I wrote the following in August of 2020 and have thought about it for longer. I obviously consider the US electoral system totally broken. That comes from my experience of working for the Green Party Jill Stein campaign. And any person who has tried to organize independent or third party campaigns understands the myriad of ways that our democracy is broken. Another thing that is broken is our corporate media which tell lies. This was also a major complaint as leftists who tried to bring media attention to issues. It’s interesting how the subject of “fake news” and “stolen elections” is mixed up and twisted in Trump politics now. What can you do? Stop saying the media is biased and elections are broken? I’m not.
(This is a dangerous thought not an organized campaign.)
The US 2020 election is facing crisis that is undermining democracy. This crisis has become acute because of the impact of coronavirus in numerous ways. Therefore it is the duty of the people of this Republic, who have a deep unshakable belief in democracy, to blockade this election rather than have the fundamentals of our nation’s founding be ravaged by an election that cannot and will not be fair and free. That is why it is time we begin calling on the people to blockade the election until the demands of a free and fair democratic election process are realized.
Why an election blockade for democracy?
“God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. the people cannot be all, & always, well informed. the past which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty… There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” -Thomas Jefferson
The quote from Thomas Jefferson above is well known in part but no person of conscience desires armed struggle and the pain and sorrow of a Civil War in the United States that leaves ruin and death. That is why our founding fathers birthed our nation as a democracy, an imperfect one indeed. One that allowed at first only property owning white men the right of voting but perhaps unknown to them created the coveting of democracy by all the people. From the birth of the nation until today has been a continuous struggle towards enfranchising all people in our US democracy. It is against the spirit of our revolution to accept anything that takes away our democracy that was won through blood and struggle of all of our ancestors.
Yet today, like in every election in the past, the unchecked powerful elites work to see that voting rights are denied for some at the expense of everyone. They also work to undermine the spirit of democracy through dark money, media manipulation, expunging voter rolls, denying the right to vote for convicts, removal of voting centers from poor neighborhoods, keeping third parties out of debates, rigging elections, using voter machines that cannot be verified, fixing the primaries, actively working towards disillusionment, making it difficult to get on the ballot, polarizing the population via wedge issues, manipulating the people with lies, corrupting the fourth estate and more. While undeniably targeting poor people of color primarily and poor people generally.
The level of corruption in our election process goes to it’s roots. It is still a system that has always favored the wealthy elites and has always served their interests primarily. It has become more so with the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that meant unlimited money now flows endlessly into the campaigns from corporations and the rich. It has always been a rare instance where a candidate representing the people has overcome the power of the lies and distortions (and loyalty) that money buys.
We have needed a mass democracy movement of the people by the people and for the people for a long time. We get caught up in half measures that are unevenly implemented and often rolled back. We get drawn into participation in the broken system by arguments of impending doom. That every election is the most important election. That this candidate or that candidate must be defeated. The insidiousness of “lesser evilism” voting. The tokenism of a few politicians we support justifying the participation in a system that overwhelmingly denies us all justice.
We live in a corporate plutocracy. We are guided by a misleadership class. We are in a country that has socialism for the rich and capaitalism for the poor. That the poor must fight each other in a race to the bottom while the rich are bailed out over and over. We are sold the myth of the American Dream. We watch as the youth of today are burdened by the national debts and environmental damage saddled upon them by past generations. A debt they must pay but didn’t benefit from. We see our society ruled by fear and turned dark by militarism, imperialism and a police state. In this world we are constantly normalizing a denigration of our civil liberties and a weakening of our democracy. It is time that we take a tough stance together with an election blockade for democracy.
The coronaviruses effect on the primary, the conventions, the ability to campaign and the ability to vote is the final straw that makes this the appropriate moment to make a stand and implement an election blockade for democracy.
Who will support an election blockade?
Let’s start by being clear on who will not support an election blockade, if done well. Certainly the powerful who control both parties will not support an election blockade. The politicians will not support an election blockade. The corporate media will not support an election blockade. The party loyalists will not support an election blockade. And all election profiteers will not support an election blockade. It is a multibillion dollar industry, an election industrial complex, and it is not going to be happy as we break it down by any means within our power.
Who will support an election blockade are a very diverse mix of people across the spectrums of ideologies but have a deep affinity for democracy, if done well. As the Robert Frost poem states:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
It will be difficult to reject the arguments of being spoilers one way or another if the election goes forward or if it doesn’t. The best we can do is to be accepting of people from all sides of the corrosive divide in our nation. We have to give benefit of the doubt in their belief in democracy if they step forward into joining our election blockade for democracy. We will need to be vigilant in any attempts to brand this movement into some false category. We will need to struggle to build the type of power and influence that will force the powerful of both parties towards democracy. We will have to believe in the power of democracy and election tools when used fairly and justly in producing acceptable outcomes even when they are not the outcomes we favor.
One thing we can safely say today that is true, is that the masses are unsatisfied in the powerful elite that runs the country across the political spectrum. The 99% would never, through democracy, choose to reward the 3 wealthiest billionaires with more wealth than the bottom 50%. The vast majority across the political spectrum do not support the continuation of these wars. The vast majority of the US are against racism and abuse of power by the police state. If we had a real democracy that was free and fair then we would have the ability to confront these issues without taking to the streets, but since we don’t…
Blockade the election for democracy!
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
Our elections have become a den of thieves not a house of democracy. Ruled by money changers no less. We can turn away from democracy and not vote or cast our vote in a knowingly ineffectual manner or we can turn over the tables and drive away the money changers. A blockade, an active boycott, an intentional disruption, all an act for democracy not against it. We don’t need an election that is a den of thieves to practice democracy. In fact we can’t practice democracy in such an arrangement. We can begin blockade the election and bring democratic practices into our lives at the same time.
In many ways the reason why our democracy has become so corrupt is because we don’t practice it in our daily lives. Most of us don’t even really understand what it is or better yet what it could be. We don’t understand that liberty and democracy are hand and hand. That without democracy there is no freedom and without freedom there is no democracy.
We should encourage practicing democracy in our workplaces and in our homes. We can experiment with different forms or become really good at the forms we know. We can bring democracy into our community groups and our places of worship. We can show the satisfaction of discussion and compromise. We can learn the ways to defend the rights of the minorities while we maintain the rules for majorities. We can learn to practice transparency and accountability through democracy. We can expand our democratic practice to give the greatest decision making power to the most affected. We can learn the way of democracy and unlearn the fears around it so we can build faith in the process.
An election blockade for democracy will have to focus on educating the people on what democracy is and what it can do. It will have to practice democracy while it blockades an election that falsely proclaims itself democratic. This will be hard to do.
Potential ways forward.
Gathering and sharing information is the first step in democracy. Discussion and debate is the next. Questions that arise may lead for this to go on in repetition until questions are settled or a decision must be made. At which time everyone agrees to accept that the decision is not theirs alone and that the democratic process used will be the arbitrator of the decision. That’s about the whole of what democracy is. On the flip side of that though is a parallel thought. If we live in a democracy then no decision can be made democratically that affects you without your input. It’s the promise of inclusion in decisions that affect you that makes you promise to include others in the decisions that affect them.
Launching an election blockade for democracy is a complex challenge. It must be infused with the democratic spirit. Therefore it must begin with gathering information and discussions. It’s not something that is done without a careful assessment. It is not done without gaining coalition. It is not done without the input of minority interests. It is not done without the strong belief that the plan put forward will strengthen democracy.
There are many factors worth considering:
1. Will we make demands, and what demands, that if met would lead to the end of the election blockade and boycott? Demands like:
– Federally funded vote by mail that is independently audited, transparent and fair?
– Full enfranchisement and automatic voter registration?
– Election day as a paid holiday as we celebrate our democracy through practice?
– What else?
2. Who is targeted by a blockade and how?
– Election profiteers, vote machine manufacturers, corporate media, party headquarters, websites, politicians, social media, auditor offices, the debates, polling centers on election day, etc.?
– Non violent civil disobedience?
– Peaceful protests with people willing to be arrested?
– Direct actions that prevent election profiteering?
3. How will we support democracy?
– Teach-ins on what democracy is and how we can use it?
– Forming democratic organizations?
– Gathering and sharing information about the problems and solutions?
– Gathering signatures for direct democratic voices to be raised?
– Standing up for racial justice in democracy?
4. How will the blockade/ boycott of the election be implemented?
– Should we blockade/ boycott only the federal level allowing for people to participate in local elections because local elections are more democratic?
– Will we concentrate our effort against states that are egregiously bad?
– Will we encourage voter registration to show our earnest support of democracy and to prepare for the possibility that we might end the blockade/ boycott because our demands are met?
– Will we run the blockade/ boycott like an election campaign demonstrating what a responsible and democracy loving campaign looks like with signs, phone calls, canvassers and more backed by a real ethical commitment to the pillars of free and fair elections?
– Will we encourage third parties to join us and join together united in an election blockade for democracy?
5. What will we do after election day?
– Depending who wins, what will our campaign do to make sure that the demands stay strong?
– How will we carry forward in addressing things like the electoral college?
– How will we continue to target the election industrial complex directly?
– How will we keep the dream of democracy going?
– How will we treat the winners of the election that we consider fraudulent?
– Will we call for a new election, one that meets our demands to be free and fair?
In conclusion, the idea of an election blockade for democracy is very complicated but can be incredibly powerful, which is truly the spirit of democracy itself. Many powerful people will be against it and the people who are for it might not all share the same values aside from democracy. The strategy for doing it must share a love of democracy even while it is seeming to be undermining it. It will be willing to commit direct actions, but is inherently in preference towards nonviolence because democracy is a tool of nonviolence. It will stay the course despite the election having gone forward one way or another. It will not rest in it’s abolitionist view of current corrupt elections until elections have become much reformed.
Thank you all for reading. I’m hoping this will lead to better thinkers and writers than myself in seeing the potential in such a way forward if only as a thought experiment or for use in the future. No matter the road forward we desperately need to do something about our democracy and if not now when?