TV interview that he thinks he would have more power as a Mayor than as a Congressman. Since the people most likely to vote for him are liberals and progressives who also support civil rights, and military families he has helped, no matter how he had voted, he would have been criticized by one of those groups and possibly split his vote. A vote for the bill would have been seen as a vote against civil rights, and a vote against the bill would have been seen as a vote against military families.

But as a Congressman Bob can do something ordinary citizens can rarely do--he can vote on issues rather than just voting for people to decide those issues. So this is an example of when it isn't even a good idea to vote directly on issues. Since the bill came out of Committees, Bob may even have had some say in helping frame the bill. But the end result apparently wasn't to his satisfaction. He was being asked to cast a "lesser evil" vote, to decide whether voting for or against the vote was the greater evil. He may have felt that in either case, he'd still have been voting for evil. If there are no good choices offered, then it is probably wise not to vote. Even though there's no such thing as a block, there is a filibuster, although I think it has been weakened, however even if he'd been able to block the vote, he'd probably have seen that as potentially hurting our troops and their families, so I don't think he would have. Besides, there was an unbreakable majority favoring the bill.

This was, I think, an instance of when the system is so rotten that no matter how you vote, somebody gets hurt. That's how I see the popular vote. No matter how people vote, somebody gets hurt. Maybe not the voters themselves yet, but all the other billions of victims of this capitalist imperialist system, the millions forced into poverty by our free trade deals and economic hitmen, the millions wounded, killed, or whose lives are disrupted by our wars, the millions suffering right now from diseases caused by toxic and nuclear pollution--literally billions of people being hurt who will continue to be hurt.

Not voting sends a message, if not to our government, at least to those being harmed by our government. The message is that we understand the problem, we know what our government is doing to you in our name, and we do not consent. It can't restore the reputation of the US government, but it could repair the image of the US American people. As I've said, I spent many years pondering why Germans could have voted for Hitler. I know there were economic reasons. I know there was peer pressure. But in order to consent to fascism, people had to simply not care about those it was hurting and killing, the Slavs, the Jews, the Gypsies, the Communists, the mentally disabled, the trade unionists, the liberals, the intellectuals, the people of mixed ancestry, and many other groups deemed unfit. It was apathy. Voter apathy. The same kind of apathy we have here. People who don't care how many other people are hurt if they can get a few more candidates elected who might support or oppose abortions, gay marriage, more or fewer regulations, health care, or whatever it is they're concerned enough about to not care who gets hurt. Maybe just hanging on to a lifestyle they know is going down the tubes anyway, maybe for another year or two.....

US voters aren't baby-killers any more than the Good Germans who voted for Hitler were Jew-killers. Most never killed anyone in their lives and many probably harbored no hatred toward others. Maybe they lived in a world so messed up that they'd come to believe that just one more war might bring peace. Heck, worth a shot, right? And if it doesn't work, we can always rise up against the government we voted for. The military superpower waging wars of aggression we voted for. The one that brutalizes or even kills us if we dissent. 

I think Bob's refusal to vote may have been a matter of conscience, among other things (no good options, one vote not making a difference, political considerations, etc.).

Sometimes we can't defeat evil because it is stronger than we are. But we don't have to consent to it. Bob abstained because he thought that was the most sensible thing to do. It might be the most sensible thing for us to do also. What would have happened if the majority of people in Congress had refused to vote? The bill would not have passed. It requires a majority for a bill to pass. Congressional votes actually count and are counted. (They're not always verifiable as Members can change their votes for the record afterward.) What happens if we don't vote? Maybe nothing, but whatever the government did would no longer be done in our name. I wonder if there are enough voters who care.

Forgot to mention "sortition"  drafting legsilators randomly from the governed  as a lieu of elections all together..totally eliminates voting; insures a truly representaive legislative/deliberative body and allows for redirection of all the madness and energy loss of elections to a more deliberative local process so that our legislators would go off to rue ( or better stay home and do their legsilative duies via teleconference) fully infomed by a local intense period of talking about and issues to be brought before the legilsure..Pure democracy.  Tom Atlee did some writing on sortion at his posterous blog and something deepin me cried no no no  when I heard people around the world  at the time of the toppling of Mubarak say Egypt's next step i sthe formation of political parties.Wrote about iat my posterous blog which have severallinks to sortion in modern day use.

We can go way beyond no parries, way beyond all this hullabaloo on clean elections and accurate vote counting by just removing that all together,,not voting, just random selection.

So far all the new modern constitutions emerging like lilies in the field all over the owlrd are sticking with elections  but this conversation has sold me on sortition as the way to go.

Packaged with a new  crowd sourced constitution that includes the "inner strsucture" of its people ( I am so inspred and excited by the beautiful fabric of these modern consitutions which address childrens rights, dignity fo all, animal rights, our desired relationship with natural resources, bio diversity,support care and dignity for the sick, the elderly, free education) , that says what the people consent to and have innsituted the standard  for all aspects of government( as none of the consitutions that drove us to this abyss do), including all the provsions of itizen petition, citizen revocations that all mofern consitutions and none of those that have driven us to the abyss have..

is the consent expressed in an enduring umulti generational way

it is the absence of this constitutionally expressed will of the people and our process of governance thatcreates this gap between the actions of governance and the conset of the people.

And as many wise nations are showing us every day  not so hard to do.

We worked for years on the equal rights amendement only to have it fail. In less time 25 ordinary citizens wrte a whole new consitution that eliminates all the problems we are struggling with here.



One would think, Lindsay, that with Congress at a 9% approval rating, and most voters, according to a Rasmussen poll, believing that people chosen at random from the phone book could do a better job than Congress, sortition would be an easy sell.

But that doesn't take into account the the usual ways that the current system terrifies people into voting. Like, what if some terrible right-wingers happen to be chosen? Of course a random process is extremely unlikely to result in as many right-wingers as are in Congress now, as they are much better represented in Congress than in the general population. Or what if some anarchists happen to be chosen? A real anarchist is opposed to government and would decline, whatever the penalty, and endure prison rather than serve in government, just as conscientious objectors refuse to fight in the military. Fake anarchists aren't anarchists, they're just opportunists and that's what most elected officials are today anyway. And some good people would also decline, as they feel it is more important for them to be planting gardens or tending grandchildren. But in all, we couldn't do worse and really are capable of doing a whole lot better.

The trick is to first get that new Constitution that vests power in the people instead of in the hands of the wealthy. Then the citizens have oversight of what their representatives do and can hold them directly accountable. So no matter who is chosen randomly, they can't just do whatever they wish and ignore the will of the people. The Zapatistas call it "Lead by obeying." Representatives have to listen to and actually represent the will of the people. It is tedious, but a lot less haphazard than what we have now. Come to think of it, if representatives were ordinary people, had to listen to ordinary people, and were selected at random instead of being elected, they wouldn't have to spend 90% of their time raising money and could actually get some work done.


My point exactly..oh my gosh..are we moving towards convergence??? I am thinkin....maybe  jes maybe???  I think you would enjoy Tom Atlees writings on sortition (represnttaion by lottery insteda of votng) and akthough I haven't been there in a long time my blog has some good links.  It's a strange concept at first hearing..but really a rather excellent one I think.


I am glad you see some hope for significant change via a new constitution where the convergence of government and the consent of the governed even if sortion may be a long way off and hard sell.


Merry xmas




I don't think that's the fear. I think we have all be trained to believe that the affairs of state are too complex for ordinary people to understand.

LOL Gisele. Can you name one person in the Canadian or US American government you think would be more capable of understanding this discussion than you are?

In the US we were all trained to believe that corporations provided jobs. It was so obvious and so widely agreed upon that there were very few people who questioned it.

Right now, most US Americans don't believe that any more. Most of us know that it was the corporations (with the help of government) that outsourced our jobs and that they haven't created equivalent jobs to replace those they eliminated. 

Yes, we've all been brainwashed, but that doesn't mean we can't recover our senses.

It's interesting, the title of this thread: When the Governed Don't Consent.

What does it mean to be governed?

Do Americans feel governed? Or do they feel raped, exploited, lied to, manipulated, and ultimately screwed? And is that being governed, or is it being attacked?

I think everyone needs to read Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." I don't think it's possible to have a fully informed discussion about the specific current nature of our "government" without understanding the roots of the criminal economic system it is currently enforcing. 

I don't think the question about not consenting to government can really be addressed until we can answer what government is or should be, and whether government is actually what we have now.

I haven't read it, but doesn't it mean that when a country is destroyed by war or disaster it is an opportunity for big business and it can be rebuilt as a free market? That is, a "shock" wipes out whatever system was in use before so it can be replaced during the chaos?

It isn't just that a country is destroyed by war or disaster and THEN there are economic opportunities. It's that the economic hit men MAKE the wars and disasters, so that they can remake the economy in their image, loot the country and decimate its people, and become obscenely, unfathomably wealthy in the process.

Yes, Gisele. I have read Naomi Klein's, Shock Doctrine, and I'd say you've summed it up nicely.

At present, Victoria, there are still quite a lot of US Americans who don't feel governed. They do feel "raped, exploited, lied to, manipulated, and ultimately screwed," and even attacked, but they look for everything possible to blame it on but government. It must be the people currently in government, the people on the Supreme Court, the current President (or former ones), the political parties, the rigged elections--anything but the system of government itself.

Remember the Harriet Tubman quote, "I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."

I'm no Harriet Tubman. I don't love people and freedom enough to risk my life and put a gun to people's heads to lead them to freedom even when they're afraid and don't want to go. So all I can do is try to help people understand that they're slaves. Maybe once they understand, somebody more courageous than me will free them, or they will free themselves. But most tend to fear uncertainty, so my self-assigned task as an educator isn't as easy as some might think. My "hook" is the electoral system. I use that to try to "get the mule's attention." My goal is to educate people so that they're not fighting for more benevolent slavemasters or less harsh conditions of slavery, but will become abolitionists and oppose the abhorrent system of slavery itself. In fact, in years past, before I settled on "election boycott advocate," I used to call myself a neo-abolitionist.


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