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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If people don't vote I assume they don't care. I know lots of people who don't vote because they think it doesn't matter or they aren't engaged in politics, they're busy.  That's how the media also interprets it. The narrative is that the young just don't care about civic duty so they don't bother voting. Other people say they don't vote because they don't understand politics.  Maybe there is a handful of communist types that are just against the system. Whatever. If you don't vote, you don't matter.Your silence means nothing.

On the other hand, if the results of the election showed even 10% of ballots were deliberately spoiled that would be making a strong statement. If 20% of ballots were spoiled that would be major news.

 

You are free to assume that if people don't vote, they don't, care, Gisele, just as you a free to assume that if people vote, it means that they are politically engaged. Both assumptions happen to be false, which is probably why the corporate-owned mainstream media and that part of the alternative media which is owned by political parties, propagate those assumptions. Most Occupiers don't swallow the corporate or political party narratives, being much too politically engaged ourselves to think that anything that the corporations push is honest or healthy. 

It is not just Communists who are against the system. Many capitalists have seen that the system is broken and corrupt beyond repair and also oppose it. I find it rather strange that you think that everything I've written is "silence." That might be because you keep repeating false assumptions without bothering to first read where I've refuted them. 

If you read some of the books I've listed under "Evidence" as the second footnote to my first article above, you'll see that there are many cases where more than10% of the ballots weren't even counted, so nobody cared whether they had been filled out, cast as blank ballots, or deliberately spoiled. The US Supreme Court found, in Bush v. Gore 2000, that there is no Constitutional right for us to have our votes counted, so the fact that millions of ballots were deliberately left uncounted in 2000, 2004, and 2008, wasn't major news. 

But the turnout is always major news. If voter turnout in a Presidential election rises or falls by even 5% it makes all the mainstream media news outlets. 

Those of us who are Occupiers, are against the status quo and want to change the system and create a better system. Why do you characterize all Occupiers as Communists? And if you aren't just name-calling and really believe that anyone who wants to change the system is a Communist, why are you posting to a forum you perceive as being inhabited solely by Communists? This really isn't the proper forum for somebody who supports the status quo and is opposed to change. 

If you cannot leave the name-calling ("stupid," "lazy," "Communists") out of your comments, Gisele, I'm going to ask you to find a more appropriate forum. It is possible to address issues without calling people names, as everyone else in this discussion does. Of course if you haven't bothered to read anyone else's comments, you wouldn't have noticed that, but now that I've pointed it out, perhaps you could take it into consideration and participate in this discussion civilly and respectfully. Thank you.

Oh, and Gisele! Just in case nobody told you, the Cold War is over! We won! We forced those Communists to spend more on the arms race than they could afford, and their economy collapsed. Now we're the ones spending more on wars than we can afford, and it is our own economy that is collapsing.

 

 

 

 

You miss my point entirely Mark. This movement is about exposing the 1% to the 99% (in my opinion). To do that, we have to reach the mainstream public. By not voting the public is not getting the message that you don't agree with government. The passive message is easily assigned a negative narrative by others. I myself have always thought it's people who are disengaged from politics and don't see it as a civic duty that don't vote. It's not an insult. Why would I assume anything else. I don't think non-voters are lazy or ignorant either but that is the narrative that defines not-voting in the mainstream press. Editorials speak of Australia where you have to vote by law. Others respond by saying it's better anyway because such people are ignorant so better that they don't vote. That is not MY opinion. That is what I am reading. The same thing goes for Occupy participants. I am a participant myself. We can't fight what we don't acknowledge. Occupy participants are losing momentum with the public because of the way we are being portrayed.

 

Occupy is nonpolitical, Gisele. The 1% have already been exposed to the 99%, or there wouldn't be an Occupy movement. 

Trying to reach what you call "the mainstream public" would be the same mistake that many political parties have made. In trying to grow their parties, they use mainstream media to attempt to sway the mainstream public, but of course using mainstream media for that purpose costs them billions of dollars, so they have to go begging to the 1% to get those billions of dollars, and in return for those billions of dollars, they have to obey the agenda of the 1% and ignore the interests of the people they're supposedly reaching out to.

If you've always believed the apathy myth, it might be because you allowed yourself to be influenced by the mainstream media. Since you may not have had any other sources of information in the past, there is no reason that you would have thought differently. But since you now claim to be an Occupy participant, you now have access to other sources of information, such as teach-ins, discussions here on Occupy Cafe, links to alternative media, and people who saw through the mainstream media lies decades ago and have been actively working for a better system ever since.

Although the mainstream media may tell you that Occupy is losing momentum, the alternative media, where I've gotten all my information for decades now, is still telling the truth. With each atrocity committed by the corrupt US government against peaceful protesters at home or abroad, the momentum increases exponentially. Every student who is tear-gassed has classmates, friends, family, neighbors, and people who watch the video online and read their blogs. I think some Communists (was it the Wobblies?) used to say that an injury to one is an injury to all. I'd modify that to say that an injury to one is the radicalization of scores.

And no, quoting a Communist (if that was actually the source), is not the same as being a Communist. I've quoted people from Japan and Brazil, but I'm neither Japanese nor Brazilian.

At any rate, the Occupy movement is not going to participate in a corrupt system so as to attract more corrupt people to the Occupy movement. That's a no-starter. People who are politically engaged will discover what is happening sooner or later, no matter how much the mainstream media tries to cover up and censor the truth, and those with a shred of conscience left will come over of their own volition. Those who are not politically engaged enough to go beyond the mainstream media and who have no conscience, wouldn't be assets to Occupy anyway.

 

 

 

Another thing I find hilarious, Gisele, is saying that voters are politically engaged. I stopped voting in 2006. In 2008 I knew many voters who didn't bother to check the Senate voting records of Obama and McCain, as I did, who didn't bother to learn which corporations were the big campaign donors to Obama and McCain, as I did, and who were unaware that both Obama and McCain had issued a joint statement supporting the bailouts, as anyone who was politically engaged in the slightest should have been, and as I certainly was.

Voting is no more an indication of being politically engaged, than going to church is an indication of being religious, or going to school is an indication of being educated. People often do things they don't really care about because it is expected of them, because they are afraid of what others might say if they didn't, or because they believe that they have no choice. Sometimes people mistake physical presence for deliberate intent. Several people have been attacked or arrested by the police when walking near a protest on their way to or from work, when they had nothing whatsoever to do with the protest.

The majority of voters don't even really support the party or candidates they vote for, they just believe that the other parties or candidates would be even worse than theirs, so they vote against their own interests in hopes that their candidates might be less evil and do them less harm than the other candidates. It's like choosing to marry somebody you don't like because you're afraid that if you don't, either you might not be able to marry at all, or you might end up with somebody even worse. It may be a practical and pragmatic decision, but it isn't love, isn't likely to lead to a happy life, and may be part of the reason that 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Direct democracy was the original intent of the founders, and traces of it can still be found in the moribund relics of New England's Town Hall Meetings, where citizens voted on issues and budgets the way that we do in Occupy's General Assemblies. If you don't like the way that some big banks have been fraudulently foreclosing on homes, isn't it a lot less efficient to look for some candidate who says they agree with you (whether they actually do or not), try to get them elected, and then hope that they might try to do something about it, than to have an actual voice in government where a decision to deregulate banks would have to be put directly to voters like yourself?

Somebody on Twitter posted a quote, source unknown, that "Conservatives vote their fears, liberals vote their dreams." But most voters seem to be terrified that if we had a genuinely democratic form of government, the crazies and extremists would take over and do lots of crazy and extreme things. I disagree. Last year a local newspaper did a poll in my city to ask voters what their top priority, their main issue was. To everyone's surprise it wasn't any of the hot-button issues or crazy things that people fear so much. The overwhelming majority of people, including people from every shade of the political spectrum, said that their top priority, their number one issue, was getting the potholes fixed. 

As an environmentalist, I can't say that I was particularly pleased with that result, but it doesn't frighten me at all. In fact, the image of a direct democracy where the first thing that would get done would be that all the potholes in my city would be fixed, is one of the least frightening things I can envision. If we continue to let elected officials make our decisions for us, it is very likely that there will be more potholes, as money for infrastructure is siphoned off to pay for more wars, and my area may become uninhabitable when a nearby nuclear plant, operating under unsafe conditions long past its planned decommissioning date, does a Fukushima. That likelhood frightens me a lot more than the mob and rabble descending on the streets with asphalt and shovels to fix the potholes. ;)

 

 

 

 

"This movement is about exposing the 1% to the 99% (in my opinion).  To do that, we have to reach the mainstream public."

I'd say the exposure of the 1% was accomplished, more or less.  I'd say not voting next fall might be a way, not merely of reaching, but of joining, many of the 99%.  Who would be the leaders in that case?

I haven't read every word he wrote (yet), but I suspect Mark looks forward to the coming era, when people have occupied citizenship and a very high percentage of them are voters.

 

If you trust the people themselves, David, as I do, to explain their motivations truthfully, instead of believing mainstream media lies and spin, most people who don't vote are not apathetic, but believe that their interests are not and cannot be represented within our current political system. That's what most non-voters said in the only poll that ever asked them why they don't vote.

Approximately 50% of us don't vote because we believe that the current system does not and cannot represent our interests, almost double the number of people who belong to any particular political party. 

In the Occupy movement there are no leaders because we are all leaders. That's how we roll.

You can tell that the cops are extraterrestrial aliens because, coming from an authoritarian anthill-type society, whenever they see a group of people they demand, "Take me to your leader!"

At most protests today when the cops ask, "Who's in charge here," everyone replies in unison, "The people are in charge!"

This is what democracy looks like.

Old King Solomon was supposed to have said, "Go thou to the ant, thou sluggard, consider its ways and be wise." I would say, "Go thou to the sea-slug, thou ant-herd, consider its ways and be free!"

 

 

Did I imply a presumption of apathy?  Not intended!

Thanks for the elaboration, whatever the nudge.

 

It wasn't you, David, but the person you quoted for the purpose of refuting, who presumed apathy. I'd only intended to support your position. I apologize for not making that clear. 

 

 

I'm frequently accused of being opposed to voting. Here's something I wrote in response to one such accuser:
 
The Value of Voting
 
A democratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the people. That's the dictionary definition.

An undemocratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the government. That government could be a dictatorship, a monarchy, a plutocracy, an oligarchy, or even a pseudo-democracy, but if power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, the system does not meet the definition of a democratic form of government.
 
 
In a democratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the people, voting is the most precious right of all, as it is the way that the people exercise the power vested in them, either directly by voting on issues, budgets, and policies, or indirectly by voting for representatives who are obligated to represent their constituents and can be directly recalled by the people at any time that they fail to represent the people who elected them.
 
In an undemocratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, voting is totally worthless and a waste of time, as the people do not have power and the government doesn't have to count their votes, can miscount and/or ignore their votes, can overrule the popular vote, and 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. 
 
In an undemocratic form of government, voters can hope that their votes might be counted, can hope that their elected officials might represent them, but have no power to ensure that their votes are counted or that their elected officials actually represent them.
 
The system makes all the difference. As an analogy, breathing is a good thing and we humans couldn't survive without being able to breathe. But underwater or in a toxic environment filled with lethal gas, breathing can bring about death more quickly than holding one's breath and trying to escape. Breathing isn't always a good thing, it is only a good thing in an environment with oxygen suitable for human life. 
 
The same is true of voting. In a democratic system, voting is precious and essential. In an undemocratic system, it can be fatal, as it can allow the destruction of the economy, military adventurism, obstacles to basic human rights such as jobs, education, food, clothing, shelter, and health care, and other tragic consequences of allowing government to exercise uncontrolled power rather than vesting power in the hands of the people.
 
Most people in the US today are opposed to our government's ongoing wars of aggression. Even those who are uninformed and uneducated, who aren't aware that historically, the way that most empires fell was because they became militarily overextended, sense that there is something wrong with spending trillions of dollars on foreign wars while basic domestic needs go unmet. But because we do not have a democratic system of government, we have no power to end the wars. The best we can do is vote for candidates we hope might end the wars, but if, like Obama, they expand the wars instead of ending them, there is nothing we can do about it because our government has the power to start or end wars and we do not. If wars were on the ballot, it could only be as a nonbinding referendum, as there is no Constitutional way to force the government to obey the will of the people. The Constitution vested power in the government rather than in the hands of the people.
 
I do not oppose voting any more than I oppose breathing. I oppose voting only when it occurs within an undemocratic form of government, thus legitimizing an undemocratic form of government and consenting to be governed undemocratically, just as I oppose breathing only when in a toxic or anaerobic environment where breathing can be fatal. Just as I would want to try to help anyone trapped in a toxic or anaerobic environment hold their breath until they could escape, I want to try to help people trapped in an undemocratic form of government withhold their votes until they can escape. If I tell a drowning person to hold their breath until they can get their head above water, I am not condemning breathing. If I tell people not to vote until they have a democratic form of government, I am not condemning voting. In both cases, I am trying to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to promote the general welfare.
--------

Of course since I wrote the above I've had the privilege of voting at Occupy General Assemblies where my vote actually counts.  Even if the issue being voted on seems trivial, it is wonderful to have a direct vote on issues instead of a vote for somebody who is very unlikely to represent my interests. And it is a real pleasure to be around so many other people who believe themselves competent to vote directly on issues instead of having to delegate guardians to manage their affairs for them. Yes indeed, this is what democracy looks like!


Mark,

As I have gone about my work to get ready to take off this morning I have been thinking about your premise.

I think it is true for me as well that no candidates produced by a two party system could truly represent my values, my heart .Perhaps no persons put forth by a party at all could do that.  The people produced as candidates by party systems are products of  a party machine..called on by the party to vote party lines..not my heart or yours.

So as a citizen I have to agree with your basic premise that candidates whose names appear on ballots when I get to my little voting booth down on the harbor aren't people who can "govern with my consent" in the full sense of that phrase "consent of the governed"  

We are a diverse and pluralistic society whose aspirations and sensibilities can't be reduced to a two party system. All candidates produced by any party system are creatures of the party not people who take our hearts, our lives, our communities with them to State Capitols or to the Halls of Congress.

Here in Maine we have a Tea Party Governor,selected funded and programmed by the tea party.  He won with 30% of the vote a few votes ahead of a very inspirining independent  candidtae ( maine has no recount or runoff process).

I suspect our attempts to stretch beyond the two party system in the present system ends up having our votes, nullify one another and as they all come from the left of center, it ends up being a system which favors the far right.

That has driven the two party system into deeper entrenchment into a two party system when we would be far wiser to find and run candidates with unified support by many parties ( until we can completely change the system).  If we had done that last time in 2010 there wouldn't be a conservative majority in Congress serving the needs of the 1%.

I think we need to put more effort at the local level into breaking the two party system not by fracturing the left into dozens of little parties each running a candidate but by working together , beyond party lines, to  find candidates who will represent "we the people" , who will remain mutually engaged with us througout their term of office.  

 

The bureaucracy some still call a government, Lindsay, is a hierarchy. So whether a state governor is a leftist or from the extreme political right, the President of the United States, an official the Constitution prohibits US citizens from voting for directly, can still defund that state and all other states by starting a few more wars to drain money from state budgets.

It's not the players, it's the system. 

Putting efforts into supporting the corrupt system instead of putting efforts into changing the system will only leave us with the same corrupt system. That was the lesson that Egypt learned when they forced Mubarak to step down and his regime remained in power. Reforms to a corrupt system can result only in having a slightly less corrupt system. A revolution can change a system and establish a different system. Only those who are satisfied with the status quo should put energy into elections. 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. 

We need to put more effort into the Occupy Movement, so that we can learn and practice direct democracy. When our empire falls through its own mismanagement and hubris, as all empires do, we need to be ready to establish a system where our votes really count, our voices are really heard, and rather than hoping that officials might represent our interests, we can represent our own interests, as we are the people who can do that best. It is called self-governance. Children and incompetents need guardians to manage their affairs for them. Competent, mature, responsible adults are capable of managing our own affairs much better than anyone else could.

 

 

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