The Power of Defiance
May 16, 2008 - 9:33am ET
If the electoral disaster of 2004 should have taught us anything, it's that our votes are wasted when cast for those candidates who represent the status quo and refuse to fight it. How many of you regret throwing your ballots away on John Kerry? How many of you did so, knowing in your hearts that you would much rather have voted for someone else, because you felt it was more important to try to oust the shrub than to vote your beliefs?
I did the same thing. I had voted for Dennis Kucinich in the primary, and I knew Kerry didn't have the stones to win in spite of the inevitable vote fraud the Bush-Cheney campaign was pulling off, but I cast my November ballot for John Kerry anyway. I admit, I screwed up that year. I had voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, a protest vote, because I believed then as I do now, that the only fundamental difference between the two major political parties today is one of competence. The GOP is inept at, well, everything except committing crimes and getting away with them. The Democrats are surprisingly effective at everything except committing crimes and getting away with them. That's all.
I watched, growing up, as the party of the New Deal abandoned all pretense of remaining true to its principles to join the corporate-conservative DLC in embracing Republican policies. By 2000 I had had enough. I would no longer vote along party lines. Although a registered Democrat, if I thought a Green or a non-aligned progressive could do the job, I voted for that person. So, full of defiance, I cast my ballot for Ralph Nader in 2000.
And yet I "repented" that action a mere four years later. Not because I had ceased to believe in what the man stands for, but because I had partaken of the 'Anybody But Bush' wafer. Not all of it, mind you. Just a tiny nibble, after the primary season was over. I suppressed the urge to vomit, poked the hole in the punch card, and hoped I hadn't made a huge mistake.
Except I had made a mistake, the same one so many Democrats continue to do even after nearly three decades of unbroken conservative misrule in government. I had compromised my principles, thrown away my vote. I watched in disgust and horror as CBS interviewed Black voters, who told us how they had watched their Kerry votes flipped over to the shrub and his gargoyle before their very eyes, on those unholy Diebold election-rigging machines. I watched and shook my head at the party for Kerry in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, as the results went from a solid victory for the Democrats to a bare margin of fraudulent triumph for the shrub. Another election had been stolen, I knew. My last and only hope was that Kerry would fight it. The next day, that hope was dashed. The Democratic granny candidate had capitulated. Again.
Needless to say, I've learned my lesson since then. No more will I hand my vote to someone who never has and never will earn it. Oh, sure, you might ask; aren't I just throwing my vote away? I've done that, but not in the way you might think.
My vote for Kerry was wasted because of one, unalterable truth: the only wasted votes are those not cast, or those cast for candidates who don't represent our interests.
Those who say we cannot vote our beliefs because our preferred candidates "can't win" subscribe to the notion that voting our beliefs doesn't win elections. But as the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and soon the 2008 elections have shown, this is nonsense. We lose when we compromise our principles, and win when we embrace them. The so-called experts have it all backwards, and deliberately so.
Former member of British Parliament Tony Benn said, in Michael Moore excellent documentary SiCKO, that if people in America and Great Britain were to turn out and vote in large numbers it would be a truly democratic revolution. And he's right. If voter turnout were anything like what it is in European states such as France, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian states, and so forth, can you imagine how the political landscape would be altered? Can you imagine what would happen in elections if, during the primary season, voters cast their ballots based on choosing the candidates of their preference instead of who we're told to vote for?
The powerful can, and do, which is why they work so tirelessly to suppress the vote, to discourage us from casting our ballots the way we want. The powerful would lose the only thing that really matters to them: power. It's why men and women of principle, such as Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan, and Ralph Nader are marginalized and excluded from presidential debates -- shoved aside in favor of corporate whores who beat the drums of war on the orders of their sponsors. It's why Diebold rigs its machines to favor certain political parties, state secretaries purge legally registered voters from the polls, and state legislatures pass laws designed to prevent certain types of people from voting.
All of it is set up to prevent true socioeconomic reform from ever again coming to pass. It wasn't enough for movement conservatives to dismantle the New Deal; they had to make sure it could never happen again. That's why your vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is such a waste. Neither of them is ever going to rock the boat, try to change the status quo. They're both from the DLC, the Trojan Horse whose sole purpose is to cripple the progressive movement from within the Democratic Party. No matter which of the major political party candidates you vote for this year, you're voting to keep things as they are. You're doing as you're told, which is exactly what the powerful want you to do. The message you send when you do that is that you are content with the status quo, even if you're not.
Your vote for Ralph Nader, or Mike Gravel, or the Green Party candidate, your ballot for Dennis Kucinich as a Democratic write-in, that is the only real power you have. The purpose of it is not to win in spite of a system rigged to favor the establishment every single time, though with hard work and unwavering dedication we may one day see that happen. The purpose of your protest vote and mine is to send a message of defiance: "You do not own our votes. We give them to those who do. If you want them, you'll have to earn them or just keep on taking them. But we shall never just give our votes to you."
How many of you, dear readers, have read Orwell's 1984? How many of you read the Party's lessons about power? Do you recognize what true power is? It's not in keeping a boot on the face of humanity, grinding us into the dirt forever; it's in Defiance. When you cast your ballot for the candidate of your genuine choice, you are choosing to defy a system that was set up to crush you, to keep you buried in the mud, groveling for what scraps the powerful deign to throw you.
Why do you think hatred of Ralph Nader runs so strong? It's not because he is perceived as having stolen votes that belonged to Al Gore in 2000, or John Kerry in 2004. We who are wise know that no political party owns our votes. The hatred burns so brightly because when we cast our ballots for him we are denying the powerful something they want but cannot steal. Oh, sure, they can prevent us from voting, or reduce our options so that we can only make the choices they want us to. But it's not the same as us giving them our votes of our own free will. They want, no, they need you to accept them, their way of thinking. The powerful cannot be powerful unless you hand your power to them willingly That's what motivates the Party described by George Orwell in 1984: the irrational need to be loved and accepted no matter what. When we vote for third party candidates, we reject everything the establishment represents. And rejection is the worst thing any of us can inflict upon the powerful.
Defiance. That is real power. Use it or lose it.
Help us spread the word about these important stories...
Email to a friend
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future