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 guess we mind melded. I don't know why it sort of came to an end all at once, but it did. 

lol, we are all separate people!  I just felt that we had ganged up on you and you fought so valiently. Everyone seemed to have said everything there was to say on the voting angle, several times over. Lindsay had already said she was going to be busy elsewhere. Victoria seemed to be done. I knew I was. After this long a debate the main topic can get lost in all the back and forth on individual aspects. Lots of people read only the first and last pages of a thread.

It didn't feel fair for the thread to end without giving you an opportunity to summerize your point of view.You really earned the right to have the final word on the issue without having to fight us off. I don't think it's something that normally happens so I thought I would suggest it. I didn't mean I was officially closing the thread! I am positive I don't have the authority to do that.

Just having read the last few posts I do think you have moved onto different topics. In my opinion it would be better to start another thread so that your position on vote-boycotting doesn't get buried and so that others will know what is being discussed and can join in.

I am going to call you Mr. Porcupine

Uh, thanks, Gisele, I "Mr. Porcupine" meant in a friendly way? LOL

Usually it is more constructive to discuss issues rather than people, so whether people are porcupines or barnacles really isn't on topic.

The topic is "When the Governed Don't Consent," so although I tend to focus on not voting as a form of nonconsent, it really doesn't preclude other means of nonconsent. I'm just advocating election boycotts as a crucial part of nonconsent. 

Anyway, it is distinctly unlikely that I'll be invited to host another discussion, so that doesn't seem to be an option. 

I got an email saying that Mr. Blue had posted a comment somewhere in this discussion that started out:

You mention several times in this thread that there are "myriad of ways that the Constitution allows them to ignore or override the popular vote," but I don't recall an actual list anywher...

But when I looked for the comment so that I could respond, it had been deleted. Perhaps Mr. Blue wished to post it in another place, rephrase it, or hadn't noticed that some people had wanted this discussion to end. Anyway, with just the above to go on, I'll try to respond.

The Constitution gave the Supreme Court supreme power. The Supreme Court alone can interpret the Constitution, so if the Supreme Court interprets the word "people" to mean corporations, there is no appeal from such a decision. They also could have interpreted the word "people" to mean "green furry aliens with seven appendages," and voters would be scrambling to get up petitions (which the Supreme Court can strike down as unconstitutional unless they're adopted in the ways that the Supreme Court deems Constitutional), to demand that they reverse that decision.

That's the big picture. Some of the details I can list are that there is no provision in the Constitution that guarantees our right to have our votes counted, no less counted accurately. So the struggle for the franchise is essentially a struggle to be able to cast votes that don't have to be counted. By denying blacks and women the vote, the 1% made it appear that the vote was valuable, and that was their purpose in allowing people to vote at all. For a vote to be valuable, it has to be counted, and has to constitute a real voice in government, not just the delegation of power to people who cannot be held accountable during their terms of office. It is when they are in office, the only time that they are needed to represent their constituents, that they have to be held accountable--at other times, such as before they take office and after their terms end, holding them accountable cannot force them to represent us. If they're supposed to be our representatives, then we need a way that we can get them to represent us while they're in office, and the Constitution ensured that we didn't have that power.

By establishing the Electoral College, the Constitution ensured that the popular vote, even if counted, wasn't necessarily the final say. It could be ignored by the Electoral College, and even if it wasn't, the Electoral College votes can be accepted or rejected by Congress. They usually don't, but they can.

Also, because the Supreme Court has supreme power, it can point to any flaw in our electoral system, which has innumerable flaws, and use that as a basis to intervene, nullify the election, order a new election, or just choose the winner themselves. It doesn't have to be that votes are counted differently in different places, for which they misused the Equal Protection clause in 2000, but any of the other myriad flaws in our elections, such as the lack of a chain of custody, that votes can't be verified, computer glitches that disappear thousands of votes, etc., etc. When such things work on behalf of the 1%, the Supreme Court ignores them, but if they didn't, they could just choose one such flaw out of hundreds and use it as a basis to intervene. Somebody with standing would have to ask them to intervene, but there are plenty of puppet politicians who would be happy to.

But it doesn't have to be the Supreme Court. Congress also has (Article 1, Section 5) the Constitutional power to be the sole judge of the "elections, returns, and qualifications" of its members. Therefore, unless the Supreme Court decided to find their action unconstitutional, Congress could judge that an eminently qualified candidate who won election to Congress wasn't qualified, without even giving a reason for that decision, could judge that the election returns were wrong when they weren't or were correct when they actually been obtained by fraud, or could even judge that an election had taken place when it hadn't. Congress regularly seats new members before their elections have been certified, so why should they have to wait for the election at all? They could just judge that because a candidate had announced and was on the ballot, and that district was known to support that candidate's party, the candidate had been elected and swear them in without bothering to wait for the election. When you're the sole judge of something, nobody can contradict you. In the case of Congress, people could appeal to the Supreme Court, but if its a matter of Congressional elections the Supreme Court isn't likely to side with the people over Congress, and indeed the Constitution gave Congress the final say.

Nice job if you can get it, hey? Your colleagues decide if you won your election or not and don't have to even look at the vote count, and only your colleagues can remove you from office, something they've never done and aren't likely to ever do. Plus you get to set your own salary, allowances, and benefits, and are beholden only to your big donors. With temptations like that even decent people can be lured into becoming part of a corrupt system. 

Thanks, Mark.

The reason I withdrew my post is because I realized that you had in fact, provided such a list elsewhere in this thread. But that's okay -- you provided a few new wrinkles, e.g. the ability of the Supreme Court to nullify an election.

I just noticed a mistake in what I posted above:

Congress also has (Article 1, Section 5) the Constitutional power to be the sole judge of the "elections, returns, and qualifications" of its members. Therefore, unless the Supreme Court decided to find their action unconstitutional,

The Supreme Court could not find the action of Congress to be unconstitutional, since it would be in accordance with Article 1, Section 5. What the Supreme Court could do would be to reinterpret Article 1, Section 5, so that it would no longer mean what it says, but would mean whatever the Supreme Court interpreted it to mean. Which could be those green furry aliens if 5 of the Justices happened to be in a whimsical mood that day.  ;)

Lindsay just posted an excellent comment here:

I posted a partial response, and I'll post the rest of it here.

I agree that establishing a new, democratic system, outside the current system, is the way to go. But then we have two systems operating simultaneously, and one has all the power, including use of law enforcement and military troops, while the other does not. While working on building a new system, I think it might be a good idea if we simultaneously stopped granting our consent to the old one, since there doesn't seem to be any way to continue to delegate our power to the old system while withholding the portion of that power that gives them the right to bash our heads in. 

I also like Mr. Blue's idea of a general strike to support large protests, though, as always, I think that in order to be effective, such a strike would have to include all forms of noncompliance and withholding consent, including not voting. If I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue, I'm certainly not going to stop holding my breath long enough to vote.

I think if something like a Peoples Congress ( was tried and was crushed by police state tactics, the next logical step would be a voting strike.

If The People were to try to get something as uncontroversial as reforms to create an actual representative democracy done and it was repressed, I would hope that the 99% would realize that the government (and the 1%) were against democracy itself.

Maybe I'm being naive, but I think after that, it wouldn't be so hard to get the public to actually strike on Election Day.

That's basically the idea. We have to give it one shot, and after that, fuck it. It's war. But we can show that we attempted self governance and to end the corporate control of the established systems by peaceful democratic means.

There are probably some among us who have been trying to do that by various peaceful democratic means, working within the system, for decades, and don't see this as being one shot, but just another of hundreds of shots, some of which were much larger and better organized. In fact when I first went to Occupy San Diego there were some younger people I hadn't met before, but most of the activists I've seen for decades at every local rally, protest, march, or meeting that was concerned with any worthy cause were also there. It was like a class reunion. 

I think I mean last shot because of all the confluences of disasters that appear to be headed our way. Those darned Mayans might have been right after all. 2012 could be big changes. I don't know how much longer we have to try much of anything before we have to hunker down in our caves and hope to hell the neighbors like us.

Oh those silly US Americans, everything's a shoot-em-up.

Gary Horvitz posted this:

The neighbors love us, Victoria. They always have. It would help if we stopped killing them, though. It might help even more if we did it before we had no choice in the matter, but that apparently isn't going to happen.

What is headed our way, Victoria, is, according to Paul Hawken, nothing to hide in a bunker from. In fact it is something to get out of our bunkers and join with our neighbors in creating. We don't know exactly what it is, but it is based on values that everyone, except maybe a few alien lizards, if such improbable creatures exist, seems to share.

Lindsay wants a tipping point, so please give Lindsay the link also. This is well past a tipping point. I don't know who everyone is, but I do know who we are, because Paul Hawken introduced us to ourselves. And there sure are a lot of us. 

What disasters are headed our way, Victoria? Any that corporations and politicians didn't cause? I'm a radical. I don't believe in treating symptoms, I prefer to try to get to the root of the problem and heal the disease so it won't recur. And not with a stronger poison, but with natural cures.



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