Did You Consent?
By Mark E. Smith at May 17, 2010
Only 21% of U.S. voters, according to a Rasmussen poll, say that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed. The other 79% of voters, it seems, don't realize that they gave their consent when they voted.
Governments that wish to claim legitimacy, hold elections so that they can demonstrate the consent of the governed. The governed, when they choose to vote, are delegating their power, relinquishing their authority, and granting their consent, not to the candidates they vote for, but to whoever wins the election.
This becomes problematic in the United States where more than 80% of votes are not processed in a transparent way with citizen oversight, where candidates can be chosen by superdelegates of the political parties rather than by their base, where we have a two-party, winner-take-all system, and where, Constitutionally, the popular vote doesn't need to be counted, no less counted accurately, and is not necessarily the final say. The outcome of an election can be determined by glitches in the central tabulators, by insiders manipulating the results, by the media, by a winning candidate conceding and throwing the race to the loser, by the Electoral College, by Congress, or even by the Supreme Court. In a system where you cannot be sure that your vote is counted, where you know that the popular vote may not determine the outcome of the election, and where, as happened in 2008, the only two candidates with any chance of winning the Presidency were both pro-war, pro-bailout, and anti-environment, why woiuld citizens consent to be governed by whichever of them won?
Even worse, U.S. citizens have no way to exercise their will through their elected representatives. We have no right of recall when they betray us. We can petition them to remove themselves from office, but they have never done that. We might as well be petitioning a king or a tyrant. While it is true that we can wait until their terms of office are up and then try to elect different officials we will not be able to hold accountable, this does not give us the ability to exercise our will through our representatives, as the only time that they are supposed to represent us is while they are in office, which happens to be the only time we cannot hold them accountable.
The 21% who think our government has the consent of the governed very likely is made up of the hard right--people who favor wars of aggression, bailouts for the rich, and the destruction of the planet for private profit, so they consciously gave their consent when they voted and are happy with the outcome. The other 79% of voters seem to have thought that they weren't granting their consent when they voted, i.e., they don't understand what the act of voting means.
Given that approximately half of all those eligible to vote, don't bother, that means that only about 10% of Americans consciously and willingly gave their consent of the governed when they voted. The rest either didn't vote or thought that they weren't granting their consent by voting.
Our oligarchy is very experienced in getting out the vote. Before the primaries, each major party will have at least one candidate who represents the views of the majority of their base. Of course that candidate never gets the nomination and always throws their support to their party's nominee who is always someone they disagree with on everything. But by that time voters are hooked, so they hold their noses and vote for what they hope is the lesser evil, although anyone who has to hold their nose to vote should really question what sort of excrement they're voting for. But of course "lesser evil" isn't voting for anyone, it is voting against someone you think might be even worse. So both major parties will invariably nominate somebody they hope the other party's voters will vote against, thus ensuring a large turnout which will enable the two-party system to maintain its iron lock on U.S. electoral politics. Yet third party voters, and I was one myself for a few years, also fail to realize that they're granting their consent of the governed to whoever wins, but think they're voting for their candidates and against the major parties--despite knowing that their candidates cannot win.
There are other time-tested ways of getting out the vote, such as putting hot-button emotional issues like God, abortion, gays, or guns on the ballot, or offering local incentives like single-payer health care or legalized marijuana. The price paid for these these votes, of course, is consenting to torture, wars of aggression based on lies, bailouts, and continuing environmental destruction nationally and globally. In other words, if I vote for single-payer health care in California, I am simultaneously consenting to crimes against humanity by the federal government. Even if I only vote for the health care initiative and leave the rest of the ballot blank, the federal government can point to the voter turnout and claim legitimacy once again by showing it again has the consent of the governed, which was demonstrated when people voted, no matter who or what they voted for or against.
But there's a lot of resistance to withholding the consent of the governed. Most voters believe that if they don't vote, the bad guys will win--never noticing that when they do vote the bad guys win anyway. They think not voting in rigged elections for candidates they can't hold accountable, is apathy, and that people who care enough not to delegate their power to officials they cannot hold accountable are apathetic. They think that the oligarchy doesn't care about the turnout, and will continue to govern even without the consent of the governed--that the political parties spend millions of dollars getting out the vote because they don't care if our allies see that they only have the support of 10% of the population.
So here we are at election time once more, and people are debating who and what they'll vote for. I won't vote. And after the election I'll have to put up with all the voters voicing their disappointment when the oligarchy retains power through their consent. I'm old and grouchy and sometimes I really want to slap them--particularly that 79% of voters who cannot understand that when they vote, they are granting their consent. But it wouldn't do any good. They simply lack the ability to understand what they're doing--that's why they're voters.