As I’ve discussed before, as election season approaches and every voter faces the prospect of looking at what they have (or haven’t) done, many are facing this moment of truth with wailing, gnashing of teeth, wearing of hair shirts and public penitent flagellation. Today’s example is as follows:
The time has come again for the liberals to attack those on their left. Such things are cyclical, like the coming of the cicadas. This is interesting timing because the liberals I know and read are very, very confident that Obama is running away with the election. And this itself is interesting, as the typical justification of the rampant redbaiting and Peter Beinart-style calls for purges of the unfaithful is that we’re in a trench war, here, people, and Charlie is everywhere, and so if the Democrats were to nominate Zell Miller your job would be to shut the fuck up and support him as he destroyed everything we believe in, because it’s a two party system. But, now, see, because they think that their guy is winning, it’s also not the right time because… well. You know. It’s never the time. They are, in every sense, kept people, owned by a party and its leader, and they have given away every part of themselves that is capable of critical thought.
I don’t know how else it say it, considering I’ve said it a thousand times. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don’t know how to act or what to do. I want it so bad I can’t sit still or sleep at night. I want it with everything I have that’s capable of want. And I know that this is the kind of talk that invites pure contempt from those like Tbogg, who have only the idiom of sarcasm and derision and cannot imagine straightforward moral sentiment. But that’s the truth. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. And the innocent people we kill the most, these days, are Muslim. And the policy of the Obama administration has expanded the zone in which we kill innocent Muslims, they have shown no interest in stopping killing innocent Muslims, and in fact their campaign constantly brags about the drone program which kills innocent Muslims. That’s just true. All of it is just true. Obama is directly responsible for the expansion of hostilities against Muslims targets which result in the death of people who have taken no violent action against the United States. Voting for him cannot, does not, and will not challenge that reality.
I don’t know who is telling him not to challenge this outside of the voting booth, because that’s a stupid thing to say (and I believe him that people are saying this; I’ve gotten shit myself for not being sufficiently pro-Obama), but guess what: politicians have absolutely no way of connecting your motives for (not) voting as you choose to with the outcome of the election. It’s a stupid, pointless gesture to not-vote in protest unless your sole goal is to make yourself feel good, unless you don’t live in a swing state. I live in VA, so this race is very contested here. If you live in state that’s heavily weighted one way or another, then feel free to sit it out (or better yet, vote for a third-party candidate), but the action will be meaningless without more action outside of election season to back it up. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky in the video below, of course you can fucking vote for the lesser of two evils, because you get less goddamn evil!
And let’s get back to this little gem from the comment above, because I want to highlight it:
I don’t know how else it say it, considering I’ve said it a thousand times. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don’t know how to act or what to do.
I’m sure these people could use some help. Or these people. Do you vote in your primary elections? Do you donate money outside of election season (and include a note as to why you’re donating or why it’s not more, or why you’re donating a goddamn penny because you’re so pissed off)? If you don’t know how to act or what to do, then ask people who are doing something and be willing to follow through. Find some way to help and do it, but don’t pretend that casting a ballot is the time to make that difference. From my earlier post:
Think of it this way. You’re on a large train, and the track divides at regular intervals. During the ride, you can contact people who are building the line ahead of you to influence the way the tracks are going to go, but once the tracks are built, nothing can change them short of a natural disaster. Just before you get to the switch where you can go in one (or more) possible directions, everyone on the train gets a vote as to which way the train will go. No matter what you do the train is going on one of the tracks that have already been laid out. If you wanted a different option, your only time to influence it was the long ride before the vote (write-in candidates just do not win without considerable groundwork; think of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska). Whether you spent this time slamming down drinks in the lounge car or frantically calling ahead to try and change the direction the rails are being laid out, at this point it doesn’t matter. The options have now been decided, and the train is not going to stop. With considerable difficulty you can get off the train, but that can be a complex (and sometimes dangerous) process that can be hard to reverse if you change your mind, but the train will not stop.
So the question on a ballot is, “which way will the train go?”
And once again DJW’s re-telling of hilzoy’s wonderful response:
I can’t recall when or where, but I believe it was hilzoy who gave the best answer I’ve ever heard to this kind of question, which I wholeheartedly endorse. It was, essentially, that she would be indifferent to voting for the least bad viable candidate when things had gotten so bad that she was actively involved in violent rebellion against the government. Significantly, this is a higher threshold than “things are so bad violent revolution is justified in the abstract, but I’m not currently doing it”, but actual active rebellion. This seems exactly right to me. Either you should use the tools available to make better/reduce the harm of the current state, of you should begin engaging in a plot to overthrow it, or find a way to contribute to an ongoing one. If the latter is not to your taste because you have other priorities, or you (probably wisely) deem it unlikely to be unsuccessful and as such not a reasonable risk of life and limb, you have no reason to avoid the first strategy, and you get no credit for moral high ground for avoiding it.
And if those are too complicated for you, then I offer you the simple, traditional response: “don’t mourn, organize!“