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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.
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!"
Not sure what petition you were presented with but a wiselyworded consitutionally sound 28th emmendment is being sponsorde by Bernie Sanders.
Every 99% er should get behind that 28th Ammendment. Our court has been going increasungly toward an extreme right wing agenda. Invalidadting the Citizens United Decision through a 28th ammendment is crucial and it will help to drive the controling influen eof 1% money out of our electoral and legislative process. ( There are lots of less effective, less well targeted and framed peitions flowting all over the place)
This is not the same as the Sanders amendment. At first blush, I wasn't able to find the text of the draft San ders amendment (if there is one), but sounds like a good thing. Thanks for drawing our attention to it.
Here is the text and it is active now, I believe on the floor. needs only a big sow of support..in time!!!! In effect it is a separation of corporation and state ( similar to the separation of church and state)
Our founding fathers never envisioned and didn't design for a tyranny external to the judicial and legislative process which is what the plutonomy is..an external tyranny
It's not a complete cure and it will not automatically change the course of everything else of course. It is important though.
The court has gotten progressively more ultra right wing..the contsitution as written doesn't check that in any way. While I agree with Mark Smith that we have to radically rethink everything from scratch, this at least is a finger in the dyke. The courts do in fact have to justify what they do with reference to the constitution.
It cannot hapen in time to change what is already happening for the 2012 election but what if we all also started a fact finding, truth telling, on who is on the take and en masse organized a campaign to discourage voting for these folk? What if we circulated national petitions for the most corrupt in our house for recall? Trying to roust them out of congress? What if we made a list of the worst right now and tried a do a "no confidence vote" inside or outside of offcial channels.
We need to start getting specific..naming what is, who is, holding it up, telling the truth.
thanks for this!
consider it tweeted : )
It is important to remember that Citizens United is a symptom of corporate personhood and corporate money in politics. It is the culmination of efforts by the 1% to give corporations all the rights of persons and then some.
The root problems are corporate personhood (which the Sanders amendment does address) and corporate money in politics (which the Sanders amendment does not address).
Here is a rundown of some of the other competing amendments, from MoveToAmend.org’s site:
While it is exciting to see the flurry of momentum and energy that is finally getting some traction in a small segment of Congress, Move to Amend is very clear that it is important that we not let our goals be diluted by our legislators in Washington, even by those who mean well and want to see reform in our political system.
Passing an amendment will be a tough job, so the language must be commensurate with the effort needed to win, and the amendment must be strong and clear enough to end corporate rule - there's no room here for half solutions or ambiguity.
It is our belief that we need to operate on the assumption that once an Amendment comes out of Congress we won't get another shot. So we MUST get it right!
With many competing proposals, it can be confusing to figure out what is what in terms of what the proposals will actually do. We have prepared a summary of each of the amendments proposed, including what is missing from each one.
We also encourage you to check out our article, Why Abolish All Corporate Constitutional Rights, to explain why we feel so strongly that half-way solutions cannot be accepted.
Click here to read Move to Amend's proposed amendment that will clearly establish that money is not speech, corporations are not people, and allows for no loopholes. Our amendment will put people in charge of our government, and corporations in their proper place.
The Proposed Amendments
What it does:
What it does:
What it does:
What it does:
What it does:
And here’s Move To Amend’s amendment:
The "MOVE TO AMEND" Amendment
Section 1 [Corporations are not people and can be regulated]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
I would be happier if the Move To Amend amendment explicitly shut off the tap of corporate money into politics instead of allowing the feds, states and local governments to regulate it, and I’ve made my objection clear, but this is still a good amendment. It would drive a stake through the heart of corporate personhood, the root of our problems.
Why do you think that every 99% should work within the system, Lindsay? The system is designed to shield the 1% from the wrath of the 99%.
In order to get a Constitutional Amendment passed, you have to retain a corrupt system and try to work within it. Bernie Sanders is a nice guy, but he hasn't managed to accomplish anything, nor have any of the other nice people in Congress.
Congress is a con game. I compare it to a gang of plug-ugly thugs who derive their livelihood by luring people into dark alleys, hitting them over the head, and stealing their money. Their only problem is that most people are unwilling to follow plug-ugly thugs into dark alleys. Well, no good con game can be successful without a shill, the person who appears to be just like everyone else, plays the rigged game and wins, but is actually part of the game. When others see the shill win, they are tempted to play also, but they never win. A shill has to appear to be trustworthy, sincere, credible, etc.,--in short, a shill is the type of person that other people would willingly follow into dark alleys. The shills for Congress are the best in the world. Sanders, Kucinich, Grayson, Conyers, and the rest, are such decent, sincere, honest people who inspire so much confidence that almost anyone would gladly follow them into a dark alley. Of course they might not know that they're shills for a rigged game. They might be stupid enough to think that it is just coincidence that they never seem to accomplish anything in Congress and believe that if they try harder, they might. That's like the gambler playing in a rigged game who keeps losing but thinks that if they just can get some more money to gamble with, they might win. But I don't think that such intelligent people can be around a rigged game for as long as the Congressional shills have, without knowing that they're shills. I think they make a good living from being shills, and think that they're doing US citizens and the world a favor by trying to inspire confidence in a totally corrupt system that is murdering innocent babies for profit every moment of every day.
I don't want a system that would allow my vote to consent to a government that is murdering babies to be counted, I want a chance to vote for a system that doesn't murder babies because power rests with the people and the people won't allow it. Most people in the US are against the wars, the war crimes, the torture, the collateral damage, and the crimes against humanity--if we had a voice instead of a vote, we could stop it. In order to get a voice, we have to stop voting. Voting is much more toxic than bottled water because it consents to allow people who can't be held accountable, to make decisions that kill millions of innocent babies in cold blood for profit. We have to stop voting and make it clear that we will not vote until we have established a new system where we can vote directly on issues and where our votes have to be counted and cannot be overridden. To continue to buy bottled water while you're boycotting bottled water, is self-defeating, even if the bottled water you buy claims that it is donating 5% of its profits towards eliminating the need for bottled water. Voting to consent to allow the government to continue to commit genocide while claiming that you oppose genocide, is equally self-defeating, even if a few people within that government claim to be opposed to genocide and working to try to stop genocide. You can see through greenwashing, why can't you see through the shills?
It isn't the players, it is the system. To continue to vote, in hopes that you might in a few decades or a few centuries manage to get a Congress with a majority of shills instead of a majority of corporate-owned opportunists, so that you could begin the almost impossible process of getting a majority of states to ratify a Constitutional amendment that the corporations won't let them ratify, doesn't sound to me like a sensible plan.
All it takes to get corporate money out of politics is to allow the corporations to spend as much as they want getting out the vote, and then not vote. Corporations have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders to maximize profits. When they spend billions on elections, it is to maximize profits, and they consider it an investment and expect trillions of dollars in deregulation, subsidies, bailouts, and government contracts in return. If nobody votes, their corporate puppets will take office without a mandate and the world won't consider them to be part of a legitimate government that has the consent of the governed. Other nations won't assist in their wars, continue to give them financial credit, or even admit to being allied with a tyranny that lacks the consent of the governed. The corporations won't get a return on their investment and their boards won't allow them to spend money on elections again. It's that simple.
John Conyers is an example of a good person (or unwitting shill) in Congress. I happen to have spoken with him once at length, one on one, as he was sitting outside a reception waiting for his ride, which was delayed. Conyers has, I believe, the second highest seniority in Congress, he's a simply, humble, honest, sincere person, and I love the man. I cried during the Downing Street Memo scandals when Congress denied him a hearing room and forced him to meet in a basement where they tried to turn off the lights and microphone, and when he tried to deliver a petition with half a million signatures to the White House and was forced to hand it through the fence to a security guard who, I'm sure, tossed it in the garbage or gave it to the FBI to investigate. It makes me very sad that such a good man has to work in a place where he is discriminated against and treated like dirt.
Another good man is Bob Filner who is white but a member of the Black Congressional Caucus and who was a Freedom Rider in the Civil Rights movement and also has a lot of seniority. He is leaving Congress and running for Mayor of San Diego because he says that he thinks he'd have more power as a Mayor than as a Member of Congress. Not if Congress continues to defund the states, which in turn defund the counties and cities, but I'm sure Bob means well. One time when he cast a vote that wasn't in keeping with his character, some of us asked him why and he responded that sometimes he had to "cast a political vote." I guess that meant that the Democratic Party would have punished him if he hadn't voted the way they wanted, and that could even be a part of why he is leaving Congress.
Bob, like John, is also humble and accessible. But Congress is a corrupt bureaucracy and their votes didn't have any more power than our votes. We need a direct democracy where everyone's vote counts. To get it, we have to stop voting for the old system and build a new system.
A lot of the time I feel like I'm talking to a wall. No matter how well-reasoned and cogent my arguments, and no matter how passionately and lucidly I express them, I'll never be able to convince the political party operatives to stop shilling for a corrupt system, because that's what they're paid to do and they know how hard it is to find a job these days. And there will always be people who listen to them because they're personable, credentialed, credible, and trained in the art of discrediting their opponents. All I have is truth, and while I am sure that the truth will eventually prevail, I seriously doubt that I'll live long enough to see it.
[I made a decision to avoid the discussions here at the Café, but Mark invited me to respond to this forum. - RR]
I agree with him that the most powerful weapon of non-violent revolution is the with-holding of consent. Refusing to vote, particularly if it becomes a widespread campaign and practice, is one of the significant ways we can cut the legs out from under the illusion of government legitimacy. But it is insufficient by itself to de-legitimize, and hence undermine the power of, the "man behind the curtain". More on that below. And it is not a new concept.
I disagree with him that it's necessary to boycott the polling places, and disagree with Gisele that a "deliberately spoiled ballot" is a useful alternative. But a write-in vote for "Nobody" clearly expresses the intent of the electorate, more powerfully than simply not showing up. And the Nobody for President campaign began in 1976:
On December 8, 1975, I spoke with Wavy Gravy at the United State Cafe on Haight Street in San Francisco, about voter apathy. I pointed to statistics showing people were not registering to vote and approximately fifty (50) percent of the people who could vote were not showing up at the polls.
Wavy responded, "You mean Nobody is winning the Presidential elections?" That question became the spark that ignited the Birthday Party's "Nobody for President Campaign." Wavy Gravy became "Nobody's Fool," I (Curtis Spangler) became "Nobody's Campaign Manager," and the rest is history!
Gene Sharp, a humble octogenarian professor who has been called the ‘Machiavelli of nonviolent struggle’, and who's little book From Dictatorship to Democracy has been the standard manual for leaders of ‘color’ revolutions around the globe, and was translated into 40 languages, including Arabic (found all over Tahrir Square) wrote:
"A nonviolent conception of power sees the adversary as ultimately dependent of the cooperation of its subordinates. This is significant because it suggests nonviolence can be used against the most seemingly intransigent adversaries. There are three ways nonviolence can win. These are conversion, accommodation and coercion. The further away from conversion and the closer to coercion, the more the adversary's decisions depend on the cooperation of his subordinates."
– The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973)
We all know (or certainly should) that the existing two-party duopoly is a sham. Jesse Ventura may have been an unlikely candidate for public office, but he knew how the electoral system worked. In an interview with Newsmax, he described politicians in the two party system as pro wrestlers.
In pro wrestling, out in front of the people, we make it look like we all hate each other and want to beat the crap out of each other, and that's how we get your money, [and get you to] come down and buy tickets. They're the same thing. Out in front of the public and the cameras, they hate each other, are going to beat the crap out of each other, but behind the scenes they're all going to dinner, cutting deals. And [they're] doing what we did, too - laughing all the way to the bank. And that to me is what you have today, in today's political world, with these two parties.
Nobody campaigns have a history in America since Saint Misbehavin', the Official Clown of the Grateful Dead, Wavy Gravy hit the campaign trail in '76.
But, since electoral politics is but one leg of the stool of state, we must also withdraw cooperation with the tax system that funds government, from the corporate economy and banking system which pulls all the strings, and from the police/military/judicial (state security) complex that polices the compliance of the rest of the world and, increasingly, our own people through the militarization of local police forces, the Patriot Act, elimination of Habeas Corpus, et al.
A three-pronged campaign to refuse our consent would include either boycotting the 2012 presidential election or voting NOBODY, a wholesale refusal to pay federal taxes pending redress of grievances, a withdrawal of all our money from the commercial banking sector and Wall Street, and a national strike of all working people who refuse to continue as wage slaves to our corporate masters.
Simultaneously, we must engage in a "constructive program" of building a new world within the shell of the old - a process which is already happening organically at the many Occupy direct democracy encampments.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller
This is also happening through the myriad Transition Town movements, the local food sovereignty efforts, workers' and consumers' coops and farmers' markets, local alternative currencies and time banks (gift economies), community sustainability campaigns, natural (hand-made) homes, etc.
We have to both nurture the organic development of alternatives and orchestrate coordinated actions aimed at de-legitimizing the status quo. Refusing to cooperate, as I have done for 32 years, is an significant act of moral courage and personal liberation. But, to have effect beyond one's own circles, it must become a movement.
Thanks for jumping in, Robert.
The problem with voting for Nobody, who is undoubtedly the best and most popular candidate in the country and consistently gets the most votes in every election, is that votes for Nobody, just like votes for Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, Socialists, Anarchists, other third parties, independent candidates, write-ins, blank ballots, and even spoiled ballots, count towards the election turnout, and are nothing more than a demonstration of faith and belief in the system by voters. When you vote for Nobody, you are not expecting Nobody to take office, you are granting your consent of the governed to be governed by whoever the corrupt elections officials, the rigged voting machines and central tabulators, the political party superdelegates, the Electoral College, Congress, or the Supreme Court decides won.
The consent of the governed to continue to allow this system to govern with the legitimacy that can only derive from such consent, is demonstrated by holding elections and judged, unless turnout is mandatory, by the number of people who vote. The evil US empire has been clinging to a fig leaf of legitmacy with only about a 50% average turnout in presidential elections, and an average 40% turnout in midterm elections. This is shrugged off by the 1% claiming that 50% of the country is so apathetic that they don't care about who governs them or how. In truth it is the voters casting uncounted, miscounted, unverifiable, and easily overridden ballots who don't care who governs them or how, as long as they are allowed to cast uncounted ballots for people they can't hold accountable, which they sincerely believe is being politically engaged and having a voice in government.
Egyptians, with the sole exception of the older portion of the Muslim Brothershood, are boycotting the sham election that the US and their ruling military junta are trying to foist on them, as no matter who wins, it would leave the military junta in power with control of about 80% of parliament. The Egyptians want that illegitimate military junta, which has killed hundreds of protesters and imprisoned thousands, to step down, and they understand that any vote for any candidate or party would be a vote to legitimize continued military rule, as the military could then claim that is is subservient to the elected civilian puppets it would totally dominate, the same way the 1%, the big corporations, and the military-industrial complex in the US claim to be subservient to the elected officials they bankroll, control, and dictate legislation to.
Boycotting the election removes the fig leaf of consent in the only nonviolent way possible. When only a small number of people vote, it is impossible for a government to credibly claim the consent of the governed.
That's why the corporations in the US spend billions of dollars getting out the vote, and contribute in almost equal amounts to both major parties. They don't really care which of their puppets win, they only care that they can get out the vote so that they can continue to claim the legitimacy of an elected government with the consent of the governed. It is that consent we must withhold in order to delegitimize them, and we can't do that by voting.
Lacking a popular candidate, lacking any credible claim to have represented their constituents, the 99%, in the past, and lacking any other way to help the multi-billion dollar corporate campaign to get out the vote, political operatives, in desperation, are now urging people to vote independent, third party, cast blank ballots, spoil their ballots, etc., but just get out there and vote so that the corporations can claim the consent of the governed.
Of course everyone knows full well that Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, and that the Supreme Court installed Bush in the White House by stopping the vote count, since we have no Constitutional right to have our votes counted, but people kept right on casting uncounted ballots anyway. The hope of many in 2004 was that John Kerry would keep his promise to ensure that every vote was counted, a power he never had in the first place, and, as a member of the 1%, probably wouldn't have exercised if he had.
The Vote for Nobody campaign is clever and amusing, as Wavy always is, but is is neither constructive nor productive. In our winner-take-all system, a vote for nobody is a vote for whoever wins, and that won't be Nobody. It will be whoever the corporations decide to put in office, as they control the political parties, their funding, their agendas, and they also own and program the voting machines and central tabulators, own the media, and control the Electoral College, Congress, and the Supreme Court, so they have the final say in who wins, not the popular vote which can be as easily disregarded in 2012 as it was in 2000.
If I urged or encouraged you to put money into a vending machine that I knew was broken and that wouldn't give you anything in return and wouldn't give you back your money, you'd probably be angry with me, and rightfully so. But when supporters of the status quo urge people to cast ballots that they know either won't be counted, are likely to be miscounted if counted at all, cannot be verified, and cannot result in self-governance because voting is the act of delegating one's power to others, we should be just as angry. In fact we should be more angry, because rather than just taking our money and giving us nothing in return, when we delegate our power to people we can't hold accountable it can result, as it already has, in them using that power against us.
Is that what we really want?
You have a very thorough and valid critique of the electoral sham, but a very limited and dogmatic perspective on what constitutes a constructive or effective response.
When you claim that "votes for Nobody...are nothing more than a demonstration of faith and belief in the system by voters" you couldn't be more mistaken and not even the fawning mainstream media could possibly misinterpret that mandate. On the other hand, the media and the public always interpret not voting as voter apathy, and in many if not most instances they're correct.
What you dismiss as "clever and amusing" is what others call guerrilla theater, and is often the tactic that captures the most media and public attention. But writing in Nobody is much more than mere theater - it's a profound and unmistakable act of resistance.
Stating that "boycotting the election removes the fig leaf of consent in the only nonviolent way possible" suggests a profound lack of understanding of strategic non-violence. Gene Sharp lists 198 tactics for revolutionary non-violence (the Iranian regime claimed that the velvet revolutionaries used 100 of those), and one of the strengths of non-violence is in a multitude of tactics - it keeps them guessing and it applies leverage at many points.
I've been refusing to pay federal income taxes since 1979, when I was arrested for trying to stop the celebration of the launching of the first Trident nuclear submarine (I've been engaged in radical activism since 1969). At first, I wrote to the IRS every year, explaining my resistance. Then I simply stopped filing and eventually just ignored their existence. Some tax resisters file and pay the half that doesn't go to the military budget, some file with a protest note (similar to voting for Nobody), some don't file at all (simple boycott). There is no one right way to resist, and the manifold tactics makes it more difficult for the government to engage in a coordinated response.
Your critique is excellent, but your dogmatism and complete dismissal of any other strategy undermines your credibility and, ultimately, your effectiveness. It's no wonder that some activist groups won't let you speak anymore.
Thanks for inviting me in, but I have nothing more to say to you.
Since you won't see my response, and as far as I can tell from the size of this forum and the number of views, very few others will either, I'll keep it brief.
A vote for Nobody is just like a vote for Al Gore in 2000 or a vote for John Kerry in 2004. It does send a message, but it is a message that nobody hears. All they'll hear is that there was a 30% turnout for the election in which the Supreme Court decided to reinstall Obama again. Both Gore & Kerry won the popular vote and Bush was never elected, but he was President for 8 years and claimed the consent of a 54% turnout in 2000 and a 60% turnout (most of which was an attempt to kick him out of office) in 2004. Since the votes weren't counted in either year, it didn't matter how many people voted for whom--only the turnout was necessary to legitimize an unelected president.
Oh, there may be tallies purporting to represent what percentage of voters cast ballots for which candidates, but since more than 92% of US votes are completely unverifiable, there is no way for anyone to know for sure if those tallies are accurate or not.
There might even be some headlines, if the guerrilla theater is effective enough, showing that while there was a 30% turnout, 10% of voters cast blank ballots, deliberately spoiled their ballots, or voted for Mickey Mouse or for Nobody, but that won't stop the Supreme Court from deciding who the winner is. If you succeed in getting a 30% turnout by encouraging people to vote for Nobody, it will be up to other countries to decide if a government with the consent of 30% of the electorate, 10% of whom voted for Nobody, is legitimate and stable enough to continue to have formal relations with.
I personally hope you don't succeed. Eliminate those votes for Nobody and there would be no question that a government with only a 20% turnout, lacks the consent of the governed.
Not sure where to post this on this site but I hope you're all aware and discussing this distressing information related to a bill being sped through the Senate while people are having Thanksgiving Dinner this weekend..
Please sign the petition for the Amendment on this article if you're an American. This should be on the top of the agenda of all Occupy Movement in the US right now I would think.
Petition for Amendment