CXLVII – The Voting Ritual

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What
is the ballot? It is neither more
nor less
than a paper representative of the
bayonet, the billy, and the bullet.
It is a labor-saving device
for ascertaining on which side force
lies and bowing to the inevitable.
The voice of the majority
saves bloodshed, but it is no less
the arbitrament of force than is
the decree of the most absolute
of despots backed by the most
powerful of armies.

~ Benjamin R. Tucker

November
7th — like any other
date in history — has born witness
to birth dates and events with both
positive and negative connotations.
On the affirmative side, it is the
birthday of Albert Camus and Konrad
Lorenz. On the other side of the
ledger, it is also the birthday
of Heinrich Himmler, the date of
FDR's election to a fourth term
as president, and the date on which
Anne Hutchinson was banished from
the Massachusetts Bay Colony as
a u201Cheretic.u201D

This
November 7th will also
be the date of the forty-second
anniversary of my non-participation
in the voting process. I can assert
that I have been u201Ccleanu201D from the
politicoholic addiction for over
four decades. I have no intentions
of ever again sneaking into an enclosed
booth — that serves the same purpose
of hiding one's embarrassing habits
as those found in an adult bookstore
— to conspire with a multitude of
others to despoil you of your liberties
or property.

I
shall, of course, continue to be
asked by some of my colleagues and
students why I am not wearing one
of those little stickers — reminiscent
of bird-droppings — that reads u201CI
voted.u201D Mark Foley will have to
endure far less opprobrium for his
actions than do those of us for
whom it has become known that we
are, as a matter of principle, opposed
to the practice of voting. u201CAre
you apathetic?u201D, or u201Cdid you just
forget to register?u201D, or u201Care you
making a protest against the quality
of candidates?u201D, is the usual litany
of responses I get to my non-voting
stance. u201CApathy is not something
I care about one way or the other,u201D
I reply, as my inquisitor heads
off fearful of contemplating the
unthinkable: that someone may be
philosophically opposed to the democratic
process!

As
others go forth to participate in
this silliest of all rituals — designed
to convince members of the boobeoisie
that they are really running the
political zoo — I shall be engaged
in more productive pursuits, such
as picking the lint out of my navel.

The
media priesthood has already begun
the chant: if there is something
wrong with the political system,
we need to go to the polls to fix
the problem. One of the media stalwarts
has his own solution: u201Cgo to the
polls and vote out every incumbent.u201D
Don't dare consider, of course,
that there may be something fundamentally
dysfunctional about the system itself.
If drinking a quart of Scotch each
day has given you cirrhosis of the
liver, don't bother with changing
your habits, just change
to another brand of Scotch!

We
need to remind ourselves of Albert
Einstein's admonition: u201Cwe can't
solve problems by using the same
kind of thinking we used when we
created them.u201D Trying to reform
the political process makes no more
sense than trying to reform the
carnivorous appetites of jungle
beasts. If it is your desire to
put an end to the violent, destructive,
corrupt, and dysfunctional nature
of government, stop wasting your
time by focusing on the current
management of the system. Rather
than dutifully going to the polls
to select from a narrow list of
options provided you by political
interests that you neither know
nor control, you might want to inquire
into who is providing the cast of
characters — and writing the script
— for a performance you are expected
not only to attend, but to cheer.

To
create a system which, by definition,
enjoys a legal monopoly on the use
of force, and then allow that system
to become the judge of its own authority,
is an error of such enormity that
one can only wonder why grown men
and women would be surprised to
discover such powers being u201Cabused.u201D
Creating the system is the
abuse. Directing our criticism to
members of the present cast while
overlooking the backers of the play
— who have substitute performers
waiting in the wings — exceeds the
bounds of innocence. It is like
placing a bowlful of candy in front
of a number of small children, and
expecting the candy not to be touched
in your absence.

The
media guru who advocates voting
out all incumbents has doubtless
picked up on a widespread mood of
despair within the American public.
From my conversations with students
and co-workers, numerous e-mails
I receive, as well as seeing television
interviews of people, I sense an
attitude that has been expressed
to me in so many words: u201CI know
what you say is true, but what can
we do about it?u201D There is no expectation
that another candidate or political
party can remedy the problems such
people see. Knowing that there is
nothing within the u201Csystemu201D that
can produce a reversal of what politics
has become, they have given up.

It
is easy to understand this sense
of frustration on the part of people
who may be on the verge of discovering
that politics — not the candidates
— is the problem to be overcome.
They have endured decades of u201Cthrow
the rascals out!u201D that only provided
them another gang of rascals to
evict from office in the next election.
The fraudulent Ronald Reagan — with
his promise to u201Cget the government
off your backs!u201D — generated massive
increases in the size, power, and
expense of the state. Newt Gingrich's
u201Ccontract with Americau201D quickly
revealed itself as but another u201Ccontract
on America,u201D and so has the
sleight-of-hand show continued up
to today. One need only listen to
the unfocused gurgling of u201CMake-No-Wavesu201D
Nancy Pelosi — the Democratic Party's
current leading figurine — to discover
how irrelevant the outcome of this
election portends for the rest of
us.

As
the Republican Party — with its
control over the White House and
Congress – reveals its deceitful,
corrupt, and destructive foundations,
turning to the Democratic Party
as an alternative is now seen by
most Americans as utterly futile.
Increasing millions of people now
see the two-party system for what
it has always been: two choices
of rule offered by a political establishment
that doesn't care one bit which
gang prevails at the polls. This
is why recent elections have come
down to such inane non-issues as
Willie Horton's parole, the pledge
of allegiance, John Kerry's war
record, and — presumably — the content
of Mark Foley's e-mails.

The
media continues to prattle about
the big u201Crevolutionu201D that will take
place this November 7th.
In order to encourage our participation
in this biennial charade, we are
being told that the American people
have had enough of the duplicity;
special-interest corruption; lying;
and engorged appetites for police-state
surveillance, secret trials, and
torture. These same Americans will
march to the polls, we are further
advised, to vote the Republicans
out of power and replace them with
Democrats.

But
when a Tweedledum Republican is
opposed on the ballot by a Tweedledummer
Democrat, even a handful of the
Faux-News faithful may recognize
the fungible nature of the various
Republocrats. I have, in recent
years, discovered only one member
of Congress who is an exception
to this, namely, Ron Paul from Texas.
It is instructive that Paul — a
philosophically principled Republican
— has long been vigorously opposed
by both the Republican and
Democratic chieftains, a phenomenon
that ought to be a tip-off to the
identity of the real interests
in any election.

I
suspect that, like myself, those
who have lost their innocence about
politics will also be staying home
on November 7th. After
years of playing the carnival shell-game
and losing their egg-money to clever
sharpies, many Americans have finally
experienced the working definition
of u201Cinsanity,u201D namely, u201Cdoing the
same thing over and over and expecting
different results.u201D

But
that ever-dwindling minority of
Americans who do continue to vote
will express their faith in and
commitment to the system that is
destroying both themselves and their
children. They will stagger into
voting booths, cast their ballots,
and have their Pavlovian conditioning
reinforced with the reward of an
u201CI votedu201D sticker with which to
let others know of their devotion
to the faith.

But
as the decision making of those
who do vote will continue to reflect
the same confusion and unprincipled
base that always accompanies trips
to the polls, I suspect that the
results will show no substantial
change in the current makeup of
Congress; that the Republicans will
continue to be in control of all
aspects of the federal state. The
GOP may even gain seats.

For
the same reason that Major League
Baseball is benefited by the World
Series whether the Cardinals or
the Tigers win it, the political
establishment is served by the outcome
of the elections it runs, no matter
who the candidate is. We recognize
and accept baseball as a game and,
since we are generally not required
to support it, there is no problem
with it. But we have been too well-conditioned
in the political mindset to be willing
to look at this system and see it
for the vicious and involuntary
game that it has always been; a
game over which we delude ourselves
into believing we control with our
ballots. After all, as Emma Goldman
reminded us, u201Cif voting changed
anything, they'd make it illegal.u201D

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