Wednesday
Jun132012

November election results – unreported news and possibilities

First published in Tikkun Daily, November 8, 2010.

An important feature of our recent vote went unreported. The vast majority of Americans voted by staying home. Only 41.3% of eligible voters bothered to vote (national turnout rate among those eligible to vote (the voting-eligible population or VEP) of 41.3%). If we add to them the potential voters who did not even bother to register, very conservatively another 10%, we will see that about 70% of Americans virtually boycotted our elections. The youth stayed home in even greater numbers than older Americans. Only 20% of registered eligible young voters voted. More than 80% did not bother. Why?

I believe in democracy. If a vast majority of Americans do not vote, there must be a good reason for it. I believe that the vast majority of Americans understand that their voices are not heard. Their votes don’t count. They ask, “Should I vote for the party that brought on the disaster that took my security, and can, or did take my home, or should I vote for the party that promised hope and change and did not change my precarity or loss?” Neither seems worth it.

Most Americans feel powerless. An extreme right Tea Party alternative was possible. Most correctly perceived that although such a vote registered a protest, it represented a leap out of the frying pan and into the fire. Somewhere they knew that since the overwhelming number of layoffs were in private corporations, not government, cutting government would just let those capitalists at the top pay even less taxes and laugh even louder on the way to the bank which our taxes subsidized – that very same bank that won’t loan us the tax money we gave them. That is enough to get people discouraged.

What can people do? People need a left political formation that speaks for the majority. It cannot be a political party. Another party will not work since one needs many millions of dollars to have a chance in party politics. Our last election in which most eligible Americans stayed home was also the most expensive election in our history. Candidates raised and spent 4 billion dollars.

Most people cannot imagine raising millions, still less billions, in order to be heard. What people can do is get organized, get out, and demonstrate our power in numbers. Our strength in numbers is the only kind of power the majority has. Here we can learn from France. Whatever people’s idea about the recent French movement are, all notice that the French Left is a power to reckon with while the right is not, quite the reverse of our situation. Almost 3 million French people with the support of 70% of French citizens said no. They voted with their power in numbers and demonstrated that they were unwilling to have their lives cut for the greed of banks and finance corporations. They did what many believed they would not be able to do. Their socialist and communist and liberal trade unionists united with the mass of workers and the youth to demand better lives. They exercised their democratic right to struggle for a solution that penalizes the richly profitable corporate and bank sectors not the mass of France’s current and future workers. France has about one fifth of our population. If Americans were mobilized with the magnitude of the French, there would be about 15 million Americans demanding change. I believe that would get results. In order to have real hope and change and democracy, we need to organize, mobilize and vote with our feet. We need to change our pattern, not stay home and give up, but demand that our taxes be used for peace and kindness and sacrifices from those who profited most. We would need to stop those who most profited from using their profits to buy politicians who shift the burden back onto average citizens. France is building alternative political formations that actually represent the majority of French people. We can too.

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