Poll Reform & Democracy
By Mark E. Smith at Apr 20, 2011
Forming alternative organizations is very important when you oust an oligarchy. But you also have to oust the oligarchy. It won't go away by itself. It won't go away just because you can demonstrate a better way. It won't go away just because 99% of the people, those who aren't themselves oligarchs, want it to. Positivism is magical thinking and reform is subversion to revolution.
In Egypt, the people focused on ousting Mubarak but didn't think about ousting his regime along with him or forming a revolutionary government to replace it. So the same army that has been in power since 1952 is still in power, still arresting and torturing people, but now calling itself a revolutionary transitional democratic government and holding rigged elections designed to keep it in power. A "democratic" government that holds elections and can demonstrate the consent of the governed through their votes is much harder to oust than a dictatorship. But the elections will divide people into political parties so that they will never again be able to unite against the government.
I have no quibbles with ZNet or with Michael Albert's ideas and writings. They're good. Given a blank slate, they would be effective. But we don't have a blank slate. We have the same kind of military dictatorship that Egypt has now, one hidden behind puppet politicians and rigged elections. Here's proof, a short article I wrote recently for my little website:
The US Military is Not Under Civilian Rule - by Mark E. Smith
I don't see an embed button, so here's the link to the video:
This is a State Department spokesperson saying that the decision about whether or not to allow the United Nations, the International Red Cross, Congressman Kucinich, or any other individual or group to visit Bradley Manning is ENTIRELY up to the Pentagon and not subject to debate by the President, Congress, or any other entity.
In other words, the military junta that rules the United States and controls much of the world on behalf of private corporations, is not subject to civilian rule or to Congressional, Presidential, or State Department oversight. The military is entirely independent of our government, it makes its own decisions, and it tells the President, Congress, and the State Department what those decisions are--nobody can tell the military junta what to do.
In a democracy, if the United Nations, a Human Rights organization, or a Congressman wanted to visit an inmate, they would be allowed to do so. The United States is not a democracy. It is ruled by a military junta. The so-called "Commander-in-Chief" is just a puppet spokesperson for the military junta, just as he is for his big corporate donors. When asked about Bradley Manning, Obama said that he had "asked" the military and they told him that everything was okay. Notice that he didn't TELL the military what to do, he ASKED them if what they were doing was proper, and of course they said it was, so he had no choice but to accept that.
The last time a US President tried to stand up to what his predecessor, General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the "military-industrial" complex, was in 1963, and it cost President Kennedy his life. The military junta took over the country in a bloody coup, in broad daylight, and has made no pretense of being under civilian rule since then.
That's why under both Republican and Democratic administrations we wage wars of aggression based on lies, that's why we torture, and that's why the Pentagon's budget is the largest in the world.
According to US law, the military junta enjoys sovereign immunity and cannot be brought to justice even for crimes against humanity. The junta can decide to scapegoat some of its lower level personnel for carrying out illegal orders issued by their superiors, but the superiors who give the orders aren't likely to be prosecuted by the junta and enjoy immunity in civilian courts by federal law.
International law might apply, but unfortunately our military has such great power over foreign nations that the only war criminals who seem to get prosecuted by the ICC or World Court are usually Africans and always those the US does not support.
We have a big problem. Our military dictatorship will not allow a democratic form of government here any more than it does in other countries it can control. That fact has to be recognized and dealt with before any change is possible.
Successful non-governmental organizations, charitable groups, and independent political parties in the United States have to function within a capitalist system. So they become focused on growing their memberships and raising money to compete with the establishment. But our establishment has trillions of dollars and rules the world. You can't compete with it on its own turf playing by its own rules--it was set up that way by our Constitution to ensure that we couldn't.
There's a reason we don't have the kind of courageous charismatic leadership that could help us achieve a revolution in the U.S. Programs like the FBI's COINTELPRO have been deliberately discrediting, imprisoning, or assassinating our potential leaders for decades to deprive us of their leadership. And half the country still votes, so they don't see a need for revolution because they think they can bring about change through the ballot box--something that is totally impossible. Here's a comment I posted in response to a Green on a mailing list the other day:
I was a Green for a few years, [name deleted], after being a longtime Democrat. But eventually I came to realize that working within a corrupt system isn't going to reform the system, it is just going to corrupt the would-be reformists. In order to get enough seniority to have enough power to even get legislation to the floor for a vote, federal officials have to make compromises. And the more compromises they make, the more compromised they are, so by the time they get the power to try to do something, they can't, for fear of losing their position and power. (I'm not talking about the political party shills like Dean, Kucinich, Grayson, etc., who talk a good game about peace, the economy, and Main Street, but always throw their support to their party's nominees at election time, even if those nominees stand for everything the shills claim to oppose.) In some countries with proportional representation where Greens did gain enough seats to be a swing vote, they usually ended up siding with a stronger party--a party they were elected to oppose. Greens have picked up a lot of support in Germany after Fukushima because they're anti-nuke, but that isn't likely to happen here.
I just ordered Will Potter's new book, "Green is the New Red." Environmentalists, animal rights activists, and other green activists have been labeled terrorists by the FBI, even if only a tiny minority ever damage property and none have ever destroyed lives. Right wingers who have killed many people don't get labeled terrorists or put into supermax prisons. The Homegrown Terrorist Act defined terrorism as having the intent to interfere with the profits of a corporation. Simply advocating a boycott could make you a terrorist. This is a clear example of the merger of government and business, Mussolini's definition of fascism.
It wasn't until I met somebody who was, although he won't admit it, a Constitutional scholar, Juris Doctor Paul Lehto, and began to study the Constitution myself, guided by his insights and both his and my own research into how elections are manipulated in the US, that I began to see that it is the system that is the problem. A return to Constitutional values, an amended Constitution, or similar reforms that many call for, will not and can not change a system that was designed to be a government of the masses by the rich, for the rich.
Although the Green Party's 10 Key Values are admirable, their primary concern is to grow the party so that they can gain power within the system. But the system is designed so that in order to gain power, you have to have the money to compete, and in order to get that money you have to accept corporate donations, which the Greens sensibly will not do (although there have been corrupt exceptions). When corporations spend billions of dollars getting out the vote for the two major parties in an election, as they did in 2008 and 2010 and will again in 2012, third parties simply cannot compete on equal terms.
There are at least a hundred reforms necessary to our electoral system, many requiring Constitutional amendments, that would be needed in order to ensure free, fair, honest elections in the US. These include abolishing the Electoral College, getting corporate money out of elections, having publicly funded elections, getting rid of gerrymandered districts, getting rid of electronic central tabulators so that election tallies can be observed and the results can be verified, ensuring equal ballot access and equal media coverage, getting rid of elections officials so that there can be public oversight of all election processes, requiring that every vote be counted, allowing voters to vote directly for all elected officials and allowing voters to recall any elected official for cause by direct vote, ensuring that the popular vote is the final say and cannot be overridden by political party superdelegates, the Electoral College, Congress, the Supreme Court, or anyone else, ensuring that candidates cannot be sworn into office until AFTER every vote has been counted, any election challenges resolved, and the election certified (right now candidates can be sworn in to Congress or the White House before all the votes have been counted, before the election has been certified, and before any challenges are resolved, and once sworn into office, they can only be removed by Congress, not by simply demonstrating that they weren't actually elected), ensuring an intact chain-of-custody of all ballots (in most voting districts this is totally impossible), eliminating opportunities for weighted ballots, butterfly ballots, glitchy voting machines, or other ways of tricking people into voting other than the way they intended, preventing elections officials from discarding mail-in ballots without bothering to count them or adding ballots they claim were sent in by mail for voters who don't exist (such as the district that had over 3,000 votes for Bush with fewer than 400 registered voters), preventing the corporate parties from pre-rigging the election by ensuring that all candidates with any chance of winning have the same agenda, and many, many, other reforms--probably more than a hundred, but after seven years of intense research I stopped counting when I got to a hundred. If your car, your TV set, your washing machine, or any other system needed a hundred repairs, some of which (Constitutional amendments) would be likely to take many years to accomplish if they were possible at all, at a cost of many times the system's replacement value, would you get it fixed or would you throw it out and get a new one? What if that system was so broken that it was killing several members of your family every day?
The people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of our human family. They are being killed every day. I don't want to elect people who will have the power to expand the defense budget and who can't be held accountable, I want to stop the wars. I don't want to spend years attempting to reform the system from within, I want to stop the killing. And if I can't stop it, at least I can refuse to vote in any election where the inevitable result will be more wars, regardless of who I vote for and regardless of who is elected. That's not an election, that's consenting to genocide.
Writing off the top of my head, I left out illegal voter purges, inequitable distribution of polling places and voting machines, and many other tricks commonly used in US elections, but I think people can get the gist.
Billions of dollars were spent getting out the vote in 2008 and 2010, and even more will be spent in 2012. The corporations spending that money, ostensibly to support one major political party or the other, will actually donate in almost equal amounts to both parties. They don't care who people vote for, they just want people to vote. And they will use every media trick in the book to urge, bully, or terrify people into voting. Then they will turn around and say that they have once again obtained the consent of the governed to do whatever they wish, even though most of those who vote don't approve of what they're doing.
If you want change in the U.S., you have to find a way to convince voters to stop voting. No matter how people vote or who they vote for, their vote is their consent for the status quo and prevents change. I've been trying for years to get people to understand that. I haven't started an organization or tried to raise funds, I'm just trying to spread the knowledge that a successful election boycott is the only way to withdraw our consent from our tyrannical government, and that without that essential first step, no change is possible.
So, no, I won't join or pay dues to an organization that doesn't have a practical plan to oust the oligarchy. I like the daydream, but it remains a daydream.