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Batting Third: in support of independent political parties
The other day a Facebook friend sent me a horrified inquiry asking if I had meant to “like” Mitt Romney on Facebook.
I had no idea what she was talking about but a little investigation revealed that the caustic comments I posted on a pro-Romney photo someone had shared on Facebook somehow got counted as me liking Romney for President.
I immediately posted a status update assuring everyone that I certainly had no intention of voting for Mitt Romney, a man who strikes me as a fairly pure example of an elitist sociopath, someone who will tell us anything he thinks we want to hear, even if what he says today completely contradicts what he said yesterday.
A few minutes later, however, I felt moved to clarify my position even further and reveal my intention to vote for a very progressive third party candidate for President.
Well, Hellz-a-Poppin’! From some of the responses I got to that post, you’d think I’d gone way beyond endorsing Mitt Romney for President and was raising a huzzah for the ticket of Beelzebub and Hitler, 2012.
This is not the moment to rehearse the sources of my opposition to the policies of Barack Obama. Suffice it to say that I must politely reject suggestions from my liberal friends that not voting for Obama is tantamount to voting for the Apocalypse. My answer is that both parties have been equally complicit in creating the economic, civil liberties, militaristic, environmental disaster that is the United States of America today. A vote for either Romney or Obama? A vote for more of the same. There are many paths out of our current dilemma. At least one of them is to promote political parties that reject policies aimed to appease the demands and whims of the 1%.
Ultimately, there are only two distinct political philosophies in the world, though each may travel under many banners at any one time or another.
The first – and most pervasive– is a philosophy that posits that exploitation and domination are not only the means but also the ends of life. The other philosophy, not surprisingly, rejects that notion out of hand. Further, it holds that if exploitation and domination are even the means, they inevitably become the ends. This second point of view also holds that individual liberation can come about only in conjunction with collective empowerment and that collective liberation can only come about in conjunction with individual empowerment: the two are inseparable.
Clearly, many leaders embrace an uneasy combination of these two philosophies and I would not be so foolish as to suggest that either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama are pure manifestations of the first philosophy of naked power politics. But it is equally safe to say that, collectively, those who rule – not govern, but rule – our society are animated by the first rather than the second of these philosophies. How can we know this for sure? Very simple. By the extraordinary hostility and excessive violence that our ruling class directs toward any movement – like Occupy Wall Street – deemed to represent the second philosophy in action.
However hopeless things might seem; however much fear-mongering expended on our absolute duty to vote for the lesser-of-two evils, the reality is that the one great tool our rulers possess is not military force or overwhelming economic resources. It is our despair. The moment we capitulate to fear and hopelessness, our rulers win – and in fact, it is not military force nor economic resources that perpetuate their rule. It is our fear and our despair that keeps them in power. If once we were ever to turn and face that dragon of fear and despair, it would vanish in a puff of smoke and before us would sit the treasure of real self-empowerment.
This is why I reject categorically the taunts and outrage of liberals who treat the idea of voting for a third party candidate as nothing short of sacrilege. But rather than viewing them with contempt, I see these acolytes of the corporate duopoly as a fretful, unhappy lot. They have either not yet learned, or perhaps not yet been able to put into practice one of the simple truths about life: that working in solidarity with others to make a better world is not merely the only effective tool that those of us possess who are perceived with contempt as “powerless” by our overlords; working in solidarity to create a better world is the best antidote we possess to counter the fear, isolation and despair that is the vile fodder our rulers feed upon to keep themselves strong and the rest of us weak.
Of course, acting in solidarity is not just a matter of voting every four years for an alternative candidate. It is not even merely a matter of working with the many independent political parties here and elsewhere who field candidates in races at every level of government and do their best to maintain some kind of organization in between elections, or of working – as we should – to overturn the anti-democratic laws and ban the coercive tactics the two major parties have enacted and undertake to make it next to impossible for a third party to get a foothold unless it is one that serves as a front for some rich white man.
In a true democracy, civic engagement – political activity – must go beyond electoral politics to encompass the whole range of issues concerning how public resources are allocated, laws enforced, and the future course of our towns, cities, counties, states and nation are determined.
And that kind political activity cannot and will not take place in an environment in which we are cowed into supporting people, policies, or political parties out of fear rather than working and voting for people, policies, and political parties who represent our hopes.