Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oligarchy, hierarchy and the stealing of elections

Kristine Kubat of Justice Radio read my piece on the Democratic caucuses in the mountains of Colorado and interviews me about the tepid, oligarchic hierarchy of the Democratic Party here. For instance, in 2004, the rank and file at the state convention voted overwhelmingly by voice, at lunchtime, against the war in Iraq and the convenor of the meeting ruled that they had voted for it. The vote had been held at lunchtime because much of the audience (overwhelmingly anti-war) was out of the room...

In that election, the first in which I had participated actively in the Democratic Party, I suggested at the tiny meeting of the five precincts in the mountains where I live, then a total of 15 people, that the Democrats make a central issue – not an empty platform plank but something to fight on – of electronic voting machines that leave no paper trial. It was endorsed unanimously. I raised the same issue – with the same emphasis – at the county convention. That, too, was endorsed unanimously. See here.

But there was little chance that the hierarchy, tepid and wildly influenced by money and its place in the elite, not “centrist” but vehemently pro-militarist and pro-war, would then adopt such a plank.

Kristine has long been very interested in these issues. In the dialogue, I discuss with her how the miserable Saxby Chambliss stole the 2002 Senate race in Georgia, baiting Max Cleland, a paraplegic from his war wounds from Vietnam, as "unpatriotic" (the “Republican” party, as anyone can tell from Fox News or its Presidential candidates – Ron Paul excepted – is in another universe. In 2004, Kerry fell on his sword, declared the election "fair." But 40 million people voted on machines which left no paper trail – think if you deposited money in a bank and the ABM machine left no paper trail…

In Ohio in 2004, the exit polls (which are never wrong when done with minimal competence) showed Kerry winning by 4.3%. But the recorded “vote” showed Bush winning by 2.6%. In contrast, in 41 states, exit polling revealed Bush’s margin of victory, for example in Utah or Georgia to .3%, or Kerry’s in New York and Illinois to .3%. There is a statistical unlikelihood of such results occuring randomly of 1 in 150 million...

John Conyers led House hearings and did a hundred page report on all the electoral fraud in Ohio – all pointing in the same direction, all helping Bush – without considering the exit polling. But the exit polling combined with the fraud revealed in the Democrats' report shows rather plainly that the election was stolen.

I was also worried about this in the 2008 election, but though the Obama campaign was weak – and weak-minded – on this issue, Obama won. Perhaps he won even more handily than it seemed. In any case, it is still an issue.

In this election, one of the people at the meeting had been told by a higher-up not to press the issue of such voting machines in Colorado because “people are already discouraged from voting.” The elite of the Democrats lacks enthusiasm for or principle about democracy. Getting mad because our votes do not count, because capitalists privatize voting which is a public trust in a democracy if there is one, is likely to get out the vote...

With all the attempts to bar the elderly, the young, and minorities from voting by Republican governors and state legislatures in 20 states, a result of the 2010 election, and give the rich man Romney a long leg up (since no one likes Mitt and the closer one sees him – the master of the negative campaign and lying – the less there is - "etch a sketch" - to like), democracy in the most minimal sense of counting the votes) may not occur. Still barring contraception for women or the 'self-deportation' of immigrants are odious off the charts. Obama is plainly a better alternative.

Kristine and many other people I admire are working for Rocky Anderson. Anderson is by far the best candidate – in terms of positions – in the race. But voting Obama has two major good features. First, he is the first black (mixed race) President. And the cry against him is that he is a "foreigner," not American (a "European" in Romney’s confused idiom and he was happy enough to take the endorsement of Trump, the birther). That idea needs to be defeated, and voting for Rocky Anderson won’t defeat it.

Second, over the past fifty years, the Republican party has moved steadily to the Right, in support of American militarism and crazier wars and destroying the environment. Andrew Sullivan had a foolish piece recently about how humans will survive for another 100,000 years, whatever the catastrophe…

Humanity on this planet, without very sharp alterations in conduct, has a good chance of going out of business by the end of this century. Obama, on this matter, has some sense of what is going on and may - with sufficient pressure from below (as in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline) do the right thing.

But the Obama Presidency has been spoiled, in terms of its promise, by his taking on too much Wall Street, too many “think tank” experts who yammer for war, and relying on drones (even killing Bin Laden did not require the firing of one drone…) and authoritarian "executive power."

Only a movement from below – putting mass pressure on the Democrats, and featuring large scale civil disobedience – can break the pressure of the war machine and fight for decency. Obama has just - horrifyingly- approved the Pipeline in Oklahoma and Texas - this is sheerly a bad calculation on electoral gain. In the absence of struggle from below, American politics is a right-wing two step, and Obama, to beat Romney, often takes steps to the right.

Obama has thus sold out many people who will now vote for Rocky Anderson or not vote altogether. And they are not wrong – they are part of the movement we all need…

But I will vote for Obama. Andy Goodman, my childhood friend, died in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and repudiating the horrific racism of the capitalist and Republic elite – I mean all the Republicans, and though Paul is better on the prisons, he was also among the racists. Recall Trayvon Martin (see here).

Will this recover America? No. Will it save the Supreme Court as an instrument of law? Doubtful (Kagan seems to be on the dark side about “executive power” as is Obama, who, for example, works to persecute whistleblowers).

But does it give us some room to fight and maneuver? Yes.

Kristine suggested that ordinary Americans have a problem with instant gratification and need elections or wars resolved quickly. This is, I think, a profound error. All the decent movements that have changed America have come from below i.e. the Revolution, abolition, the union movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the anti-war movements and others. We should not expect to have friends in high place (those in high places who do decent things do so only because of pressure from below).

As in the case of Occupy, the elite meets democratic protest – nonviolent protest – with violence. The tear gas at Davis is a symbol of what the American elite – including the Democrats – do. Consider Rahm Emmanuel, fighting for a police state in Chicago, whom Obama selected as a chief of staff…

We need a mass nonviolent movement of resistance from below to turn around militarism. We need a student movement to fight debt-slavery and to join, as Occupy has, struggles against evictions. We need, as Alex Madsen, my student, brilliantly says, a new ethic of service. In a paper on Occupy for a nonviolence seminar, she cites Gandhi on how brahmans (member of the upper caste in India) should clean the latrines of the outcasts...Participating in community struggles, for instance, against eviction, is something many people in Occupy are already active in.

Nonviolence has been with us vigorously as a movement only in this last century (it was adumbrated by Socrates, Jesus and Mirabai, among others). The inventiveness of Occupy, very good in isolating the 1%, highlighting the evil of the two parties (servants of olirachy), pioneering direct democracy, frustrating pundits (including the ordinarily quite good Thom Hartman), can be extended in new ways. In contrast, the Black Bloc does self-destructive protests which exhibit violence- urine bombs or painting on cars - toward ordinary people. But some in it want a better way – I debated one person who was going to participate in a “fuck the police” march, and she didn’t like ordinary pacifism where a few people mark out with the police what they are going to do, where they are going to be arrested, the small demonstration choreographed. But she did respond to the idea of mass, militant nonviolence - say 100,000 people, if we could mobilize them, sitting down around the White House to prevent bombing Iran… Or sit ins of smaller numbers in or around every predatory bank until Congress legislates them out of the student loan business and transfers funding from militarism to the education of Americans.

There is much here for Occupy to discuss…

1 comment:

jeremy said...

That shouldn't take them put of business. Let them see how the cycle works.
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