by Jill Dalton
I remember sitting in the large impersonal lecture hall in my American History 101 class feeling a bit forlorn and overwhelmed. I’m a freshman at the University of South Carolina. It’s 1968, the Vietnam War is raging, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King have been assassinated, riots erupted in several U.S. cities, the antiwar movement, woman’s movement and civil rights movement are in full swing, my father’s currently serving in Military Intelligence, Saigon and my mom’s hospitalized after suffering 3rd degree burns because she’s having a nervous breakdown trying to deal with my father being at war leaving her responsible for raising 4 kids ranging in ages from 5 and 18. I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails.
The professor asks, “What is democracy?” I’m wondering the answer to that question myself. Student’s hands shoot up as one by one they proclaim, “Freedom of speech.” “Freedom of religion.” “Freedom of the press.” “Freedom to peacefully assemble.” Freedom to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” “Freedom from illegal search and seizures.” And the list goes on and each time our professor nods, “Yes, and what else?”
After our ideas are exhausted the professor responds, “Democracy means one man one vote. Period. This is the only power you have. If you don’t wield that power at the ballot box then you have no power.” His statement made a huge impression on me. Until then I was so apathetic about what was going on in our country I’d decided to ignore the entire rotten system but his words changed my mind.
My voting record
I became a registered Democrat. And every four years I’d march myself to my voting place and “wield my power.” Granted, I don’t have a very good success rate at the poles but I voted anyway. 1968 gave us a choice between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, the racist governor from Alabama. I was a Robert Kennedy supporter so I pulled the lever for Humphrey and we all know how that turned out.
1972 gave us Richard Nixon and Gov. George McGovern. McGovern ran on ending the war in Vietnam, amnesty for war resisters, abolition of the draft, a guaranteed job for every American, lifting people out of poverty, women’s rights, gay rights and saving the environment—no wonder he lost by one of the largest margins in U.S. history winning only Massachusetts and D.C. What a different world we might have had if he’d won. Today we’re facing many of these same issues. Nothing has changed in fact things have gotten much worse.
I’ve never understood and never will understand why the majority of Americans prefer liars, crooks, thieves and warmongering politicians to honest, compassionate, peace loving statesmen. And because they do we find ourselves in a dying empire rife with corruption and inequality collapsing from the weight of its own hubris.
1976. Jimmy Carter, a soft-spoken, kindhearted peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia ran against Gerald Ford, who served 25 years in the Senate and became president after Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon resignation on August 9, 1974. Finally, my candidate wins but because of the Iran hostage situation he loses in 1980 to Ronald Reagan.
I never liked Reagan. He was a second rate actor and a third rate president. I’d sit and watch him lie to the American people as he pushed the corporate agenda, killed the air traffic controllers union, which signaled to workers you have no power here and promoted his “trickle down economics,” which even George H.W. Bush referred to as, “voodoo economics.”
1984. Walter Mondale loses to Reagan.
1988. Michael Dukakis loses to George H.W. Bush.
1992. Bill Clinton, defeats George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot.
1996. Bill Clinton wins a second term defeating Bob Doyle and Ross Perot but then the unthinkable happens. Bill Clinton becomes embroiled with a White House Intern and trying to save himself claims “he did not have sexual relations with that woman” and depending on “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice as Hillary proclaims there’s a mass right wing conspiracy under foot. And although unemployment’s at 4.8%, the lowest in 8 years and he claims to leave us with a huge surplus, he finishes out his term in disgrace.
In retrospect we now know Clinton killed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was put into place after the great depression to make sure we were protected from the banks ever collapsing the economy again, dismantled welfare which mainly hurt poor hungry children, and touted NAFTA as a huge job creator, which we now know sent American jobs overseas.
2000. George W. Bush versus Al Gore turns out to be a huge fiasco. Between the hanging chads in Florida, and being aided and abetted by the then Gov. Jeb Bush, the little brother to G.W. Bush, and then Secretary of State of Florida, Katherine Harris. People are purposely excluded from the voting rolls and hundreds are turned away at the polls. And then the final nail in the coffin, the Supreme Court stops the recount and calls the election for George W. Bush even though Al Gore won the popular vote.
This was a coup. The 2000 election was stolen, plain and simple. If this had happened in another country Americans would be up in arms crying fowl. I kept waiting for people to rise up and revolt, but nothing much happened. Instead everyone blamed Green candidate Ralph Nader, including myself at the time, believing he’d stolen votes from Gore and caused him to lose. This hypothesis has since been disproved.
George W. Bush’s record
With George W. Bush in office the neocons take control of the White House, and all hell breaks loose. September 11th marks a very dark day in our history. The Bush Administration starts two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, by lying to the American people resulting in 4,000 U.S. troops dead and estimates of civilian deaths range from 88,000 to over half a million and then under the guise of protecting us from, “they hate us for our freedoms,” terrorist, the Bush administration immediately gets to work dismantling our Constitution, promoting fear and stripping us of our civil liberties by:
Passing the Patriot Act.
Opening Gitmo. (Guantanamo Bay detention camp)
Authorizing the wiretapping and reading of e-mails of U.S. citizens.
Promoting the preemptive war, Bush Doctrine.
Torture becomes the new normal.
Signs tax cuts for the rich and large corporations.
FCC pushes for more media consolidation allowing one company to own newspapers, TV and radio stations in one city.
Bush ignores victims of Hurricane Katrina and hundreds perish.
2004. Bush, who avoided the Vietnam war, beats John Kerry by spreading lies about Kerry’s war record, and also by stealing Ohio. According to a report titled “What Really Happened,”
“IN mid-August , Walden W. O’Dell, the chief executive of Diebold Inc., sat down at his computer to compose a letter inviting 100 wealthy and politically inclined friends to a Republican Party fund-raiser, to be held at his home in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. ”I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year,” wrote Mr. O’Dell, whose company is based in Canton, Ohio.”
By 2008 even many avid Bush supporters can no longer support the lies and corruption from this administration and Barack Obama emerges victorious. A dark horse who’s not been properly vetted but gave a rousing keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, wrote a compelling book, “Dreams From My Father,” and is an eloquent speaker who promises us “change we can believe in.” And after eight years of pure hell we’re all so desperate to believe we fall for this rhetoric and his big open smile. He had us all fooled.
Barack Obama’s record
To say I have buyers remorse is an understatement of Herculean proportions. Where do I begin? Glen Ford refers to Obama as the “more effective evil,” and I would have to agree with his assessment.
Obama not only continues the wars but escalates them claiming Afghanistan is the “good war” and even though it’s bankrupting the country and we’re losing he continues this insanity.
Promises to get us out of Iraq but instead we build the largest military installation in the world and fill it with 2,500 private contractors.
Starts new wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria and now wants to add Iran, China and even Russia to the list.
Obama’s secret ‘Kill List.’
Escalates drone attacks. These illegal killing machines mainly murder innocent women and children and once in a blue moon hit a low level so-called “enemy combatant.” But not to worry they’ve changed the laws so any male that’s hit who’s of a certain age is labeled an enemy combatant.
Extends the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
Extends the Patriot Act.
Does not prosecute or even question one member of the Bush Administration for their crimes or one of the Wall Street crooks or bankers who caused the global meltdown. In fact, bank bailouts under Obama have far exceeded Bush to the tune of 16 trillion.
Does not close Gitmo.
Does not put a moratorium on foreclosure nor does he ‘put on his comfortable shoes,’ and march with union workers when collective bargaining is taken away from them in Wisconsin.
Continues and escalates spying on American citizens without warrants via the FISA Amendments Act.
Unemployment continues to rise as thousands are thrown off the roles and unemployment benefits are not extended.
Prosecutes twice as many whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act of 1917 as all other presidents combined.
Signs HR 347 into law that criminalizes our right to protest.
Signs the NDAA into law. (Hedges, Chomsky and a few other brave Americans have sued Obama and Leon Panetta) Under the NDAA American citizens are labeled enemy combatants and can be arrested and held indefinitely without due process.
Passes Obamacare, which forces people to buy inadequate insurance and is a give away to the for profit insurance companies.
Shuts down the Occupy encampments in a coordinated effort between the White House, the DOJ and local police departments, which are now militarized and protect the 1%.
Where are we now?
So now our choice has become a vote between the “lesser of two evils.” The two parties may speak in different tones but they both serve the same corporate masters. Let’s face it Obama speaks with a forked tongue. He says one thing yet does another. I learned a long time ago it’s not what someone says that matters, but what they do.
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” George Orwell
It’s time to wake up and smell the corruption America. We’ve been deceived again. Our government is corporately owned and operated. As Chris Hedges tells us again and again “we have undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion.” And ‘we the people’ have lost.
Obama is a brand packaged and presented to us for our viewing pleasure, and let’s be honest the corporate powers that be decide who’s installed into office. The elections are rigged just as our system is rigged. We have elections so we can pretend we live in a free society.
“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Emma Goldman
We have a two party duopoly. A plutocracy: government by the rich for the rich.
It’s not about Obama or Bush. They’re just the front men. Our system is completely corrupted by corporate forces. And once Citizens United was enacted making corporations people giving them free speech, and allowing them to dump as much cash as possible without accountability into the electoral system then our republic’s goose was officially cooked.
And the mere fact presidential candidates must raise a billion dollars to run is obscene. That money could be used for things that actually matter.
Both political parties have been taken over by corporate money. Under Clinton the Democrats realized they couldn’t win without big money, and once you take money from Wall Street, big oil or the insurance companies then you’re beholding to them, and must dole out tax breaks, ensure a for profit health care system, deregulate the banks and Wall Street, exempt the fossil fuel industry from the Clean Air and Water Act, and on it goes.
Our votes no longer matter because our legislators no longer need us. We’re small potatoes. There’s a reason why Jamie Dimon, the CEO of the ‘too big to fail’ JP Morgan Chase, sits in front of the House Financial Services Committee, wearing cufflinks with the presidential seal, and is cajoled by members of congress after he somehow misplaces 2 billion dollars. Oh well, not to worry Jamie we know how easy it is to misplace that kind of money. I mean look at the billions that disappeared in Iraq. Tee hee.
Electronic voting machines
And then there’s the mater of the electronic voting machines, where a vote can be switched or lost in the blink of an eye with no paper trail. Researches found severe flaws with the Diebold voting machines.
A Princeton Study revealed,
“[m]alicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection,” and that the software can be installed on a voting machine in only a minute by anyone that has physical access.” Ryan Paul
In August 2003, Walden O’Dell, then the chief executive of Diebold, announced he’d been a top fund-raiser for President George W. Bush and had sent a get-out-the-funds letter to 100 wealthy and politically inclined friends in the Republican Party, to be held at his home in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.
“In December 2005, O’Dell resigned following reports that the company was facing securities fraud litigation surrounding charges of insider trading.” Wikipedia
In Mark Crispin Miller’s book, “Fooled Again” he calls for electoral reform.
“The pattern—not one overwhelming fraud but thousands of little ones—did not end in 2004. The same pattern continued in ’06, costing the Democrats a number of seats in the House and Senate, and that is likely to be part of the Republican electoral strategy for ’08 as well.”
Greg Palast claims hacking is the least of our problems. He states,
“Computers tend to lose more votes and cost five times as much and votes just disappear. According to the U.S. Elections offices in D.C. 1.4 million votes were lost (spoiled) in the last election.
These are billionaires who install politicians who favor them. “They don’t care who it is they just choose which hand puppet to stick their hand in.”
The debates are a joke or as my friend Thomas Baldwin labeled them, “weapons of mass distraction.“ The debates used to matter, but have been strong armed away from the League of Women Voters, a non partisan entity that stood up to the two political parties, wanted third parties to be included, demanded transparency, and made sure the questions were not pre-determined.
“…a private corporation, financed primarily by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters in 1987.” George Farah
“The Obama and Romney campaigns have secretly negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates.” Democracy Now!
Real issues are not discussed, the audiences are pre-screened along with the questions, the participants are not allowed to ask follow up questions, and just in case anyone’s tries their microphones are cut off as soon as their pre-screened question is asked. Nothing of merit is discussed by either political candidate.
In the last presidential election I voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party Candidate, even though I knew she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. The system is set up to make sure of that. Not sure how many people realize this, but Jill Stein and her running mate, activist Cheri Honkala, were arrested outside the debates and handcuffed to chairs for 8 hours. They’d met all the requirements to participate in the debates and because they demanded their rights were arrested. Police state anyone?
So here’s the deal. What many people still don’t understand is our elections don’t matter. I’ve voted in every election since I was old enough. I no longer believe my vote counts. Both the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen. I realize whoever is really in charge controls the ballot box, and the new electronic voting machines were installed for a reason.
It’s now impossible to make change within in the system besides all real change has always come from civil disobedience and grass roots movements: Abolitionists, Labor, Suffragettes, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, etc. These movements put pressure on the powers that be to make change. Gandhi did not defeat the British Empire by sitting on the couch, signing petitions or posting on Facebook. He put his body in front of the machine. We must all stand up against the tyranny that has befallen our country. They must fear us in order for anything to change.
Should we boycott elections?
If anyone would’ve told me years ago that one day I’d advocate boycotting elections I’d have thought them insane, but the more I look into this option the more I see it as a way to invalidate our corrupt system and make our legislators illegitimate.
The Boycott Elections group is an organization that is picking up steam. You can read their manifesto here. At the top of the page is this quote by Ted Aranda, Election Boycott advocate and lifelong activist.
“The entire notion of putting massive resources and effort into building electoral parties to compete in the elite-managed horse-race charades is fatally flawed. In the final analysis it does not work. We have to do something radically different, and the election boycott is the start of this new, genuinely revolutionary—not reformist—movement.”
A few of it’s members have been appearing regularly every Sunday night (9 – 11 p.m. EST) on the Carson’s Corner Blogtalk Radio Show. To find out more or get involved you can also check out their Facebook page.
If I’m completely honest, however, I will most likely vote in the upcoming mid-term election. Old habits die hard. I will vote for Howie Hawkins from the Green Party for the governor of New York. I know he can’t win, but it’s a way for me to show I don’t support either of the two corrupt corporate political parties. Come the presidential elections I wish, out of pure disgust for the system, all citizens would refuse to vote. Not that we should stay home, but instead show up to our respective voting places with signs, and proclaim our refusal to participate in this duopoly that no longer serves ‘we the people,’ and is merely a charade. Kabuki theatre at it’s finest. I for one am sick and tired of the deceit and refuse to play their game any longer. Why collude with the corporate oligarchy? This is a system of death. A system based on greed, and propped up by lies, war, distraction and illusions.