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.  

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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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Here's an interesting article (by a political operative, but still worth a read because he's done his homework on this):

Where the Crises Intersect: Lawrence Summers, Al Gore, and U.S. Environmental & Economic Policy

by Mitchel Cohen, Green Party

Cohen errs only in thinking that things could change if Greens were in power, and his assessment of Gore leaves out the influence of those who got Joe Lieberman on the ticket. Where Greens have gained power in other countries with "representative" systems of government, it invariably corrupted them. And forces powerful enough to get an ultra-conservative right-wing Republican like Lieberman on a Democratic Party Presidential ticket could have forced Gore to accept Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin as a running mate if they had so wished.

But for those who think that things might have been different if Gore had been elected or selected, this should lay that myth firmly to rest.

As Ward Churchill and others point out, peaceful protests are not nonviolent. They are nonviolent on the part of the protesters, but they are not nonviolent on the part of the cops. Real people are hurt, sometimes killed, and real blood is shed. That is violence. It may be one-sided, but it cannot truthfully or objectively be described as nonviolent and peaceful.

There are, however, various forms of noncompliance that are truly nonviolent. Planting urban gardens, for example. So far (knock wood) the cops haven't shot anyone for growing asparagus. Forming collectives and cooperatives, as long as they are constructive and law-abiding, is also nonviolent. As far as I know (knock wood again) the cops haven't raided any food co-ops and arrested the workers for selling organic foods (actually, I think they have busted some dairies for selling raw milk). An election boycott is another form of nonviolent noncompliance. I haven't voted in five years and there has never (knock wood a third time) been a knock on my door in the middle of the night to drag me to some torture chamber to force me to give the names and locations of other people who don't vote.

I feel justified in questioning the sincerity of people who reject all nonviolent forms of noncompliance and support only actions which will result in violence. Even more so if they encourage people to grant their consent of the governed to some of the most violent governments on the face of the earth. Whatever they may be, people who reject nonviolent forms of noncompliance, while promoting forms of protest likely to end in violence, and  who actively consent to, support, and defend violent systems of government, are not nonviolent people.

Protesters seem to think that they're raising awareness by allowing the cops to beat and arrest them. They think that if only people knew the truth, more people would allow the cops to beat and arrest them. But people already know the truth. Here in the USA, 49% of the population is under the poverty line. That's one out of two. Half the country. Except for the 1% in their exclusive gated communities, everyone in the US knows somebody who lost their job, or their home, or their pension plan, or their health, or a loved one due to our government's policies. And the 1% also know, because they're the ones raiding the pension plans, denying health coverage, sending kids off to unwinnable wars, foreclosing homes, and outsourcing jobs. But that's how they make money, so they don't care.

Once again: People who reject strategies and tactics that are not likely to result in violence, and promote strategies and tactics that are likely to result in violence, are not nonviolent people. Q.E.D.

I'd like to call attention to today's article by our own Victoria Collier and Ronnie Cummins, on Truthout: Occupy Rigged Elections: A Call for the Second American R..., and particularly the comments below the article, which I find quite remarkable.

Five years ago, when I began my election boycott advocacy, not a single person on a website like that would have agreed with me. Not one. That is obviously no longer the case. Some agree with me fully and some only partially, but even those who disagree seem to be doing so apologetically rather than aggressively, and rather than just dismissing me as a lunatic, admit that their votes are unlikely to bring about change. This is not, however, due to any persuasiveness on my part. This is completely due to the fact that the system itself has proven to be unreliable, unaccountable, nonresponsive, and deleterious to the health, welfare, safety and security of those who vote for it.


Hello & Happy New Year..

Thank you so much for posting about Victoria Collier's op ed at Truth Out..Some powerful and empowering language "Occupy is part of an unstoppable transformation - the contractions of a new world desperate to be born, based on a renewal of community, tolerance, justice and deep respect for all life. A sane, resilient world capable of withstanding the ecological, climatic and economic upheavals we can no longer avoid"





Powerful and empowering language indeed, Lindsay. Inspirational, even. It reminds me of the Obama campaign. Unfortunately it is being used for the same purpose, to encourage people to vote.

The full title of that article is: "Occupy Rigged Elections: A Call for the Second American Revolution in 2012"

It inspired a Tweet I posted last night that several people seem to have liked:

Anyone who thinks that voting is revolutionary, isn't.

The discussion is still going on and a few political operatives have belatedly arrived. They don't seem to be making any sense, but I enjoy responding to them. I even enjoy responding to them as if they were the ordinary people they pretend to be, rather than the political operatives I know they are the moment I see their fallacious reasoning. Having responded to the same old stuff literally hundreds of times over the past five years, I can do it easily and it gives me the opportunity to refine my arguments each time and expose them to a larger audience.

Obama now has drone bases in six countries, and is undoubtedly looking for more. Lots and lots of little kids being killed in their sleep by bombs dropped by drones that are remotely controlled by kids not much older than themselves, sitting at a monitor with a joystick and thinking it's just a game, or just a way to get their GI Bill so they can go to college. And more US troops died of suicide in 2011 than in combat--and a lot more will kill themselves in 2012--particularly those who begin to understand what they're doing.

TEPCO, the company that owns Fukushima, has won a court case by claiming that it is not responsible for cleanup of contaminated sites because once the radiation leaves the nuclear reactor, they no longer own it and it is the responsibility of whoever is unlucky enough to be where it lands. They own the profits, we own the costs. In a sane world, nobody would vote for governments that act irresponsibly and/or governments that make it legal for corporations to act irresponsibly. This is not a sane world. Like the old joke says, "You don't have to be crazy to live here, but it helps."

Check out some of the comments below the Truthout article, Lindsay. I think you'll enjoy them.

Hi Mark,

An alternative way of nonviolently delegitimizing a government is through judicial boycott. This involves firstly understanting the law, particularly the law of the court, and secondly executing the boycott in court by presenting an argument against jurisdiction. The advantage of this method over an election boycott is that public knowledge of the law increases, with such knowledge facilitating deep change by nonviolent means.

Put simply, the procedure involves refusing to plead and drawing attention to any fraud comitted by the court. Judicial boycott should only be applied where the alleged offences are void at common law and at equity. The fraud committed by the court typically involves misrepresentation of pleading and/or misrepresentation of legal status. Misrepresentation of pleading involves recording that a plea was made when in fact it wasn't, and misrepresentation of status involves identifying an individual as a person or as the defendant. The terms person and defendant have a specific meaning in court, and refer to an entity of diminshed legal status. In court, persons are bound by legislation, but in common language the term person may refer to a free man or woman. This ambiguity should be identified in order that the legal argument does not become unnecessarily confusing.


Yes, NDT, but like Delbert Africa told Mumia, the law is whatever the judge says it is, so we have an unjust judiciary system, along with an unjust executive and legislative system, all established by an unjust Constitution and constituting an unjust system of government. It is, therefore, the entire system that must be boycotted, not just each separate branch.

Read Mumia's book, Jailhouse Lawyers. Because in the end, the law isn't what the law books or legal theorists say it is, but whatever the judge says it is, people who have faith in the law or in legal theories always, as Delbert Africa put it, end up crazier than bedbugs when the system betrays them and the judges don't abide by their own laws.

You're advocating a legal theory that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, depending on what the case is, what color and income bracket the defendant is, who the judge is, and what mood the judge happens to be in that day. The theory is valid, but our judiciary system is corrupt, just like the rest of the current system of government. It didn't recently become corrupt, it was established by the Constitution to be corrupt by giving the three branches of government power over the people instead of giving the people power over government.

In other words, what good is establishing your free status in court if the President can then have you renditioned or assassinated without due process?

Hi Mark,

Your first argument depends of the assumption that all judges are unjust; in my experience the majority are not. However I agree that the entire civil system is broken and should be replaced. I guess I'm the exception to Africa's observation.

My argument does not depend on case specifics because it targets procedure, but the outcome will depend on the extent of the prejudice of the court and how the judge deals with the situation. If the nature of the corruption is understood then it is much easier to find a remedy.

The problem arises from a conflict of law between two systems of law which have different philosophical foundations, and the remedy is easier to obtain in countries which have judicial systems that are not based on civil law.

In response to your question about rendition, there are serious repercussions in both politics and the law of nature for the murder of an individual who is only defending his or her rights. In my opinion the political costs alone are unacceptable for public figures who might consider this option.

No, NDT, I did not make or infer the suggestion that all judges are unjust, only that in a corrupt system some are and some aren't, so instead of justice, what you get is a crapshoot.

There are no exceptions to Africa's observation. Those who believe in the system will always be betrayed by it. Perhaps not immediately, but inevitably.

The remedy to a Constitution written by 39 slaveholding oligarchs to ensure that the wealthy 1% would always rule the country, does not lie in local fixes.

Obama has already asserted his right to assassinate US citizens without due process, so there don't seem to be any repercussions that he cares about. In the present political system there is no accountability so public figures can do whatever they wish. But Obama is not the only public figure or authority who can murder US citizens with impunity. Are you familiar with the case of Oscar Grant?

Believe it or not, if if it so chooses, the government can murder white citizens with the same impunity with which it murders black citizens all the time. After you google Oscar Grant and watch the video, google Pastor Niemoller and read what he had to say before the Nazis killed him. If our government can and has done something to anyone else, it can and will get around to doing it to you too. Ignore the Golden Rule at your own peril. As you allow your government to do unto others, it inevitably will do also unto you. And you then have no case to plead for the mercy and empathy you didn't show towards others.

"like Delbert Africa told Mumia, the law is whatever the judge says it is, so we have an unjust judiciary system"

"No, NDT, I did not make or infer the suggestion that all judges are unjust"

Your first statement doesn't leave any room for a source of injustice other than from judges.

Also, you are changing your definition of Africa's observation. First it was "people who have faith in the law or in legal theories", then it is "those who believe in the system". Faith implies a reference to deity or divinity, belief does not.

Likewise, assassination of a US citizen is not the same as the murder of an individual who is only defending his or her rights as US citizens are not sui juris.

Like you say, ignore the golden rule at your own peril.

The system itself is unjust, NDT. That is the source of injustice. If you're lucky enough to get a judge who isn't corrupt the result may differ from if you get a judge that is, but the system does not require that judges not be corrupt because it is a corrupt system.

You are incorrect about the words faith and belief.

The first dictionary definition of faith does not refer to any deity or divinity, only the second definition does. Someone can have the misguided faith that politicians will keep their promises, that their almost empty gas tank will get them home, or that all judges will uphold the law, without having faith in deities or divinities.

If you know how to use a dictionary or do a google search online, look up the definition of faith: In case you don't, I'll do it for you:


  1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

The secondary definition is not the primary definition.The word can be used in the way you suggest, but usually is not and does not have to be, because that's only a secondary definition.

Obama has asserted the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere, at any time, including US citizens, foreigners, free men and women, and any other human of any status whatsoever. Arguing that the murder was unjust after the victim is dead does not restore the victim's right to life or take away Obama's self-proclaimed legal right to murder. Killing someone of any status without first affording them due process, that is, giving them a chance to assert their status or defend their innocence, is murder. It is a form of murder that has been outlawed in most developed western countries since the Magna Carta of the 13th Century, and has only been reinstated by the current Democratic administration in the US. The evil Republicans didn't do such things openly or claim that such things were legal.

I'm sorry to have to attempt to fulfill my obligation to try to keep this discussion on topic, but your comments have nothing to do with withholding consent from the system by not voting.

Your apparent inability to use a dictionary (faith vs. belief), and your inability to reason logically (just because the unjust US judiciary system allows unjust judges to make unjust decisions, does not mean that the only source of injustice is judges--quite the opposite), are disruptive and do not contribute anything substantive to this discussion.

Please look up the definition of boycott. If someone appears in court voluntarily, they are not boycotting the judicial system, they are attempting to work within it. And please start your own topic so that you can discuss your judicial "boycott" theory without disrupting this discussion. Thank you.

"You are incorrect about the words faith and belief."

No, the meaning can be inferred from the context. Faith in law is different to faith in a gas tank because common law is based on deity (King Alfred the Great's "dooms).

Obama (in the role of sovereign) cannot assert a right that he does not have. Also the issue was the ramifications of the killing, not the fact that the victim doesn't come back to life. 

The relevance of this argument to the original thread is your assertion that "an election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government." It isn't. If you are arrested your appearance in court is not voluntary, so an effective argument against jurisdiction does constitute a boycott in that case. Also it's not just a theory, a local judge admitted in court that his misrepresentation of pleading was fraudulent.


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