Voting Without Illusion


Dan Georgakas

Every

time there is a major election, some of my closest political friends decide not

to vote. The most obvious reason they give, of course, is that there are no

candidates worth voting for. When pressed about voting for a minority party,

they argue that as those candidates haven’t a chance, voting only reaffirms the

present corrupt system. They believe it is more radical not to vote and they

believe the growing number of Americans who do not vote is a sign the present

system is in crisis. When looked at closely, these arguments are too smart by a

half.

The

low voter turnout in America is indeed a sign of crisis, but not the kind of

crisis my anarchist buddies posit. In political contexts in which mass-based

extra-parliamentary forces exist that have made not-voting part of a larger

political strategy, declining to vote can indeed mean something. Whether or not

that is a sound tactic is another issue, but it indicates a certain kind of

political sophistication and commitment. Non-voting in the United States

generally reflects the opposite. The non-voter has not even reached a level of

political sophistication in which voting is understood as a political tool,

however weak and fragile. Rather than rejecting parliamentary consciousness,

such persons have yet to achieve it. One may argue that subconsciously they are

rejecting the system, but that doesn’t mean much if there is no other political

activity on their part.

In

so far as voting reaffirms the present system, there is truth to that, but the

worst part of the capitalist system is not the hard-won right to vote existing

in some nations. We spent the greater part of the l950s and l960s in the effort

to secure voting rights for African Americans. If voting is meaningless, then

that entire movement must be judged as a meaningless misdirection of political

energy, if not actually disruptive to genuine change. Would anyone care to argue

that those who rule America are delighted when there is massive voting by

African Americans?

Perhaps

because I am the child of immigrants, I have an emotional attachment to voting

as well. My mother’s side of the family fled from Anatolia where the most basic

rights of the Enlightment have yet to be won and where voting was not an option

in 1922. All Fourth of July hokum aside, one reason they came to the new world

was to have some voice in controlling their daily lives. They cherished

exercising a right so long denied them. From l967-l974, after the US-sponsored

junta imposed a dictatorship of right-wing colonels, we fought to re-establish

that right in Greece proper.

Having

said all that, I totally sympathize with the sense of futility each election

generates. Nonetheless, it makes sense to vote and even campaign for Ralph

Nader. To be sure, at best, we are helping to establish a Green Party that may

prove as treacherous as other Green parties have been. To be sure, Nader’s

program is hardly revolutionary. Just as surely, however, a relatively large

vote for Nader will be understood as a demand for universal health care, for

control of monopolies, for protecting the environment, for human rights, for,

well, you fill in the rest of the blanks. That’s not too bad a message to send

with just a little effort. Again, does anyone doubt that a 10% vote for Nader

would not affect governance of this nation? A 15% vote might even panic what we

used to call "the establishment."

Bottom

line, as the capitalists like to say: look for this anarchist in the voting

booth on election day. He votes without illusion. But this time he will vote

with a sense that a vote for Ralph Nader makes control a bit harder for those

who rule us.

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