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It is estimated that 90 million eligible votes will sit out this election. While there are small handfuls that articulate principled stances against voting, the overwhelming majority is part of an epidemic of indifference or self-imposed impotence.
Vote Independent or Stay Home
by Stephen Lendman
Voting for Obama or Romney is like choosing between death by hanging or firing squad. Either way you're dead.
The same goes for choosing Republicans or Democrats. Each party replicates the other. On issues mattering most, not a dime's worth of difference separates them.
TCBH! Election Issue, Part I:
I’m Voting Third Party This Year
By Dave Lindorff
I, for one, can’t do it.
Hi. You're beautiful. And I don't give a damn who you're voting for.
You don't give a damn who I'm voting for?
I swear on the Fourth Amendment.
We don't have that amendment anymore.
You know that?
Yes. What's the catch? Which hack are you hocking?
None of them. I'm serious.
For real? What planet are you from? Scratch that. Will you marry me and what planet are you from?
I'm not entirely sure.
I'm not sure what planet I'm from, and of course I'll marry you. Now I do want to ask you one thing.
I knew it! I want a prenuptial agreement.
No. No. I want to tell you something about me and ask you if you can understand it. I want to know if you can understand why I'm not voting for Obama.
But I don't care why.
OK, let me guess. He's less evil than Romney but less evil is still evil, and you don't want to be evil, and you just haven't managed to grasp that the more evil candidate is even more evil?
Good guess, but … completely wrong. You have to remember here that I'm not a blithering idiot. I know it's hard, but try. In fact, I'm willing to suggest that lesser evilism is a truism, requiring exactly zero cerebral exertion to comprehend. The more evil candidate will do more evil. Got it. But I'm still not voting for the less evil one.
OK, I have another guess.
You want the more evil candidate to win because you imagine it will create the sort of mass resistance that will turn the country completely around, whereas the less evil guy will just keep boiling us slowly like frogs.
Now that's slander.
How can it be slander when it's a guess?
Of the frogs, I mean. If you heat a pot the frog jumps out, and if you drop him in an already boiling pot he cooks. It's all backwards because frogs are just not as stupid as humans. We like to imagine . . .
So you DO want to make Romney president!
No. I do not want to make Romney president. Not to create mass resistance. Not to make it easier for President Hillary to put the final nail in our national coffin four years hence. Not because I'm mad at Obama and he hurt my wittle feelings. Not for any reason.
OK, I've got it.
You've got it?
Yeah, you're not going to vote at all because that way you're sending a message to the whole corrupt system that it sucks and you don't.
Um, we've got almost 100 million people trying that, and it hasn't sent anybody so much as a postcard yet.
All right. Let me think.
By all means. I'm not the thought police.
I can see that.
OK. This is it. You believe that Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson or some other hopeless candidate is our last true hope. You think they can win, or could theoretically win, or might begin to build a party that could theoretically someday win, or something like that.
That's five guesses.
We don't waste time in swing states.
Well, they're all wrong. They're so far off Diebold couldn't count them. They're not in the same ballpark. Those guesses are about as close to right as …
OK, so this isn't fair, because the answer is some crazy thing having to do with that other planet you're from or something. It's not fair unless it's something I know about.
You know about it.
Yeah, well, I call.
Are we playing poker?
Yeah, and I call. What have you got?
What are we playing for?
Beer? Are you, or are you not, better off than you were four beers ago?
All right. Here's the deal.
It's too late to deal. I call.
All right. All right. You know how we're always supposed to vote for the lesser evil candidate, but then four years later they're both more evil?
You know how last time the lesser evil candidate was for taxing the rich and ending wars and fixing NAFTA and restoring the rule of law and protecting civil liberties and tackling climate change and passing the Employee Free Choice Act, and this time the lesser evil candidate is for cutting Social Security and Medicare and spying without warrants and letting the CIA and Special Forces kill people every day and expanding NAFTA to the whole damn world and establishing an assassination program for men women and children and imprisoning people forever without charge or trial and drilling more oil?
Well, yeah, when you put it that way.
No, I'm not putting it that way. Remember, I'm agreeing that the more evil guy is more evil. We've been there, done that, right?
Right, so … ?
OK, so if we vote for the lesser evil guy every time but then the two choices are both more evil, there must be something else we should be doing. And I have an idea what it is. And we can't do it if we're doing lesser evil voting. So, I don't want Obama to win. I don't want Romney to win. I don't imagine that Stein or Anderson can win. I don't think the outcome of the election can send a message. I'm not interested in the outcome at all, because I'm more interested in whether the people of this country are doing this other thing I have in mind, and it just so happens that the only way they can do it is if they are the kind of people who vote for Stein or Anderson.
So, you want Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson?
No. I voted for Stein. Anderson is great too. I don't give a rat's derriere whether they get 1% or 20%, except as a side effect. I'm not interested in them, although I like them both. I'm interested in the millions of people who are going to vote or not vote and in what kind of people they are.
Who cares what kind of people they are if Romney ruins their country.
He can't. He can't do it if they're the kind of people I have in mind. And either Obama or Romney will do it, perhaps at slightly different speeds, if people allow them to.
I don't understand.
OK, well, let me try to explain. It's hard to put into a sound byte. Change comes from broad-based popular movements that impact the entire culture. This is how we got civil and political rights, how we got workplace rights and environmental protections -- such as they are. Everything worth achieving has been achieved by educating, organizing, inspiring, and pressuring the government, and not by picking the right portion of the government to reelect, cheer for, and withhold all criticism from. Now, you can say you want to vote for the lesser evil person while simultaneously protesting him, but it doesn't work that way. Most people's minds and most popular organizations devote themselves to lesser evilism on a permanent basis, not just the week of an election. Obama in 2009 told the big environmentalist groups not to talk about climate change, and most of them haven't mentioned it since, even in the midst of a hurricane. One group mentioned it and declared that the tar sands pipeline would be Obama's test, but the price for failing the test is having that group and its members vote for Obama's reelection a little less cheerfully. Obama told the unions and advocacy groups not to say "single-payer healthcare" and they obeyed, forbidding mention of it at their rallies, asking instead for a mysterious "public option" that was then of course denied them. You'd think it would be hard for people to sell out this way, especially in non-election years, but they help themselves along by the art of selective information consumption. Most -- not all, but most -- Obama voters have managed not to know about drone wars or kill lists or the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And, of course, it's extra hard to engage in serious activism while unaware what's going on. By activism I mean educating, organizing, rallying, marching, lobbying, reporting, editorializing, inspiring, blockading, boycotting, interrupting, mocking, replacing, and nonviolently resisting evil policies in the thousands and thousands of ways available to nonviolent activists. Someone said to me yesterday: "But Martin Luther King Jr. didn't start a third party." Of course he didn't. Neither am I. I wouldn't have wanted him to. I wouldn't want you to. But he also didn't sell out to an existing party. He didn't endorse and campaign for candidates. He didn't tell anyone that voting was the only tool available, because -- of course -- voting comes far down the list of tools that have proven effective through history. And when the voting system is as corrupted as ours is now, the only way to render it even more useless is to promise half the candidates that you will strive to annoy them throughout their terms but never ever vote against them (unless it's in a non-swing-state and in small enough numbers not to matter), and if they'll let you come to meetings at the White House you'll see what you can do about not annoying them either. Latinos threatened not to vote for Obama and won some immigration reforms. Labor unions threatened to bend over, and Obama kicked their ass. Is this beginning to make sense?
So, you think activism is more important than elections and you really mean it? So when elections get in the way of activism you want people to change their electoral behavior in whatever way will make them better activists, regardless of what happens in the election?
Exactly! Is that marriage thing still on the table?
Uh huh. You know what I was thinking?
Remember when the peace movement was big several years ago? I mean, not super big, but big enough to be noticed?
And then the Democrats came into Congress and into the White House, and it dried up, right?
Well, what if it hadn't? What if it had kept growing? What if everything that went into electing Obama the first time had gone into the peace movement? What if the Nobel Committee in its infinite wisdom had given a peace prize to the peace movement? What if the peace movement had a billion dollars and a gazillion volunteer hours to work with? Wouldn't that have been worth more than having Obama instead of McCain? Wouldn't that have made both McCain and Obama better or replaced them with better people and led to a choice anyway of the lesser evil candidate who would have been even less evil? Or if it didn't, but the movement continued to grow, wouldn't it stand a chance of turning things dramatically around in the coming years, unlike Dr. 47% or Captain Drone Warrior if left to their own devices?
You actually understand this! Now I have to ask what planet you are from.
No, let me ask you something.
Did you call this "Swing State Pickup Lines" because "Why Can't You Morons Get This Stuff Through Your Thick Skulls" sounded less attractive?
By Sam Husseini
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.
Part I of this series suggested that there may well have been massive vote flipping for candidate Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries (Rigged Elections for Romney (10/22/12) The article and the initial research analysis were received broadly. In addition, highly motivated citizens across the country and a team of high school students contacted the authors for help replicating the research in their states. The researchers, Francois et al., point out that this can be done with their open source techniques.
The basic argument is straightforward. If you look at precinct level voting data arranged from the smallest to the largest precincts, you will see Romney's gains increasing substantially as the cumulative vote increases. For example, Ohio and Wisconsin show this clearly as do eleven other states presented here. This extraordinary vote gain from smallest to largest precincts is so out of line, that the probability that this would happen by chance alone is often less than 1 out of a number represented by 1 preceded by 100 zeros and a decimal point, a value beneath the statistical package’s lower limits. As a result, the researchers termed the suspected vote flipping for Romney the “amazing anomaly.” (The Amazing Statistical Anomaly)
Mike Elk of In These Times discusses this new / old twist on "democracy".
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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You and I are getting ready to tape a debate on the question of whether to vote for Obama (in "swing states"). It will air on Lila Garrett's "Connect the Dots" show on KPFK next Monday. I'm looking forward to it, if for no other reason, because I think our public discourse lacks much serious debate between people who respect each other's intentions. I have nothing but respect for you and believe you mean nothing but the best in advocating votes for Obama. You honestly believe I was catastrophically wrong to vote for Jill Stein in Virginia, as I've done, and I honestly believe you are horrendously misguided to be expending your valuable energy trying to get others to vote for Obama. And yet we'll be friends through this and regardless of whether one or both of us ever change our minds.
An hour debate will also be a refreshing change from the usual sound byte simplification of the media, and yet not necessarily sufficient. So, let me tell you a couple of stories.
By Robert E. Prasch
Those following the political blogosphere are, no doubt, aware of vitriol being directed at some long-respected progressive voices who have concluded that it is time to vote third party. Fatigued by being again, as they were in 1996, 2000, and 2004, asked to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” they are tired of the “same old song and dance.” And it is old. Some readers may remember the bumper stickers beseeching us to vote for the Neo-liberal pro-Iraq War Senator John Kerry over the Neo-liberal pro-Iraq War George W. Bush: “Kerry Sucks Less.”
The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.
The presidential election of 2004 left much to be desired. Millions of votes were suppressed, and the evidence is overwhelming that votes were flipped by interested parties. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman summarize:
"The widespread use of electronic voting machines from ES&S, and of Diebold software maintained by Triad, allowed [Ohio Secretary of State Ken] Blackwell to electronically flip a 4% Kerry lead to a 2% Bush victory in the dead of election night. ES&S, Diebold and Triad were all owned or operated by Republican partisans. The shift of more than 300,000 votes after 12:20 a.m. election night was a virtual statistical impossibility. It was engineered by Michael Connell, an IT specialist long affiliated with the Bush Family. Blackwell gave Connell's Ohio-based GovTech the contract to count Ohio's votes, which was done on servers housed in the Old Pioneer Bank Building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thus the Ohio vote tally was done on servers that also carried the e-mail for Karl Rove and the national Republican Party. Connell died in a mysterious plane crash in December, 2008, after being subpoenaed in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit focused on how the 2004 election was decided (disclosure: we were attorney and plaintiff in that suit). Diebold's founder, Walden O'Dell, had vowed to deliver Ohio's electoral votes---and thus the presidency---to his friend George W. Bush. That it was done in part on electronic voting machines and software O'Dell happened to own (Diebold has since changed hands twice) remains a cautionary red flag for those who believe merely winning the popular vote will give Barack Obama a second term."
There are no doubt honest people who have looked at the evidence and disagree that the election was stolen in 2004. There might even be -- although I can't imagine how -- people who have looked at Ohio 2004 and concluded that what went down was a respectable electoral process up to all international standards and beyond all possibility of doubt. I'm even willing to concede that someone somewhere honestly thinks allowing private companies to count our votes on computers in a manner that can never be verified is a reasonable approach to democratic self-governance, given the complete absence from all recent history of any private company ever engaging in any questionable practice that might radically increase its profits.
But, according to a credible report from 2005, one key person who eventually came to understand that Ohio was stolen was the candidate from whom it was stolen: John Kerry. Kerry reportedly said that he did not want to speak out about this because he would be accused of being a sore loser. His running mate John Edwards, who -- by various accounts -- opposed conceding the election in 2004, has since been disgraced as an adulterer. Let's set aside for the moment the question of whether adultery is worse than election theft. What I want to know is this: would allowing the 2012 election to be stolen be a price worth paying to avoid the unpleasantness of John Kerry being called a sore loser on tee-vee?
Why would the 2012 election be stolen? Well, there is the matter of the 2012 primaries. And then there are the basic facts as laid out by the least likely media outlet in the world to twist them in favor of my argument: Fox News. Again, let Fitrakis-Wasserman, or Wassrakis for short, summarize:
"Despite an almost total blackout from the corporate media, the Romney family has a personal ownership (through the investment firms Solamere and H.I.G. Capital) in Hart Intercivic, which owns, maintains, programs and will tabulate alleged votes on machines in the critical swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado. Despite various official disclaimers, the election could be decided on Hart machines producing 'vote counts' with little connection to how 18 million people actually voted. It is inconceivable that the Romney chain of ownership in Hart Intercivic will not influence how that goes. … [T]here is no legally binding way by which a professionally rigged electronic vote count can be overturned or even definitively discovered except through the use of unabridged but legally inconsequential exit polling. Scytl, a Barcelona-based e-voting company, has been contracted to count votes in 26 states through the easily rigged Federal Overseas Voting Program. FVAP is ostensibly geared to let military and other overseas Americans vote absentee by electronic means. But Scytl is positioned to intercept and redistribute such overseas electronic votes as needed through its spyware sister company, CarrierIQ. In a close race, these 'votes' can be distributed at will to make the difference in critical swing states. Other key voting machine companies, such as ES&S, Dominion, Command Central and more, are controlled by major corporations, some of whose owners are outspoken in their support for the Republican Party. … Republicans hold the governorships in the nine critical swing states of Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Arizona. They also hold the secretaries of state offices in all of those states but Wisconsin. Electronically flipping the vote count in any or all of them, with Hart Intercivic, Scytl, Dominion or other technologies, can be done quickly, simply and invisibly, with no public recourse."
Perhaps you're thinking that just because a crime can be undetectably committed is no reason to create the slanderous idea that it would be. However, we are dealing here with people already, beyond any question, disenfranchising millions by throwing away registration forms, stripping registration rolls, instructing voters to vote on the wrong day, warning voters they may be arrested for voting, and flooding the media with dishonest advertisements for candidates.
If anything disgusts me more than the false charade of democracy distracting most of my fellow citizens from the struggle to develop actual democracy, it is death bed confessions. I don't want to ever hear one from John Kerry. I hope that he may live many more years. But when he dies, I don't want to hear any Robert McNamara-like truth telling spilling out of his horselike face. I want to hear it now, this week, prior to the 2012 election. I want it out there preemptively. I want people prepared to look for election fraud. And I want candidates prepared to point to it if it appears, big as life, staring us all in the face as it did eight years ago.
Or perhaps you're counting on Barack Obama, whose supreme value is "bipartisanship," to speak up for himself unprompted, in the complete absence of a swift kick to his pusillanimous posterior.
Speak now, Senator Kerry. Show courage unlike the perverse daredevilism required to participate in war. Show courage when we need it. We need it now. Speak.
Bottom line: The president is complicit in creating an increasingly unequal -- and unjust -- society
So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he’s a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he’s a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it’s just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it’s important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.
By Debra Sweet
I was listening to the "foreign policy debate" while reading blogs and tweeting. Among people I follow there was a lot of interest in whether the drone war would come up. It was brought up by Mitt Romney, approvingly, and then not spoken to by Obama. People also hoped Guantanamo would come up; it didn't.
By David Swanson
In April I had a chat with Congressional candidate John Douglass who had just about wrapped up his party's nomination for Congress here in Virginia's Fifth District. Douglass is a retired Brigadier General, a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and a former deputy U.S. military representative to the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium. He spent years buying weapons for the military and then years selling weapons to the military as CEO of Aerospace Industries Association. In Congress he would be back on the buying side of the revolving door of death dealing.
“I have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan.”
I listen to these words with fresh awe, 40 years later. They pierce the soul. Once upon a time, presidential politics was this open, this responsive to moral concerns. The speaker, of course, was George McGovern. The words, delivered during the Democratic National Convention in 1972 — and the campaign that followed — represent the political high-water mark of the social change movements of the 1960s.
Green Party Populism
by Stephen Lendman
Imagine a political party wanting America governed progressively. Imagine its platform stressing social justice, human and civil rights, peace, disarmament, and other populist policies America's duopoly spurns. More on this below.
Here's a video with highlights of Tuesday's presidential debate:
Participating were Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode, and Gary Johnson. Moderating was Larry King. Larry was a bit unprepared, but his questions were far superior to those asked at any of the corporate funded debates thus far. They weren't his questions, though, as they'd been submitted through the internet and selected by http://FreeAndEqual.org Also contributing to the debate was an audience that was permitted to applaud and frequently did so. Johnson was the clear favorite of the crowd before any words were said.
The first question dealt with election reform, and Stein and Anderson made clear they would clean the money out of elections. Goode proposed to ban PACs but to let the money flow through individuals. Johnson made no proposal to limit private election spending, even though it's the primary reason most Americans have no idea he's running for president. Instead, Johnson claimed he'd like politicians to wear NASCAR suits advertising their funders. However, he was not wearing one.
Following the first question, it was pointed out to King that he'd skipped opening statements. So those were made. Stein and Anderson described a nation in crisis, suffering from expanding poverty, lack of healthcare, homelessness, and an erosion of civil liberties. Goode tackled the pressing issues of the deficit, immigration, and his desire for term limits (as he would throughout the evening). As a former constituent of Goode, I'll have you know we had to vote him out before he would leave. Johnson focused his comments on the need to end wars, including drone wars, as well as the war on drugs. He agreed with Stein and Anderson on civil liberties, proposing to repeal the PATRIOT Act and indefinite detention. But he also proposed to virtually eliminate taxes. Johnson tried to address the apparently unfamiliar topic of poverty that Stein and Anderson had raised, referring repeatedly to policies that "disparagingly" impacted the poor (he meant disproportionately).
The second question dealt with the drug war, and all but Goode proposed to end it, and to reduce incarceration. Anderson said that he would pardon all prisoners convicted of only drug crimes. Goode said he'd keep marijuana illegal but cut funding for enforcing that law. Cutting funding in his view is clearly desirable even when he approves of the funding.
The third question was whether military spending should be so incredibly high. All four agreed with the majority of the rest of us that it needs to be cut. Goode didn't specify how much he would cut, and his record suggests he would cut little or nothing. Johnson proposed cutting 43%. Stein and Anderson failed to specify but have both said elsewhere, including on their websites (which will always remain the best source of most information debates provide), that they would cut 50%. Johnson, Anderson, and Stein, listed off the wars they would end. Stein stressed that climate change is where she would move much of the money.
Tuesday's debate included a great deal of denouncing the Obama-Romney position on a range of topics, and a great deal of developing slight differences among agreeing candidates. But the fourth question brought out dramatic disagreement. Asked about the cost of college, Goode said he would cut spending on education, apparently because cutting spending is just more important than anything else. Johnson, in a slight variation, said he'd stop funding education because without student loans students would just avoid education and eventually schools would have to lower their costs. With at least one leader of the Chicago Teachers strike in the room, Stein and Anderson said they would make college free. This resulted in Johnson and Goode arguing that there is no such thing as free, that the money must come from somewhere. A flight attendant on the airplane I took out of Chicago shared their view when I asked her if the online internet was free and she rather angrily informed me that "Nothing is free, sir." But of course the porno-cancer-scans and gropes from the TSA are free. What we choose to fund collectively is often not thought of as a consumer good at all. Stein and Anderson came back with an argument that "we cannot afford NOT to invest in education." But neither of them pointed out that by cutting the military and/or taxing billionaires we could have far more money than needed. At no time in the course of the debate was the room full of libertarians (who imagine we all have an equal right to spend money) informed that 400 Americans have more money than half the country.
The fifth question dealt with the presidential power to imprison anyone forever without a charge or a trial, a power contained in the 2011 National "Defense" Authorization Act, and a power which Obama's subordinates are currently struggling in court to uphold. All four candidates, coming from very different places, agreed that this power needs to be removed, along with powers of assassination, warrantless spying, and retribution against whistleblowers. Clearly there is a broad public consensus on these issues that is derailed by lesser-evilism, with half of those who care about such things holding their nose and backing Republicans, and the other half Democrats.
A sixth and final question, before closing statements, asked the four participants for one way in which they would amend the Constitution. Goode and Johnson proposed term limits, a rather silly solution that would not fix elections but just remove one person from them, accelerating the pace of the revolving door between government and lobbyist jobs. Anderson proposed an equal rights amendment barring discrimination based on gender or sexual preference. And Stein, to huge applause, proposed an amendment clarifying that money is not speech and corporations are not people.
Here's the full video:
Jill Stein is the Green Party's nominee for president. We discuss her platform and her campaign.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Embed on your own site with this code:
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IN AND FOR THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE FIFTEENTH JUDICAL CIRCUIT PALM BEACH COUNTY, STATE OF FLORIDA
DR. JILL STEIN,
FOR THE GREEN PARTY
Plaintiff, Case No:____________________
COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE
THE FEDERAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION;
COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES;
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE;
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE;
and LYNN UNIVERSITY.
VERIFIED EMERGENCY COMPLAINT TO ENJOIN/POSTPONE
THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE NOW SCHEDULED AT LYNN UNIVERSITY ON OCTOBER 22, 2012, DUE TO VIOLATIONS OF THE FLORIDA CONSTITUTION, THE FLORIDA CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF FORIDA, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES,
AND LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES
1. This is a civil action for Emergency Injunctive Relief against the Federal Elections Commission, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and Lynn University, to enjoin them from violating numerous laws of the State of Florida and the United States by conducting the U.S. Presidential debate scheduled to be held on October 22, 2012, at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Florida, which violations have and will continue to directly, substantially and irreparably harm and damage Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein.
2. SPECIFICALLY, AND AS MORE FULLY SET OUT BELOW, THIS IS AN ACTION WHERE PLAINTIFF RESPECTFULLY MOVES THIS HONORABLE COURT TO ENTER AN ORDER ENJOINING ALL NAMED DEFENDANTS FROM CONDUCTING, OR IN ANY FASHION PARTICIPATING IN OR AUTHORIZING THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE NOW SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER 22, 2012, UNTIL SUCH TIME AS ALL DEFENDANTS HAVE FULLY COMPLIED WITH THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL, STATUTORY, REGULATORY AND FIDUCIARY DUTIES TO PLAINTIFF SO THAT THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, AND ANY AND ALL SUBSEQUENT PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES, WILL ACTUALLY BE NONPARTISAN AND OTHERWISE COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT OF THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEES, AS THEY ARE INTENDED AND MANDATED TO BE; SO THAT FUTURE DEBATES WILL BE COMPLETELY DEVOID OF ARBITRARY, CAPRECIOUS, AND SUBJECTIVE PARTICIPATION CRITERIA SUCH AS “POLLING RESULTS”; SO THAT ALL FUTURE DEBATES WILL BE DEVOID OF DISCRIMINATION OF EVERY KIND, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DISCRIMINATION BASED ON POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION, GENDER, AGE, RELIGION, RACE, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND ANY OTHER CLASS WHICH HAS OR NEEDS PROTECTION; SO THAT ALL FUTURE DEBATES WILL BE FINANCIALLY TRANSPARENT AND FREE OF FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST; AND SO THAT ALL FUTURE DEBATES WILL SEEK ONE GOAL AND ONE GOAL ONLY: TO EDUCATE THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES SO THAT THEY MAY KNOWINGLY AND INTELLIGENTLY CHOOSE THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF THEIR CHOICE FROM EACH AND EVERY ELIGIBLE CANDIDATE.
3. Plaintiff Dr. Jill Stein is the United State’s Presidential Candidate for the Green Party. Dr. Stein graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1973 and from Harvard Medical School in 1979. Dr. Stein is, inter alia, a pioneer in the field of environmental-health, green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats. Dr. Stein currently resides in Lexington, Massachusetts. The Green Party Headquarters is based in Madison, Wisconsin.
4. Dr. Stein is currently on the ballot for the November 2012 Presidential election in the State of Florida, 36 other states, the District of Columbia. She is seeking write-in status in Nebraska, Nevada, and North Carolina, and she WILL appear as a write-in candidate in Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming.
5. Due to the fact that Dr. Stein is on the ballot in all of the largest states in the country and nearly all of the mid-size states, her name will appear on 85% or more of all ballots cast. As such, 85% or more of the American populace is currently eligible to vote for Dr. Stein in the upcoming Presidential election.
6. Dr. Stein has reached a level of support among the American populace such that her campaign has qualified to receive matching funds from the federal government to seek the Presidency.
7. Further, and most decisively, due to the cumulative allocation of Electoral College votes designated to those states in which Dr. Stein is on the ballot, she has a “mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2012 general election”, a current prerequisite to participate in the Presidential debates under the current system. [See Exhibit A: Commission on Presidential Debates 2012 Candidate Selection Criteria: Evidence of Ballot Access]
8. Notwithstanding that Dr. Stein is currently eligible to win the Presidency, defendant Commission on Presidential Debates has not “invited” her to participate in any of the previous Presidential debates for the 2012 election.
9. Defendant Federal Election Commission (Hereinafter the “FEC”) is a US governmental regulatory agencycreated by Congress in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC are, inter alia, to disclose campaign finance information, enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections. Its principle place of business is Washington DC.
10. Under certain and specifically delineated circumstances, the Federal Elections Commission has the authority to exempt corporate sponsorship of nonpartisan candidate debates from the general prohibition on corporate contributions. The delineated circumstances are as follows in relevant part: PART 110: CONTRIBUTION AND EXPENDITURE LIMITATIONS AND PROHIBITIONS
110.13 - Candidate debates.
(a) Staging organizations. (1) Nonprofit organizations described in 26 U.S.C. 501 (c)(3) or (c)(4) and which do not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates or political parties may stage candidate debates in accordance with this section and 11 CFR 114.4(f).
(b) Debate structure. The structure of debates staged in accordance with this section and 11 CFR 114.4(f) is left to the discretion of the staging organizations(s), provided that:
(1) Such debates include at least two candidates; and
(2) The staging organization(s) does not structure the debates to promote or advance one candidate over another.
(c) Criteria for candidate selection. For all debates, staging organization(s) must use pre-established objective criteria to determine which candidates may participate in a debate. For general election debates, staging organizations(s) shall not use nomination by a particular political party as the sole objective criterion to determine whether to include a candidate in a debate.
11. Defendant Republican National Committee is a political organization which provides and otherwise constitutes the national leadership for the Republican Party of the United States. It is responsible for, inter alia, developing and promoting the Republican political platform, and fundraising for the Party.
12. Defendant Democratic National Committeeis a political organization which provides and otherwise constitutes the national leadership for the Democratic Party of the United States. It is responsible for, inter alia, developing and promoting the Democratic political platform, and fundraising for the Party.
13. In 1987, defendants Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee joined together to form defendant Commission on Presidential Debates with the express purpose of insulating the two major political parties from substantial Presidential debate liabilities, responsibilities, and expense. The Commission on Presidential Debates is allegedly a private, non-profit corporation organized under 26 USC Sec. 501(c) (3) and the laws of the District of Columbia, with its principle place of business is 1200 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Suite 445, Washington DC.
14. Lynn University is a private university located in Boca Raton, Florida. Kevin M. Ross is president of the University. Lynn University is the site of the scheduled Presidential debate on October 22, 2012. Lynn University is listed on the Commission for Presidential Debate’s website as a “Voter Education Partner.”
VENUE AND JURISDICTION
15. Venue is proper in this Court as the Presidential debate scheduled for October 22, 2012, by defendants Commission for Presidential Debates, Democratic National Committee, and Republican National Committee, is planned to be held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Florida.
16. Pursuant to FS 48.193, this Court has personal jurisdiction over each and all of the named defendants in this cause by the fact that each and all of them operate, engage in, or carry on business in the State of Florida or have an office or agency in this State; and by committing tortious acts within this State; and/or by committing tortious acts in other states or jurisdictions resulted in harm to Plaintiff in the State of Florida.
17. Specifically, as the sole federal agency overseeing and responsible for US Presidential elections, defendant Federal Elections Commission regularly conducts and transacts business in every state in the nation, including the State of Florida, and Palm Beach County, and will continue to do so up to and beyond the Presidential election in November 2012.
18. Defendant Republican National Committee regularly transacts business in the State of Florida and Palm Beach County. As of June 2012, the RNC had opened 23 “Victory” offices in the State of Florida from where it conducts its business. The RNC promotes the election of party candidates with technical and financial support and works with national, state and local party organizations, including elected officials, candidates, constituencies and grassroots volunteers across the country, including in Palm Beach County, Florida.
19. Defendant Democratic National Committee regularly transacts business in the State of Florida and Palm Beach County. The DNC promotes the election of party candidates with technical and financial support and works with national, state and local party organizations, including elected officials, candidates, constituencies and grassroots volunteers across the country, including in Palm Beach County Florida.
20. Defendant Lynn University regularly transacts business and is situated in Palm Beach County, Florida.
21. This Court has jurisdiction to hear violations of the Florida Constitution, the Florida Civil Rights Act, and other Florida laws and torts. This Court also has concurrent jurisdiction to hear cases brought pursuant to 42 USC Sec. 1983 for violations of the United States Constitution and other federal laws.
22. Pursuant to Article I, Section 21 of the Florida Constitution, this Court “shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.”
23. This Court has jurisdiction to issue injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and award compensatory damages. The damages in this case exceed the jurisdictional amount of $15,000.00, exclusive of costs and attorney’s fees.
FACTS AND GENERAL ALLEGATIONS
24. On October 16th, 2012, less than one week ago, the United States Presidential Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, and her Vice-Presidential running mate, Ms. Cheri Honkala, were arrested for being on the grounds of the site of the Presidential debate which was scheduled to take place approximately seven hours later.
25. Dr. Stein arrived on the grounds of Hofstra University at approximately 2:00pm in order to speak with defendant Commission for Presidential Debates to request that she and other “third party” candidates be allowed to participate in that evening’s Presidential debate. Fifteen minutes after making that request to a representative of defendant Commission, Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were approached by local police and the Secret Service, at which time they were handcuffed, taken to a remote detention facility/wharehouse/ especially set up to house “protestors”, where they were forced to remain for over eight hours while tightly handcuffed to metal chairs until such time as the debate between the only two candidates “invited” to participate in the debate was over.
26. When Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were finally “un-hancuffed” from the metal chairs and released, they were sent out into the cold night in a remote location with no notice to their lawyers or staff of their release.
27. Dr. Stein’s comments concerning her arrest, handcuffing, and incarceration are, in essence, the basis for this injunction. Upon her release, Dr. Stein stated: "It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that’s what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy."
28. On October 3, 1988, the League of Women Voters withdrew its sponsorship of the Presidential debates for the very reason articulated by Dr. Stein almost a quarter of a century later. As reason for its withdrawal, the head of the League stated as follows: “The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate scheduled for mid-October because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter…The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people.”
29. With the honorable institution of the League of Women Voters now out of the way, the two “major” parties, acting by and through defendants Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee, “created” defendant Commission on Presidential Debates in their own image for the specific purpose of having the new-found Commission host all future Presidential debates to the exclusion of any other political party.
30. The Commission for Presidential Debates was established as a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) “non-profit” corporation and currently retains that status, at least on paper.
26 US Code Sec. 501 mandates that corporations may only be tax exempt, inter alia, as long as they do not attempt to “influence legislation”, and as long as they do“NOT PARTICPATE IN, OR INTERVENE IN…ANY POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ON BEHALF OF OR IN OPPOSITION TO ANY CANDIDATE FOR PUBLIC OFFICE.”
31. Subsequent to the DNC and the RNC creating their “non-profit” corporate alter ego under the guise of defendant Commission on Presidential Debates, said Commission and defendants DNC and RNC thereafter met privately in Washington DC to devise specific rules for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates. Once again, the League of Women Voters hit the nail on the head concerning the discriminatory and exclusive intent of defendants Commission, RNC and DNC:
“Americans deserve to see and the hear the men who would be president face each other in a debate on the hard and complex issues critical to our progress into the next century.” But instead, the control of the Commission “is a closed-door masterpiece” between the Republican and Democratic parties.
32. The “closed-door masterpiece” between the Republican and Democratic parties which is in place for the 2012 Presidential debates is a MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING attached hereto as Exhibit B.
33. The introductory paragraph of the MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING reads as follows: “This Memorandum of Understanding constitutes an agreement between Obama for America and Romney for President (the “campaigns”) regarding the rules that will govern debates in which the campaigns participate in 2012. This agreement shall be binding upon the campaigns.”
34. The Memorandum goes on toaddress the issue of “Sponsorship”:
“The two campaigns will participate in four debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Campaigns agree that the Commission shall sponsor the debates, subject to its expression of a willingness to employ the provisions of this agreement in conducting these debates. In the event the Commission does not so agree, the two campaigns jointly reserve the right to determine whether an alternate sponsor is preferable. The parties agree that the Commission’s Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria for 2012 General Election Debate participation shall apply in determining the candidates to be invited to participate in these debates.”
35. The Memorandum goes on to address “Participants”: “If one of more candidates from campaigns other than the two signatories are invited to participate pursuant to those Selection Criteria, those candidates shall be included in the debates, if those candidates accept the terms of this agreement.”
36. As they have done since the Commission’s invention in 1987, earlier this year, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the RNC and the DNC, acting in concert with each other and only each other, established the “selection criteria” for the 2012 Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates. [See Exhibit A] No other political party, including, or more appropriately excluding, Dr. Stein, was consulted or invited by defendants Commission, DNC or RNC to attend the planning sessions wherein they established the criteria for participation in the 2012 Presidential debates.
37. The Commission’s 2012 Candidate Selection Criteria Introduction reads as follows: “The Mission of the nonpartisan Committee on Presidential Debates is to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates are held every four years between the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States. The CPD sponsored a series of such debates in each of the past six general elections, and has begun the planning, preparation, and organization of a series of nonpartisan debates among leading candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency in the 2012 Presidential election. As in prior years, the CPD’s voter educational activities will be conducted in accordance with all applicable legal requirements, including regulations of the Federal Election Commission that require that debate sponsors extend invitations to debate on the application of “pre-established, objective” criteria. The goal of the CPD is to afford the members of the public an opportunity to sharpen their views, in a focused debate format, of those candidates from among whom the next President and Vice-President will be selected. In each of the last six elections, there were scores of declared candidates for the Presidency, excluding those seeking the nomination of one of the major parties. During the course of the campaign, the candidates are afforded many opportunities in a great variety of forums to advance their candidacies. In order most fully and fairly to achieve the educational purposes of its debates, the CPD has developed nonpartisan, objective, criteria upon which it will base its decisions regarding selection of the candidates to participate in its 2012 debates. The purpose of the criteria is to identify those candidates who have achieved a level of support such that they realistically are considered to be among the principal rivals for the Presidency. In connection with the 2012 general election, the CPD will apply three criteria to each declared candidate to determine whether the candidate qualifies for inclusion in one or more of the CPD debates. The criteria are (1) constitutional eligibility; (2) ballot access; (3) electoral support. All three criteria shall be satisfied before a candidate will be invited to debate.
38. Constitutional eligibility means that the candidate must:
a. Be at least 35 years of age;
b. Be a natural born citizen of the United States and a resident of the United States for 14 years;
c. Be otherwise eligible for the office of President under the US Constitution;
39. Evidence of Ballot Access “requires that the candidate qualify to have his/her name appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2012 general election. Under the Constitution, the candidate who receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College, at least 270 votes, is elected President, regardless of the popular vote.”
40. Indicators of electoral support “requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.
41. Because the Commission for Presidential Debates is allegedly “non-profit”, it survives by “donations” and “private funding” and “fundraising” for its “educational activities”, such as the Presidential debates, its primary reason for existing in the first instance. The Commission’s Mission Statement reads as follows:
“The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice-presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501 ( c ) (3) corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.” [See Exhibit C]
42. Pursuant to the Commission’s website, the list of “Sponsors of the 2012 Debates” who have philanthropically chosen to facilitate and foster its “educational” goals, are Anheuser-Busch Companies, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq., Crowell & Moring LLP, International Bottled Water Association, the Kovler Fund, and Southwest Airlines. Communications Support for the debates is being provided by The Kaiser Family Foundation. [See Exhibit D]
43. The venue of the debate is Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. According to the University’s president, the Commission on Presidential Debates recently “awarded Lynn University the prestigious honor of hosting the third and final 2012 Presidential Debate, which will take place on our campus.” Dr. Ross further stated that “our University has been gaining a reputation as an open forum for public dialogues, and we are thrilled to be providing this service to our campus, community and country.”
44. According to its website, “Lynn University is committed to and actively supports the spirit and the letter of equal opportunity as defined by federal, state and local laws. It is the policy of Lynn University to ensure equal opportunity in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, and employment policies without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, disability, veteran or military status, marital status, or any other characteristic protected by law.”
45. The University’s website is literally plastered with Presidential Debate articles, information, slogans, events, opportunities to volunteer, links to financially sponsor the debate and links to “donate” to the debate, to name a few. Every web page on the University’s internet site now says somewhere on it: Lynn University—Official Host, 2012 Presidential Debate.
46. Further, and as coincidence would have it, Lynn University is “GOING GREEN.” According to its website: “As Lynn University charges into the future, we stand strong in our commitment to create a more sustainable campus, community and planet. Our fragile natural surroundings in South Florida serve as a daily reminder of why our efforts to “go green” are vital to the longevity and mission of the university”. As part of a comprehensive plan, Lynn’s Sustainability Committee is focused on improvement in 5 major areas: 1. Community Education; 2. Energy and Transportation; 3. Landscape and Ecology; 4. Water; 5. Materials and Waste. [See Exhibit E]
By Dave Lindorff
We know that there isn't much "Hope" for "Change" -- at least for progressive change -- should President Obama win a second term as president.
Even when he had the chance, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of his presidency, and with a solid mandate from the voters to act on restoring civil liberties, taking significant action against climate change, ending the wars and defending Social Security and Medicare, he did nothing.
By Michael Collins
A group of independent researchers caught a pattern of apparent vote flipping during the 2012 Republican primaries that consistently favored Mitt Romney. A form of election fraud, vote flipping occurs when votes are changed from one candidate to another or several others during electronic voting and vote tabulation. (Image: Dean Terry)
Vote flipping is difficult to detect because the vote totals remain the same for each precinct. In one of several possible scenarios, an instruction is given to a precinct level voting machine or to a county-level central tabulator. The corrupted totals from precincts are sent from county election officials to state elections board and published as final results. (Primary documents for this article: Republican Primary Election 2012 Results: Amazing Statistical Anomalies, August 13, 2012 and 2008/2012 Election Anomalies, Results, Analysis and Concerns, September 2012).
The group's analysis is based on raw data from primary sources, local precincts, and state and county election records. The pattern of vote flipping raises serious doubts about the Romney victories in the 2012 Republican primaries in Wisconsin and the Ohio. Apparent vote flipping was demonstrated in the group’s paper for at least nine other 2012 Republican primaries as well.
When I was a philosophy grad student in the ancient times at the U. of Virginia, some over-smart logician pointed out to me that voting is not rational, since a single vote is never decisive. It's all the other stuff that's rational: appearing to have voted, applying a sticker to your bumper, registering voters, making phone calls -- because all of that stuff has the potential to spread sufficiently to make a difference in the election, or perhaps in a future election or in other forms of civic engagement.
But, of course, unlike the model "persons" in philosophical or economic mental experiments, actual people tend not to be sociopaths. Pretending to vote without voting is far more work than actually voting, which -- while it may be irrational -- does no harm. And so, good citizens tend to vote even understanding its irrationality, and even when there are no candidates worth voting for.
Some smart friends of mine argue for a particular type of quasi-rational voting in such situations. Because of our antiquated electoral college that pretends an entire state voted for Tweedledee even if 49% of it voted for Tweedledum, moral voters should, this argument goes, vote for truly good candidates -- even write-in candidates -- in most states, in order to send a message. But they should only do so because there are too few such informed ethical strategic voters to actually swing the state. In the all-important handful of Swing States, however, where the contest between the two Tweedles is too close to call, we are advised to vote for the less hideous of the two.
This is a difficult argument to face down. It seems to leave the vast majority of us free to vote our consciences, while requiring that those of us with the (mis)fortune to live in the states that count are required to grit our teeth and do our civic duty. No matter how godawful the less-evil candidate may be, the other one is more evil and therefore worth resisting. This is not a time for self-indulgent purity. Lives are at stake. Mr. Less-Evil will kill a great many human beings through war, climate-crisis-aggravation, and misdirection of resources, but Mr. More-Evil will kill more people faster and bring on the risk of complete catastrophe faster. Ergo we have no choice. Suck it up. Vote for the occupier of brown countries who's not the racist.
If elections changed anything, said Emma
Goldberg Goldman, they'd be banned. Policy-driven independent activism is far more important. We can make that case. It's not who's sitting in the White House but who's doing the sitting in, said the late great Howard Zinn. But some of the people making the above argument for letting the electoral college determine who you vote for are also leaders in-between elections in independent risk-taking creative nonviolent activism. I'm thinking of people like my friend Daniel Ellsberg.
But that's just it: the people who manage to think this way tend to be few and far between and usually worthy of Nobel Peace Prizes, if those prizes were still given out for -- you know -- peace.
People, as a general rule, do not function as the theoretical sociopath who could pretend to be a voter and not vote. This is why employers have begun instructing their employees to vote for Republican candidates. We have secret voting. An employee could act as if he or she were going to vote as instructed and then vote for someone else. But many employees will not draw sharp lines in their minds between the employer's threat to fire them and the employer's false claim that electing Democrats will require firing workers, any more than they will draw sharp lines between sticking a Romney sign in their yard and punching Romney's name on a voting machine owned by one of Romney's companies. When employers hold mandatory anti-union meetings, their intimidation and propaganda mix. Some workers turn against a union out of fear but tell themselves it’s a strictly strategic choice; for most it's probably a combination of the two. The same will happen with mandatory pro-Republican meetings in the workplace.
The number of registered likely voters with a high enough level of information to vote strategically by state is probably too small to swing any Swing State. This is a sliver of the population that understands the truth about the less-evil candidate (i.e. his evilness) but is willing to urge others to vote for him (one vote makes no difference, remember; they must urge others to do likewise for their action to be worth anything). They must then immediately or even simultaneously devote themselves to a movement of resistance to that candidate, and open their minds to information on his or her ongoing crimes and abuses, information that is not helpful in campaigning for them. For, without that resistance movement there is no way to break out of the downward spiral that gives us ever-worse lesser-evil candidates. We can choose the less-evil one each time, but if next time they are both more evil, some other tool is needed for positive social change.
And here we come to a second key factor that our rational strategists fail to adequately reckon with. The problem is not just that people are irrational, or that I am giving them too little credit in terms of their ability to become rational. I do think people overwhelmingly IDENTIFY with candidates and parties and begin to self-censor their intake of information and their expression of disagreement. They become fans instead of participants in self-government. But, beyond the people, there are the organizations. A movement that can fix what ails our politics cannot be driven by organizations, think tanks, labor unions, activist groups, and media outlets that identify with and seek patronage from a party or an elected official.
A couple of years ago, AFSCME, a labor union that had favored nonprofit universal single-payer healthcare for many years, brought a bus tour to Charlottesville, Va., to hold a rally for something called "the Public Option." Whatever that was, it was not a demand that had originated with AFSCME members or any other group of ordinary people outside of our government. The rules for the rally were laid out ahead of time: speakers and posters that favored or mentioned single-payer were forbidden.
This year, President Obama came to Charlottesville, and a number of us handed out flyers and held up posters outside the entrance to his event. We discovered that the crowd going in did not support policies such as his "kill list" assassination program. Rather, they had never heard of them. They had clearly gone to great lengths to avoid major news stories that would have occupied their attention and their passions were the president a Republican.
In considering how we deal with elections, we cannot avoid dealing with the way our activism and its funding and its communications work year-in and year-out. Do we become hopelessly compromised? Clearly, there would have been a greater chance of creating a single-payer system had we not censored the demand. Clearly, there would have been a greater chance of winning the pathetic "public option" had the demand of people in the streets been for single-payer, and had the "public option" become a compromise. And clearly the positive bits in the atrocious corporate giveaway that was passed in the end would not have suffered from a full-throated movement of greater size and clarity demanding healthcare for all. What did us in, in this case and thousands of others, was not lesser-evil voting in an election, but people and organizations acting as if they were doing lesser-evil voting even when there was no election.
Half the country does not vote. Most of the country has no idea there are truly great candidates like Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson on the ballot. Some activists are urging people to not vote, in order to "send a message." But half the country doing that has already failed dramatically to send any message for many years.
What might do some good would be to vote for a good candidate, whether or not you're in a Swing State. I understand that you could then be blamed, and not without cause, for the election of President Romney and all of his evils. Truly you would have to be irrational to face that risk. But being blamed for something is hardly the greatest risk our current situation demands of us. Many of us will have to face far worse if we are going to prevail. The case for casting your irrational vote for someone like Jill Stein is not that they are likely to win (and completely unconnected to whether they will "spoil"), and not that your one vote will put them over the top, or that the votes of others you recruit will do the trick. The reason to vote and campaign for a good candidate is that we need to build an independent movement that's honest, that doesn't self-censor, and that supports candidates or elected officials who come to us -- rather than us running to them. We also need a movement that makes reform of our electoral system a central part of our agenda. It is very hard to work for electoral reform properly if we are devoting ourselves to acting within the broken system. The Swing States are where the action is. Backing good platforms in the 38 states from which all candidates and journalists have fled misses huge opportunities. A national movement devoted to protecting lesser-evil officials in Swing States will behave as a fan-club for those officials in-between elections in every single state. And the fact is that electoral work for lesser-evil candidates drains huge amounts of time and energy away from other projects for the Ellsbergs among us, no matter how much good activism they do for three years out of four.
We desperately need automatic voter registration, just as we have automatic war draft registration. Door knocking could then be done on behalf of peace and justice, which -- after all -- are far more popular than any Duopoly candidate. We need to break out of the notion that electoral busy-work created by anti-democratic legislators counts as activism -- and in fact amounts to the complete array of possible activism. We need access to vote, access to placing names on ballots, access to media, and to debates. We need free air time for qualified candidates (for a limited time period!), a ban on private spending, an end to the electoral college, and verifiable counting of paper ballots where they are cast. We won't vote ourselves any of these things. We will only compel them through the true array of activist tools: educating, organizing, communicating, boycotting, blockading, marching, rallying, interrupting, mocking, mobilizing, inspiring, shaming, and struggling our way forward. Women did not vote themselves the right to vote. Nobody elected us workplace rights, environmental protections, or a safety net. We moved the whole country through policy-based movements that often involved moving third- and fourth-party candidates.
I once turned down a chance to run as a Veep candidate on a truly great ticket, primarily because I want to redirect attention away from personality-change politics to policy-change politics. But I had other reasons. I didn't want to offend half my friends and allies. Again, people are not rational about this. They take sides, identify with those sides, and passionately oppose the other sides in a mental space that does not divide itself along state lines. Additionally, I confess, I didn't want to make myself unemployable in an activist world where I know of no organizations with any funding that agree with what I've written above. But just imagine if that ceased for a moment to be the case. Imagine if the labor movement, cast aside by President Obama like a cheap mistress, didn't respond by dumping more hard-earned pay than ever into his election effort. Imagine if well-meaning people and groups took one election cycle off. The money saved could create a television network, a newspaper, a team of investigative journalists, and a grassroots organization, all of them dedicated from here on out to a nation in which every person has the right to a living wage, full education, full healthcare, a sustainable environment, peace, and civil rights. Wouldn't that be worth something? Wouldn't it have been valuable to have those things when Bush was president? Wouldn't it even -- admit it -- have been nice to have those things these past four years?
In my view, the severity of the militaristic and climate crises we face recommend my strategy over lesser-evil voting. I'm not proposing utopia. I'm proposing merely daring to to dream of human survival.
Another little step.
By Dan DeWalt
Tuesday's Presidential debate spoke volumes about the sorry state of politics today. Granted, both contenders gave a good show: Obama was back on his game and Romney did his best to sound like Ronald Reagan. The pundits have been given a lovely hopper of fodder to hold them for a week or so. It has been agreed that Americans only care for a spectacle, so this debate will be analyzed and judged the same way any theatrical event gets reviewed by the critics.
Next Tuesday, October 23rd, 9 p.m. ET, there will be a different sort of presidential debate. It'll be in Chicago, hosted by http://freeandequal.org and I'll be there in Chicago covering it for Al Jazeera. Six candidates have been invited to participate, and four have accepted: Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Gary Johnson, and Virgil Goode. The moderator will be Larry King. You can submit questions here.
I know we've all thrilled to the body-language and tone analysis that has followed the debates between the guy who favors 12 more years in Afghanistan, imprisonment without trial, lower corporate tax rates, for-profit health insurance, assassinations, corporate trade pacts, imprisonment without trial, oil and coal and nuclear power, charter schools, a military budget outpacing the rest of the world combined, and an ongoing "war" on drugs, . . . and the other guy who favors all of those exact same things.
I know it's been tantalizing, in a grotesque I-can't-stop-staring sort of way, to watch debates that don't mention climate change or drone victims or poverty or the possibility of prosecuting mortgage fraud or torture or war, or the alternatives that exist to military spending and tax breaks for our oligarchs -- alternatives like free education, green energy, infrastructure, transportation, and housing.
Yes, yes, there are differences between Romney and Obama. But imagine if, when you'd finished cheering Obama for accusing Romney of opposing coal pollution (gotcha!), your brain had to wrap itself around a third candidate -- someone with a serious proposal to stop burning coal? Sure, Obama is less enthusiastic about massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare than Romney is, but imagine if the two of them had to answer to someone who spoke for the rest of us, pointed out the advantages of lifting the cap on payroll taxes so that the wealthy could start funding Social Security at the same rate as the rest of us, and advocated expanding Medicare to all who want it -- someone who swore not to allow any cuts -- even backdoor cuts -- to these successful programs?
A relatively small number of us have seen a facsimile of that kind of debate by watching the coverage on Democracy Now! But the non-corporate candidates have not had the same amount of time to speak as the two participating in the corporate-sponsored Debate Commission self-parody. Nor have the locked-out candidates been able to address the two moneyed candidates directly. And they've been asked the same alternate-universe questions asked by the corporate moderators: "What will you sacrifice on the altar of deficit reduction?" Et cetera.
I know. I know. Larry King is no Amy Goodman. But if Larry King is given good questions to ask, he'll ask them. And his approach of avoiding knowing anything before an interview actually works well for an audience -- if, as I hope, there is one -- that has never before heard of the Works Progress Administration and doesn't know that military spending lowers employment.
There should, in fact, be far more debate among the four candidates taking part than there is between the two media-approved gentlemen.
Jill Stein is a fantastic candidate. I've spoken with her a number of times during this campaign, and am more impressed each time. She stands with majority opinion against wars and waste and corporate welfare, for green energy, education, nonprofit health coverage, and full-employment. She tried to enter the corporate debate this past Tuesday and was arrested for her trouble. She was handcuffed to a chair for 8 hours, and if you hear how powerful and popular her proposals are you'll have a good guess as to why.
I'm hoping that Stein pushes Rocky Anderson a little on his limited acceptance of militarism. He's no Bush-Obama-Romney. He'd cut the military significantly (at least half the Pentagon's budget) and scale back the global cowboy killing, but that's a very low hurdle. Without a clear vision of why war is never acceptable, we won't move our nation and the world decisively away from it. That being said, I know Rocky and consider him a tremendous candidate with courage, integrity, and experience. He'd make an excellent president, especially if we had a Congress, and a media.
Gary Johnson will be the newest to me. He's a Libertarian and tends to agree with me by opposing every horrible thing governments do and to disagree with me by opposing every useful thing governments do. I'm eager to see that worldview go up against Stein and Anderson. I'm hoping for something more enlightening than the he-said / he-said squabbles between Romney and Obama in which we are asked to choose between someone who blames anti-U.S. sentiment on a stupid movie and someone who blames it on unfathomable ingratitude for our benevolent invasions and occupations. There's truth in Johnson's opposition to centralized national control of schools and many other things, just as there's truth in Stein's desire to provide schools with adequate funding currently wasted on prisons and highways and weapons.
All four of these candidates will be less imperialistic than Obama or Romney, but not all of them will be less exceptionalistic. My former congressman Virgil Goode will bring the racism and the xenophobia full throttle. It's his answer to every question. I'd love to see one of the other candidates ask if Goode understands the history of U.S. wars generating immigration and U.S. capitalists demanding more immigration. Goode will try to play the Libertarian, but those of us in his district who kept asking him in vain to stop funding wars know different.
Of course, Goode was bumped out by Tom Perriello riding Obama's
'04 '08 coattails, and Perriello funded every war he could, only without any public opposition to speak of due to his being a Democrat. He lasted one term, and peace protests of his Republican successor Robert Hurt have been minimal since the wars are either now Obama's and therefore good or are imagined not to exist at all. This district in South-Central Virginia has been swept by the same wave of ignorance that is washing over the rest of the nation.
Not everything will be on the table on Tuesday. All four of these candidates, like virtually everyone else in the country (and even the New York Times now), will oppose some truly crazy ideas, like more years in Afghanistan. We leave those to the "good" and "bad" pair of often indistinguishable candidates that we so cherish our right to choose between.
I'm not asking anyone to think their way out of lesser-evil voting in swing states -- at least not anyone who truly understands and acts on the understanding that independent activism around policy changes is far more important than electoral campaigning for personality changes. But I do encourage watching this alternative debate. And if you watch it on Al Jazeera I promise not to devote my commentary to the candidates' body language and facial expressions.