It’s often noted that the Greeks invented Democracy — that it’s in fact a word of Greek origin, from dēmos “the people” and -kratia “power, rule.”
Too often, as anyone who has lived in a modern “democracy” for any length of time can attest, it becomes apparent that the people don’t rule.
They are ruled over and managed, appeased and manipulated by various interests, typically monied interests.
A primary way this is done is divide and conquer. Elites in effect end up sicking “the people” on each other on issues that are marginal to most elites. School prayer. Gay marriage, etc. What pundits sometimes call “wedge issues.”
Now, in Greece, the left wing anti-austerity Syriza party won 149 of 300 seats in the Greek parliament, just short of a majority needed to form a government. So, they teamed up with the anti-austerity right wing Independent Greeks party so together they have the majority needed.
It’s often noted that the Greeks invented Democracy — that it’s in fact a word of Greek origin, from dēmos “the people” and -kratia “power, rule.”
In perhaps the best mainstream report during the election season, the typically firmly D.C.-based Steve Inskeep went knocking on doors in Colorado and came across a woman, Ili Bennett, who told him she’s felt some excitement from both Elizabeth Warren — and in the past, the Tea Party.
Said Inskeep: “I think you’ve hit on something insightful here. And I want you to help me with this a little bit because the Tea Party, those are some very conservative people — Elizabeth Warren, very liberal person. But they both represent deep unhappiness with the way things are. And it sounds like they both struck a chord with you. Am I right?”
He was and it’s not one woman in Colorado of course. Politico headline today states: “Exit polls 2014: Voters hate everyone.” It might seem that way to the insiders at Politico, but actually it’s that voters mostly just hate the establishment of both political parties, which to Politico might seem like “everyone”. And this isn’t new. From 2010: “CNN Poll: Majority angry at both political parties.”
The problem is that people feel they have virtually no where to go and can’t translate that anger to action. There is a de-facto anti-establishment, populist majority. But the entire structure of politics, media and elections is designed to keep them divided and prevent such populists from the left or right or wherever from coalescing politically. Third parties coming from either the left (Green, Socialist) or the right (Constitution, Libertarian) are automatically dismissed by the vast majority as potential spoilers. (I’ve set up VotePact.org to solve exactly this problem.)
Some sectors of the media have lauded the Republican establishment’s stepping into the primary process and preventing Tea Party candidates from getting nominations in so-called “swing states.” Those looking for salvation in presidential elections from the likes of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or their Republican mirror images will have to bear in mind the obstacle in the primaries is “electability” (as defined by the establishment) and it’s a virtual certainty that candidates who seems serious about delivering real change will be denied any nomination. Rather, such candidates will likely mostly function as a way of keeping voters on the establishment party reservation, endorsing the ultimate nominee.
As for midterm elections, part of the equation is lower and lower voter turnout — the “leadership” of the parties is in effect firing and further marginalizing the public and their alleged bases.
The establishment will attempt to produce their own version of “bipartisanship” — pro-establishment bipartisanship that is. The mantra of “change” is being used to peddle the never ending use of the Reversible Straitjacket of the Democratic and Republican establishments. This manifests itself as “seesaw politics” and what I’ve called the “guillotine pendulum“, helping ensure the continuity of what some call the Deep State.
The major corporate media frequently focus on marginal differences between the two major parties, but the areas of agreement between them are sizable in terms of economic, trade, civil liberties, foreign policy and other issues. On these and other critical issues, the establishments of the duopoly are frequently aligned together against their alleged bases, explaining why the public “hates everyone”. Crazy public. Politicians of both parties talk about helping the little guy and then do the bidding of corporate interests.
Now, the political narrative is that Washington is dysfunctional and “can’t agree on anything”. The the general public is clearly being prepared to embrace whatever pro-corporate monstrosity President Obama and presumptive Senate Majority Leader McConnell agree on.
So, predictably, the Wall Street Journal is now reporting: “American businesses are hoping the dust will settle from Tuesday’s GOP takeover of Congress with new attention on corporate taxes, immigration, trade and energy, top priorities that have eluded breakthroughs in recent years. A post-election landscape that includes a more sharply divided government is likely to lead to continued frustration over some items on businesses’ wish list. At the same time, a reshaped political landscape could lead Congress and the White House to seek legislative breakthroughs on some economic issues before the 2016 election season heats up.”
So, the big business agenda on taxes and corporate trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership could well be advanced by establishment Republicans in Congress working with the Obama administration. This could well extend to other issues such as civil liberties, more war, etc.
The anti-establishment forces either still in the Democratic Party or that have given up on the electoral process all together should join with those deluding themselves into looking for the Republican Party for some salvation. They should work to building new institutions that adopt their best beliefs.
And this must go beyond voters. There should be candidates running for Democratic and Republican nominations who — once the establishment ensures their defeat the the primaries — are willing, jointly perhaps, to bolt and not back the party’s establishment nominees.
The day after election day is the most important. Now is the time to reach out across the partisan divide and find populists on the other side to work with. You have nothing to lose but your perpetual chains.
Sam Husseini founded VotePact.org which encourages voters to pair up with their political “mirror image” and vote for their preferred candidates rather than the “lesser evil” offered by the establishment.
The Perennially “Unusual” Yet Somehow Ubiquitous Left-Right Alliance: Towards Acknowledging an Anti-Establishment CenterJuly 25th, 2013 by Sam
The AP reports: “The House narrowly rejected a challenge to the National Security Agency’s secret collection of hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone records Wednesday night after a fierce debate … The vote was 217-205 on an issue that created unusual political coalitions in Washington, with libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats pressing for the change against the Obama administration [and] the Republican establishment…” The New York Times writes “disagreements over the program led to some unusual coalitions.” Similarly, NBC opined the “amendment earned fierce opposition from an unusual set of allies, ranging from the Obama administration to the conservative Heritage Foundation.” [Emphasis added throughout.]
The establishment keeps the left and right populist factions at bay by demonizing them to each other — “let’s you and him fight” is the mindset — which is why MSNBC so often feeds hate of conservatives and Fox feeds hate of progressives. If they were to pay more attention to issues, they might break them down and it might become clear that there’s quite a bit the principled left and right agree on. Meanwhile, establishment Democrats and Republicans collude on war, Wall Street and much else, effectively reducing principled progressives and conscientious conservatives into pawns of the Democratic and Republican party establishments.
A major way the establishment keeps principled progressives and conscientious conservatives hating instead of dialoguing is by not acknowledging all they have in common — and when it is acknowledged, treat is as a freak instance.
The major media tends to stress the differences between the establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans, sometimes this results in inflating minor issues or marginalizing major issues, or taking serious schisms and tossing them down the memory hole.
“The House had been scheduled to vote on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) requiring President Barack Obama to withdraw from Libya within 15 days. The measure cites the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says the president must get approval from Congress if a military operation lasts 60 days or more.
“But at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Wednesday, GOP leaders were surprised by members’ strong concerns about the Libya operation. Some conservatives were prepared to support Mr. Kucinich’s resolution, Republican aides said.” [Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2011]
The idea of VotePact.org is a simple one: principled progressives and conscientious conservatives — instead of cancelling out each other’s votes, one for Obama, the other for Romney — should make a pact in pairs and both vote for the third party(s) that better reflect their beliefs.
But the implications of it can be far reaching:
VotePact overcomes the demonization of “the other” — people voting for Obama/Romney because they have been induced to be so repelled by Romney/Obama.
VotePact ends the isolation of the individual in the voting booth, torn against themselves. They are forced to either sell their conscience short by voting for an establishment candidate they don’t believe in or vote for a third party candidate who seems to have no plan for winning and possibly for governing — and possibly helping the establishment candidate they most detest.
Some rationalize (myself included at times) that they are in a “safe” state, and that’s fine so far as it goes, but it’s hardly a satisfying solution — so if you lived in a “swing” state your conscience would have a different price? It’s also not really a strategy since it concedes actual electoral victory to the establishment party and punts the quandary to the next election.
Thus, VotePact is victory, or can be. It’s a route to a literal win for the third party challenge with the nerve and the insight to build a campaign around it — reaching out from the radical center rather than a margin.
This is because VotePact can be political realignment, finding a New Center that is pro-peace, pro-civil liberties, anti-Wall Street, anti-poverty, anti-Federal Reserve, anti-IMF, anti-WTO, anti-NAFTA and so on — and revolting against the current establishment center that is on the opposite side on those things. Doubtlessly, there are differences between principled progressives and conscientious conservatives, but those can be honest differences in search of real solutions, not endless political bickering seeking to perpetuate itself for decades.
VotePact can end the bickering within political circles, with pragmatists saying, “we have to get rid of Romney/Obama” and the idealists saying “vote your conscience”. Neither is actually pursuing a strategy because the pragmatists are actually capitulationalists, forever trapping themselves in a two party system they claim to be unhappy with — “why oh why won’t Obama listen to us after we’ve made clear we’ll support him no matter what?” — and the idealists are pursuing something that is either marginal, or actually embraces the role of “spoiler”.
VotePact can help save and even build movements. Clearly, with the current dynamics, elections are movement killers. Peace movements, justice movements cannot easily endure the fixation on elections dominated by the establishment parties as the mass of people are compelled to back their lesser evil or feel marginalized. VotePact actually gives movements an outreach mechanism during the election cycle when they need it most.
This is in large part because VotePact is jujitsu. It uses the two-party system’s dominance against itself. It answers the question to third party candidates — “aren’t you a spoiler?” — in a forthright manner, by asking the questioner to look at their own life and finding a friend, neighbor, relative or debate partner to form a VotePact with.
This is freedom and it’s love. VotePact is a way people can free themselves from the two party system two at a time. It’s done by working with — and finding love and compassion with — someone they honestly disagree with. It runs totally counter to a political and media system based on hate: “You must hate Romney/Obama and so you must vote for Obama/Romney.” Trust is the one thing they need to find together.
One of my favorite children’s stories is “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss in which the earnest elephant tries to convince people in “his world” that there are “Whos” in a speck of dust. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like Horton sometimes, except I’m trying to show more clearly that there are “Whos” on the other side of the two party divide — “a person is a person, no matter how …”. And there’s a “Who” in you who can come out better by recognizing that person in your life and taking their hand, finding common ground and overcoming the politics of caricature, fear and hate.
Earlier this year President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. It allows for the indefinite detention without trial for any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism.
Some might have thought that there would be wide-spread revolt among people who voted for Obama against legalized indefinite detention. And there was some protest, mostly led by Chris Hedges (who did not vote for Obama), with some legal victories against the law.
But the political success seems to have come from the law itself — in favor of Obama. Instead of provoking a revolt, the result seems to be this:
Obama is in effect telling his supporters: “You better support me more, because I just signed this law saying the president of the U.S. can detain anyone he wants. Now, do you want me to have this power, or do you want Mitt Romney to have this power?”
And so, perversely, Obama by signing a law most of his supporters almost certainly didn’t want, has actually ensured a greater grip on them. He has in effect indefinitely detained them.
Solving a problem in a positive way strengthens the citizenry. Avoiding doing so fosters a continual servitude upon the benevolence of corrupt power.
Similar effects are produced by targeting specific “constituencies”. Consider:
By allegedly deferring final decision on the XL pipeline, environmentalists concerned with climate disruption are further compelled to back Obama — with no assurance on the issues they presumably care about. But Obama benefits in a sense since this threat of the pipeline is real — people who care about this issue feel desperate, needing to stop Romney and minimize long term activism that could propel the emergence of the Green Party or another challenge to the mainstream.
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From last night (Oct. 23) — Sam Husseeini talking about VotePact after the first third-party debate moderated by Larry King and organized by Free and Equal Elections.
Most voters don’t vote for—often don’t even consider voting for—third parties because they view voting for a third party as helping the establishment party they most dislike. Disenchanted Democrats continue to vote for Democrats because they don’t want Republicans; disenchanted Republicans continue to vote for Republicans because they don’t want Democrats.
Disenchanted Republicans should pair up with disenchanted Democrats and both vote for third party or independent candidates they more genuinely want. This way they siphon off votes by twos from each of the establishment parties. This liberates the voters to vote their actual preference from among those on the ballot, rather than to just pick the “least bad” of the two majors. They could each vote for different candidates, or they could vote for the same candidate. If the later, it could offer an enterprising candidate a path to actual electoral victory.
|BEFORE VOTE PACT||10 Voters||10 Voters||0 Voters|
|AFTER 1 VOTE PACT||9 Voters||9 Voters||2 Voters|
|AFTER 2 VOTE PACTS||8 Voters||8 Voters||4 Voters|
|AFTER 3 VOTE PACTS||7 Voters||7 Voters||6 Voters|
|AFTER 4 VOTE PACTS||6 Voters||6 Voters||8 Voters|
|Republican||Democrat||Independent 1||Independent 2|
|BEFORE VOTE PACT||10 Voters||10 Voters||0 Voters||0 Voters|
|AFTER 1 VOTE PACT||9 Voters||9 Voters||1 Voters||1 Voters|
|AFTER 2 VOTE PACTS||8 Voters||8 Voters||2 Voters||2 Voters|
|AFTER 3 VOTE PACTS||7 Voters||7 Voters||3 Voters||3 Voters|
|AFTER 4 VOTE PACTS||6 Voters||6 Voters||4 Voters||4 Voters|
How does this work? Are you hooking people up?
Right now we’re not hooking people up, but we’ve set up a FaceBook page that might help people do that. We’re mostly asking people to find people in their life—friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, etc.—and talk to them about this—they can find a “vote buddy.” But we’re open to help from folks to try to figure out ways to use the Internet to connect people from different parties. This is a bare-bones effort. We definitely encourage people to write up their efforts, make YouTube videos about them, perhaps with their “vote buddy,” etc. We’d like to post these. We need help from more people to make this happen. This is a total volunteer effort.
Are you just trying to help a particular candidate?
No. We’re trying to free people from the dominant political establishment—the “Bush-Clinton” axis. Progressives, libertarians, and authentic conservatives, as well as others, have been unrelentingly manipulated by the establishments of the two major parties. They should wake up to the fact that they can join together, rather than be kept apart by the establishment party apparatchiks who exploit them to maintain the ruling duopoly. It could help any independent or third party candidate.
But isn’t there a robust debate between the Republicans and Democrats?
Both the establishments of the Republican and Democratic Parties are at odds with a large portion of the U.S. public on a host of issues: corporate power, curtailing civil liberties (FISA, renewing the “Patriot Act”); aggressive militarism (expanding the military, funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, backing Israeli expansionism); corporate trade (NAFTA-type trade deals, immigration policy), the “drug war”. Many people don’t support these policies are are trapped in the two-party system. We’re offering them a way to help free themselves.
VotePact would facilitate and would be propelled by meaningful dialogue on the issues by citizens. This would likely emphasize issues in which the establishment parties have most colluded: constitutional powers, issues of war, corporate dominated trade, infringement on civil liberties and big money in politics to name a few. The creative powers of the citizens will likely produce “pair ups” that no political consultant could possibly have predicted. This could achieve a steady stream of novel news stories.
The Voting Precursors:
The VotePact idea is not dissimilar from how politicians actually act towards one another—one votes for the other’s project in return for a favor. The politicians manipulate the voting system all the time for their narrow interests; the people should be able to vote in a manner which maximizes the public interest. Note that VotePact would be largely irrelevant if instant runoff voting or a similar system were adopted. VotePact can be seen as “do it yourself” instant runoff voting. But VotePact has one peculiar advantage even over even that system: it can help force meaningful dialogue between unlikely protagonists, potentially leading to a healthier political culture.
The Campaign Strategy:
Get endorsements in pairs—a former union official who has always voted Democratic with a small business owner who has always voted Republican for example. They would each give their reasons for voting for the candidate at a news conference, which would end with the candidate bringing them together, both shaking hands with the candidate in the middle. Thus the candidate is seen as bringing people together, ending the partisan bickering and moving people forward together in positive direction. This will be an example for other people, giving them ideas for how they can “pair up” with someone else. The creative powers of the citizenry could then be set free in a novel manner. Groups like “Democrats for Candidate X” and “Republicans for Candidate Y” could be brought together and pair people up.
Turning the “Spoiler” Question Around:
VotePact is in a sense self-promoting; that is, it answers the perennial “aren’t you a spoiler” question in a direct manner. It does so in part by putting the onus on the questioner — by finding their “political mirror image”—to find a way out for themselves. The question is answered thus, for example: “I understand your concern: you really don’t want the Republican to win, so you’d rather vote for the Democrat even though you really want to vote for me. There’s a way out for you: Join with someone in your life, someone you know and trust, a relative, a friend, a coworker, who prefers the Republican — and both agree to vote for me (or your friend can vote for some other third party candidate). This solution requires work, but it gets you political freedom. There’s a way out of your dilemma, I hope you’ll take it.” People all over the world and throughout history have risked their lives and fortunes for political freedom. People in the U.S. today should be able to exert the emotional and mental strength to join with someone they disagree with to emancipate themselves from the two-party duopoly.
The Issue of Trust:
There is the issue of how the people can trust one another to actually vote for who they say they’ll vote for; this is similar to the classic “prisoner’s dilemma.” The major answer to this fear is dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue—for the people to really talk through what they want and to develop trust in the political realm that they have in other areas of life, as friends, co-workers or neighbors. This interweaves the personal and political. Another alternative is to each get absentee ballots, fill them out together and mail them together. (Some states allow you to vote on the day of the election and override your absentee ballot, so check your local regulations before you do this.)
Creating a Three-Way Race:
However, if VotePact has a substantial impact, it will affect the polling results and therefore its major consequence would be to let people see the viability of an independent run. That is, VotePact helps the scales to drop from the peoples’ eyes so they can judge candidates on their merits rather than being confined to the Democratic-Republican horse race. Once this happens, trust in effect becomes less of an issue as the illusion of inevitability of Republican-Democratic dominance is shattered. Think of the success of Jesse Ventura; or that the Greens in Germany were fond of saying that they are not from the left or right, but out in front.
What it’s not:
This is not “vote swapping”—in which voters in so-called “swing” states who want to vote for third parties “swap” votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in so-called “safe” states. This is outlined at VotePair.org and VoteTrader.org. Unlike “swapping,” VotePact is not an attempt to “minimize the damage” of a third party run—it is designed to actually shake up the political spectrum and open the door to actual victory for independents. Also, VotePact does not result in people voting for candidates they don’t want—it frees people to vote for candidates they do want, but are held back by fear. While the Electoral College is central to “vote swapping,” it is not at all central to VotePact, though VotePact does work best if the two voters are in the same state.
What’s the back story about this?
Sam Husseini has written about this a couple of times (for example, see his piece in 2000—and he asked Nader about this the day Nader launched his 2004 campaign—but there has been little sustained effort to get this to people who are not political junkies, who might be the most receptive to it. We’re hoping that using the Internet creatively to disseminate this idea might get it to a lot of people in the coming months.
Totally independently, Kent Van Cleave set up Votebuddy.com, with the same idea.
Spread the word about VotePact.org
E-mail: VotePact [at] VotePact.org
As so many follow “the opinion polls” in New Hampshire, keep this in mind: They don’t measure opinion. The tracking question being continuously asked is some minor variant of “If the election were held today, for whom would you vote?” This false hypothetical of a question compels voters to pick the candidate who they think is the strategic choice to beat President Obama, not the one they most want to be president.
The question as framed doubles down on the restrictions our electoral system imposes on citizens rather than freeing them from them. That is, the primary voters could want a candidate but we might not know it since they are not asked who they actually want for president, only who they would vote for in the primary; but they are not voting with who the necessarily want, but who they think — think — will beat Obama.
The process during the primaries is largely focused around the voters of one of the establishment party being guided by the media to back a candidate who ostensibly has the best chance of beating the candidate of the other establishment party. A recent Zogby poll found that nearly 50 percent of Republican New Hampshire primary voters would rather vote for someone who “shares some views but can beat Obama” as opposed to only 40 percent of those who would vote for someone who more more strongly “shares views [but] not strong vs. Obama.”
But who is to say who would be a stronger candidate? Mitt Romney is frequently described as the Republican who would be most formidable to Obama in a general election and Ron Paul is frequently dismissed as unelectable, but Paul is probably the Republican best positioned to reach out to independents and Democrats.
Consider what a farcical exercise it was the last time we went through a primarily process with a sitting U.S. president on the other side of the two-party duopoly:
In 2004, Democratic voters were told over and over by the media that candidates like Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean were unelectable. This despite the fact that Kucinich consistently got the greatest applause in Democratic debates (when he wasn’t excluded from them); but he got preciously few votes because he was deemed to be “unelectable” — presumably because most every independent and Republican voter was a fire breathing pro-war corporatist. Endlessly played video of “The Dean Scream” effectively ended his candidacy. The media conventional wisdom was the John Kerry was somehow “electable” — because he had “experience” — never mind that part of that experience included voting for granting George W. Bush authorization to attack Iraq. So the Democratic Party ended up with a candidate who wound up saying it was “for the war before he was against it” and other inspiring statements.
And the drive to have someone who is “electable” often trumps everything else. So actual ideas about war, the economy, jobs, society, families and whose policies people actually agree with all get sidelined. The endless horse race coverage not only eats up media time, it eats up viewers’ brains — turning citizens into pundits.
James Zobgy at a news conference last week wondered if we were not actually seeing with the success of Ron Paul in Iowa the “birth of a third party” — especially since Paul had such success with young people who would likely not back any other Republican candidate (with the exception of Gary Johnson, who has been totally marginalized) and that so many of these young people were jaded with Obama.
The compulsion to vote for electability rather than actual belief in the ideas being expressed by a candidate in the primary season does not end as we enter the general election. Rather, it morphs into something perhaps even more insidious: lesser-evilism. Millions and millions vote in election after election for the Democratic candidate not because they affirmatively agree with them, but because they are driven by fear of the Republican. And millions more do the exact same thing in the opposite direction. They all cancel out each others votes. Many of these people would find they actually agree with third party and independent candidates from the Green, Socialist, Libertarian or Constitution Parties. But most of them don’t even consider voting for them because they feel an over riding compulsion to stop the other major party at all cost, driven by a heard and brain-freezing fear. Add to the tragic farce that many of these people know each other, but effectively nullify their friends votes because they hate the candidate their friend is settling upon.
And similarly, the polls during the general election extenuate the problem rather than alleviating it. It’s even conceivable that there could be a third party or independent candidate in a general election who would have majority support and we may not even know it, since everyone focuses around the question “if the election were held today, which of the candidates would you vote for” and the public — unaware that an anti-establishment candidate — someone who is opposed to the wars and Wall Street bailouts and corporate influence that the establishments of both major political parties have embraced and occasionally deride each other for — could have majority support.
A simple suggestion for a test as to who people actually want: “The following candidates are all tied for the presidency. You have the deciding vote. Who would you cast that deciding vote for?” Such a question would get to who people actually want, like and perhaps even love, rather than grinding the public through a process of guessing and spinning and polling and pundifying as to who is in the best position to beat a candidate you presumably hate.
Here’s a recent interview on KPFK with Sonali Kolhatkar.