I would like to share my decision making process about this year's election; a year I found to be more blatantly dualistic and corrupt than I ever imagined possible. And, rather than cast these thoughts and quandaries to the winds, I would like to use them to open up a productive dialogue with friends, family and colleagues about how they voted and why.
I feel that if this election cycle has demonstrated anything precisely, it is that we are in need of Reform and Revolution...and so at the end of this post, I invite you to co-create some art with me about Freedom, Liberty, Faith and Justice.
A Little Pertinent American History
In 1854, a few thousand people gathered in Jackson, Michigan to launch an independent party campaign to challenge the current political system dominated by two parties.
"Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements," a party leader later recalled, "we gathered from the four winds…with every external circumstance against us."
This group was fueled by the radical abolitionist movement and as a response to the political crisis caused by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In just two years, this insurgent third party had gained ground in the Northern states where they challenged the Whig Party (which supported the supremacy of Congress and favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing) and the Democratic Party (who favored movements such as the war in Mexico and the expulsion of eastern American Indian tribes) and became a major opposition party. By 1858 they had won an influential foothold in Congress, and by 1860, the party's leader Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.
Now I don’t know about you, but every time I have cast my vote for a third party candidate I have been told that I am “throwing my vote away” being “privileged” or “un-Democratic”. This does not actually bother me much because I don’t believe that America is a functioning Democracy at this point, more on that later… but this old idea that you must vote to have an opinion or that your opinion must fit into one of two categories, is unconstitutional, unpatriotic and it encourages people to vote without the knowledge base to make good choices. Further, it undermines individualism by forcing a dualistic world view which voters must subscribe to if they want to participate, while providing yet another reason for major parties to be corrupt, complacent and manipulative.
On The Term Democracy
The word Democracy literally means “rule by the people”, taken from the Greek terms, demos (people), and kratos (rule). It is a political concept and form of government, where all people are supposed to have equal voice in shaping policy (typically expressed through a vote for representatives). This is how we label our current political system, but many historians and philosophers have purported that America is actually an Oligarchy. Personally, I agree especially in comparison to a Democracy. Here is how Aristotle defined each in in 350 BCE.
“We should say that democracy is the form of government in which the free are rulers, and in an oligarchy it is the rich; it is only by accident that the free are the many and the rich are the few.... And yet oligarchy and democracy are not sufficiently distinguished merely by these two characteristics of wealth and freedom. Both of them contain many other elements. The government is not a democracy in which the freemen, being few in number, rule over the many who are not free; neither is it a democracy when the rich have the government because they exceed in number or power.... But the form of government is a Democracy when the free, who are also poor and the majority, govern, and an Oligarchy when the rich, noble and few in number govern.”
There is one simple demographic issue I take with our definition of Democracy:
“The U.S. prides itself as the beacon of democracy, but it’s very likely no U.S. president has ever been elected by a majority of American adults,” said Peter R. Orszag former director of Obama’s Office of Management and Budget…and how is that possible? Well, because at most only 60% of Americans vote, therefore a candidate would need to get 85% of the popular vote to actually be elected by a majority of Americans…and why do so many American’s not vote?
36.4% are not interested or do not believe in the electoral system
32.2% of non-voters are too busy or have schedule conflicts (ie. election processes can take all day in some cities and are held on Tuesdays)
8% do not like the candidates
8% forgot to vote
3% had registration problems
3% had no access to voting facilities
3% had transportation or weather related issues
I also take issue with the idea that American’s have a ‘patriotic duty’ to vote:
There is simply no such thing. Voting is a right, not a duty and not a moral obligation. The more we are pushed by the few (celebrities, politicians etc.) to participate in an electoral process that undermines our personal beliefs and liberties, the more we will see voters swayed by the one or two issues or stories being fed to them by the media outlets they consume.
As economist Joseph Schumpeter observed, Democracy is a kind of “surrogate faith for intellectuals deprived of religion.” And I would add that our current version of Democracy is also an unworthy companion to those active in religious communities because of the (quite contemporary) separation of church and state- manifested in it’s current practice in 1947 in the Supreme Court Case Everson v. Board of Education; Justice Hugo Black wrote: "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state."
America’s founding fathers were actually much more concerned with Freedom, Liberty, Faith ("free religious exercise"), and Justice than Democracy (more on this in my next post on American Arcanum). Even Alexis Tocqueville, one of the most famous political commentators in American history saw Democracy and Liberty as almost polar opposites.
Tocqueville on Democracy:
“Democracy is highly overrated: People in general hold very strong opinions about a few subjects and vote accordingly. In a democratic society this means that the majority rule can be decided by a emotionally swayed and economically manipulated public.”
Tocqueville on Liberty:
“The most natural privilege of man, next to the right of acting for himself, is that of combining his exertions with those of his fellow creatures and of acting in common with them. The right of association therefore appears to me almost as inalienable in its nature as the right of personal liberty. No legislator can attack it without impairing the foundations of society.”
I cast my vote in the direction of progress and reform rather than casting it for one of the two candidates that will actually win this election. This is not a “Vote for Trump” or a “Throwaway”. I am voting toward a change in the powers that be…the political system that has given us war profiteers in Iraq and Syria, racial, social and health care injustice, deflection of environmental priorities, war crimes committed under the guise of a "war on terror", mass incarceration via the "war on drugs", neoliberalism, globalization, a dependence on fossil fuels and the undermining of individual liberty through the forced and distorted view of Democracy and Patriotism which subscribers must embrace if they want to participate.
I know I am not alone in my concerns or my priorities although I know I am amongst a minority of those who equally fear a Trump or Clinton presidency. Over the next 4 years, we will continue to need reform and revolution; and it will make that process much easier if there is a viable, active 3rd party afoot shaking things up in public office. Currently we have 2 Independent US Senators, and one Independent Representative in the House along with 14 State Representatives. What this tells me is that Independent politicians are few but increasing in number and climbing the ladder, and we should prioritize making that journey as barrier free as possible. Just 5 percent of the national vote for a third party ticket would be a true game changer for American politics. It would qualify that party for recognition as an official national party, and for federal funding in the 2020 presidential race, meaning that an independent third party could finally leap over the un-democratic barriers to ballot access and lay the groundwork for a truly competitive challenge to our current two-party system and the corporate rule it perpetuates.
60% of Americans polled say they want a new political party, and Independent voters (39%) outnumber those registered as Republicans (23%) or Democrats (32%).
I chose Green Party candidate Jill Stein over Gary Johnson, but I actually believe that either of these candidates is a step in the right direction…the direction of Political Reform. Stein differs from Johnson in a few ways that are important to me with regard to Health Care and Clean Energy; areas that I feel are most crucial to address for our immediate sustainability.