A Time to Vote
A Time to Envision, A Time to Inspire, A Time to Act
by Tony Brasunas
The time has come to vote. Engaged citizens do everything they do with a mind to how their actions will affect their community, their neighborhood, their city, their state, their country, and their planet.
For everyone else, the bare minimum of citizenship is to vote. G&G encourages Americans to love this responsibility rather than fear it. While voting isn't true self-rule, as it might be in an ideal democracy, it is at least a solemn opportunity for all citizens to communicate with their rulers. Most people throughout history have enjoyed far less self-rule than we do today.
It is not a time to duck, cover your head, or hold your breath. The time has come to create a vibrant new movement. It is a time to actively participate in our local and national communities. It's a time to envision. It's a time to collaborate.
Below, I detail a report by no less liberal an institution than the Pentagon which foretells the possibly great and grave consequences of climate change – the threat dwarfs the threat of terrorism. It is a crucial moment in time for our planet and our species. But rather than act out of fear, it is better (when no hungry tiger is bearing down upon you) to act from hope, love, and peace. These natural states are part of humanity's upward cycle, our evolution, and it is these impulses that will guide us forward if we are to evolve and survive the next century of change.
So, while you might be humming that old "A Time To..." song by The Byrds (inspired by Ecclesiastes), this issue of G&G is focused on the present. Indeed, today G&G dedicates itself to the proposition that the time has come to envision the reality we want for ourselves and our society – and to inspire each other to create it. It is a great American tradition that engaged citizens wake up at crucial moments to guide our republic away from ruin and towards greater freedom, justice, and prosperity. This has happened many times, and now African Americans are free, women can vote, and all workers get two-day weekends. Indeed, the very notion of democracy is grounded in this powerful potential for political and societal evolution. Today, my fellow Americans, it is our turn to do our part. It's our turn to be the vanguard. Let's envision the reality we want and allow ourselves and the reality around us to be changed.
'Envisioning' may seem to be too fantastic a word to work in a hardened world of steel, oil, and greed, but in fact it is the one path that has always worked. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world," said cross-cultural pioneer Margaret Mead. "Indeed," she added, "it's the only thing that ever has."
The Media and the Major Parties Obscure Our Vision
As outlined in The Soil, G&G's 2004 Election Guide, the issues facing the United States today can be divided into enormous, large, and medium-sized issues.
But as many readers of G&G know, political power in this country is essentially in the hands of three large organizations – the Democratic and Republican parties, and the mainstream media. And the country's largest corporations exercise control or ownership over all three.
So it turns out, unfortunately, that on the enormous issues, like war & peace and global economics, the two large political parties – the Democrats and Republicans – are in complete agreement. On the large issues, like education, civil rights, and electoral reform, they are in approximate agreement. Only on the medium-sized issues, like abortion and gun control, do they disagree significantly.
There are, of course, a number of non-issues and distractions that get a surprising amount of attention in our mainstream media.
Indeed, the mainstream corporate media's job seems to be to obscure the essential agreement that the parties share on the biggest issues, while accentuating their disagreements on the smaller issues. We hear, for example, "Bush and Kerry are sharply divided on medicare spending." That they both completely oppose a system of full healthcare coverage like those the rest of the industrialized world enjoys – well, that's very rarely mentioned. When it is mentioned, we are quickly assured that the notion that people should get medical attention if they get sick, even if they're poor, is a wild and revolutionary concept.
How is it that in 2004, four years after an electoral crisis in which a candidate in one party supposedly "spoiled" the election for another candidate – how is it that we still have implemented no technology or reform to allow people to vote for whom they choose? Are we eternally stuck with an 18th Century form of democracy? It turns out, again, electoral reform is a large issue on which the two parties agree. There shouldn't be any reform to permit voters to vote for whom they choose, the parties have decided.
Thus we are supposed to vote this year without an anti-war candidate. How is this acceptable? Is it really a revolutionary notion to believe a war begun on the basis of lies, and waged essentially for oil, is immoral, illegal, and ought immediately to stop? One anti-war candidate, Howard Dean, rose to prominence within one of the two big parties with miraculous speed. But he was taken out of the running in a curious tag-team effort by corporate media outlets and his own party. [Read Mary Greenberg's The Strange Rise and Fall of Howard Dean.]
Howard Dean was removed, it seems, because, again, both parties agree on the major issues of our day. We should be invading other countries to take their oil. John Kerry supported the war at its outset, and supported it again in the 'debates.' In fact, at the 'debate,' Kerry attempted to outflank Bush by calling for the addition of two whole new divisions (approximately 30,000 soldiers) to the U.S. military. Kerry also called for escalating the war by sending troops into Fallujah. His promise was to "kill the terrorists." It also seems obvious that both candidates consider a new military draft desirable, too. Kerry decries the "back-door draft" that is afflicting today's reserves and National Guard via stop-loss orders, but he says precious little on a front-door draft, other than his bold promise to add the 30,000 soldiers. Bush underscores the virtues of an all-volunteer army, even while implying his desire to extend his military invasions.
At the 'debate,' it was never mentioned – let alone debated – that possibly peace and global cooperation are a better path to security than killing.
Perhaps this is because the mainstream media and the corporate political parties are content with the global status quo and are not interested in change. In the debates they host and the news they cover, they obscure our ability to see that change is even possible, let alone necessary. Allowing a third candidate into the debates would expose this; thus they resist doing so.
So what are citizens to do?
In a democracy, citizens envision the change they want and need, and then they make it happen – or instruct their elected representatives to make it happen. The problem is, our democracy has deteriorated to such a point that our two major political parties control almost the entire apparatus of our democracy. Virtually no voice outside of these two parties is permitted to be heard. Thus change outside of these two parties is extremely difficult. And the media, the third pillar of power, cooperates with the two parties to enforce the status quo and manage the debate and the marketplace of ideas, making change even more difficult.
What's worse, over the past three decades, both the Democrats and Republicans have moved steadily to the right. G&G explored this in an issue entitled The American Political Spectrum. The two parties are moving consistently to the right – but not towards real, genuine conservatism. They are actually moving ever closer to the large, transnational corporations. To briefly digress, corporations are the dominant organizations of our day. As feudal manors were to the Middle Ages, they determine in modern America who, what, where, and how much people work and get paid. They care nothing for air, water, liberty, justice, or peace. In case you haven't worked for one, corporations care about only one thing: profit.
Benito Mussolini, Italy's fascist leader during World War II, said, "Fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is a merge of state and corporate power." No one should throw around this 'F' word lightly, but whatever it was that Mussolini was talking about, it is where we are headed if current trends continue.
The two parties actually enable each other to do this rightward movement. First one of them moves right. The Democrats, for instance, decide it's time to "step towards the center." Or the Republicans do something to "cater to their base." Then the process repeats itself after the other party takes a turn. Today, Kerry's positions are easily to the right of those of the impeached Richard Nixon, a Republican elected in 1968. George Bush, as unbelievably atrocious as he is, thus really shouldn't be seen as an aberration, but rather as part of a clear, continuous movement rightward towards corporate interests.
Failing to send a message that this shift is unacceptable ensures that we will have even worse choices in 2008. Will we have to vote next time for a Bush so as not to get a Mussolini?
It is time to heed the call of American tradition and get engaged to correct our nation's course. The way to do this, as it always has been, is to support a new popular social movement.
How We Can Do It
G&G has observed that there are three components to creating and sustaining a new social movement:
- Envision the change we need.
- Support those who are working towards the change we envision.
- Sustain that support by contributing resources of thoughts, hope, time, and money.
The first point, envisioning change, is as simple as thinking about what a peaceful government and society would look like. Consider what a society with healthcare for all would feel like. It is possible. Contemplate how an American culture that used alternative fuels, solar energy, and wind power would work. It is possible. Imagine what a lifestyle that valued and defended our American air, water, and land for the future would look like. It is possible. Envision how a society that really addressed its underlying sexism and racism would go about business. It is possible. Think about how an America that told the truth about this "endless" and senseless War on Terrorism would move forward. It is possible.
And do not be confined by what I'm saying. Envision the change you yourself believe in.
The second step, supporting others who begin to work – or are already working – for this future, simply means not demeaning, discrediting, ridiculing, or attacking the aspects of the movement that are already underway. Instead, cooperate with them. Encourage new aspects of the movement to develop.
Third, sustaining this support, involves contributing a little time, a little money, and a little open-minded, compassionate thought. Our visions and our thoughts are far more powerful than we often believe. If you don't have time or money to contribute, lend your thoughts to the movement for a moment. Often, thinking a new thought is a highly courageous and transformative act in and of itself.
As we begin to offer these three components – our visions, our support, and our resources – we begin to build the powerful movement that our planet and species need.
A Time To Vote With Idealism – Or With Pragmatism
Of course, sustaining the movement also entails supporting it with every vote at your disposal. Your vote is one of the primary resources you have to support and collaborate with a movement you believe in. [For more on the collaborative spirit and purpose of voting, read Ahri Golden's feature Voting, Not Voting, and What Really Matters.]
"Your head is in the clouds!" some might say. "You're being too idealistic."
Perhaps I am too idealistic. But only if one considers the abolitionists in 1830, or the suffragettes in 1910, or the civil rights activists of 1967 too idealistic. At a certain point, the abolitionists decided to stop voting for any candidate who supported slavery. They stopped settling for the lesser of two evils.
Like social movements, all change begins with a vision.
So, let's be visionaries. Let's be idealistic. Let's vote our ideals. Let's be part of the solution. Only a vote that is inconsistent with one's vision is a wasted vote.
"But what about Bush?" some might say. "He's so bad."
Bush is really bad. Really, really bad. Idealism may seem like too lofty an aspiration when a petty tyrant is our sitting president and Dr. Strangelove is our sitting vice president. So, be pragmatic. But be sincerely pragmatic. Look at what your vote is really going to do. Let's realize that most of us are going to cast useless ballots. Most of us live in states where the election is already decided. The Electoral College system disenfranchises everyone who lives in a state that goes consistently Democratic or Republican. About 35 of our 50 states are this way, including New York, California, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, and most of the others. If you're reading this, odds are you live in a "safe state," where, thanks to the Electoral College system, your vote will not count in determining the next president. Your vote will only be counted for statistical purposes. What your vote will do is send a message.
And here's the pragmatism. If you vote for either of the major parties, I think that the way that message will be heard is that you agree with them on all of the enormous and large issues, and you agree with only one of them on the medium-sized issues.
If you vote for a different party, on the other hand, your message will be different. I think that, first, it will say that you don't support the Electoral College system of electing the president and you want all votes to count. Second, your vote will say that you disagree with both of the two parties on the biggest issues. You will say that you would like the country to go in a different direction.
Now, if you live in one of the fifteen "swing states," your vote will be counted in a close election between Bush and Kerry. If you live in Florida, Ohio, or Missouri, for example, and find that you agree with the two major candidates on the largest issues, or you agree with one of them on one or more of the medium issues with sufficient intensity to overcome any disagreement you have with him on the largest issues, you should vote for Kerry or for Bush. If, for example, you are horrified with Bush's record on government secrecy, and you can stomach Kerry's support for a military draft, you should vote for, and contribute some time and resources to, Kerry's campaign in, say, Missouri. In West Virginia, where the Bush-Kerry tally may come down to 1,000 votes, to to remove "the worst president in American history," you might quite logically decide it's essential to vote and work for Kerry. This is also pragmatism. [For more on this "safe state/swing state" strategy, read Vote Cobb Here and Kerry There, an open letter by Medea Benjamin and other progressives.]
And of course none of us should suffer amnesia. Across the wide array of issues, regardless of where you live, large-scale systemic change is necessary for our country to enjoy peace, justice, prosperity, and indeed any future at all. The two old parties have proven themselves opposed to this change, time and again. And it's getting worse as they slide right. We need to reverse this slide. We need peace. We need electoral reform. The list goes on.
So, whether you do it from pragmatism or idealism, vote. Speak. Act. Envision. Lend your vision to the necessary movement forward.
Vote For David Cobb
G&G is convinced that the movement we need is already underway today. It is already beginning to inspire Americans with both vision and courage, with a sense of both joy and justice. Now is the time to lend it our vision and support.
In fact, after interviewing him, G&G feels that the movement is excellently represented by the campaign of David Cobb, the presidential candidate of the Green Party. We happily and proudly endorse his candidacy and recommend that all Americans vote for him.
David Cobb takes solid principled stances on the issues: war and peace; the globalization of predatory capitalism; the deterioration of the natural environment; 9-11 truth; civil liberties; healthcare; education; reparations; feminism; and crucial electoral reform. His campaign is an easy one to get behind. Cobb as a human being comes across as a serious and compassionate man, as an eloquent speaker, and as a principled leader who cares little for his own personal power or his own personal image. [Please read or listen to G&G's interview with David Cobb.]
David Cobb is not likely to win the White House. His campaign will 'win' by continuing to build the movement that is growing. His campaign will also 'win' by telling the truth and thereby holding the government and the two corporate parties as honest as possible. Voting for David Cobb and his running mate, Patricia LaMarche, will also build the Green Party by securing elusive ballot access in more states and by bringing reluctant media attention to the biggest issues. A movement that is to win the White House in 2012 must continue today.
As Cobb pointed out in his interview with G&G, the Green Party has grown swiftly over the past four years, even in an adverse environment where the party was wrongly blamed for electing George Bush in 2000. (This wrong-headed notion, as readers of G&G are aware, is belied by the facts: far more Democrats voted for Bush than for Nader; Gore ran a ridiculously bad campaign; Gore won; Bush stole the election; etc. See Manning Marable's Spoiled? Ralph Nader's Campaign and the Fateful Election of 2000).
Indeed, despite being vilified in the press, the Green Party has doubled in size over the last four years, and now has 44 organized state Green Parties around the country. They used the slogan, "Green and Growing" at their national convention in Milwaukee in June. The Green Party seems to be part of a movement whose time has come. It is up to us to support and sustain all aspects of this movement.
In addition to the half million registered Greens, there are certainly millions more who are waiting to vote Green, but who think the time isn't right. Many of the citizens I speak with seem to be of this mentality. When will the time be right? This is a key point. If you wait for the corporate media to tell you, never. There will never be an article in the New York Times, for example, that says, "OK, the right thing to do now is to vote Green." In 2008? Nope. If Kerry's in the White House in 2008, they'll tell you, "Can't vote Green now – Bush will get back in!" Or, if it's Bush in there, we'll have a replay of 2004, with gun-at-your-head threats to vote for the Democrat. The media, again, obscures our ability to see that change is possible and necessary.
After the two parties both voted for both wars, for the Patriot Act, for the 9-11 coverup, for missiles in space, for NAFTA, for Leave No Child Behind, for welfare 'reform,' do we want to support them with our resources and our votes? After Democrats opposed real campaign finance reform, confirmed John Ashcroft, sabotaged the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, and failed to fight for the 2000 election, isn't it time to support a new movement? After Enron and the hundred corporate scandals that both parties participated in, isn't it time?
What about actually ending the Iraq War and bringing the troops home? What about turning 'globalization' from a project of corporate profiteering into a project for environmental, labor, political, and cultural sustainability? What about using the solutions that already exist to transition America to clean, renewable energy sources? What about telling the truth about 9-11 and the "War on Terrorism"? What about reducing the size of government, particularly the military budget (which is half of our budget), since we don't have to spend what the rest of the world does, combined, if we don't plan on conquering the world? What about ceasing to try to conquer the world? What about remedying racial injustices through reparations? What about increasing the role of women in government? What about providing healthcare to all Americans?
And of course, what about changing our elections to "1-2-3 Voting" (aka Instant Runoff Voting), so that everyone can vote for whom they like, without 'spoiling' any friendships or elections.
It's time to envision, support, and sustain a new movement.
David Cobb, for his part, has chosen not to heavily campaign in the "swing states." This is a good strategy. He will win more votes in the "safe states" where more citizens (like G&G readers) will understand they are disenfranchised and are thus free to vote their hopes and dreams instead of their fears.
As for the other presidential candidates, there are three, in addition to Cobb, Kerry, and Bush, who will appear on enough ballots to conceivably win the election.
Ralph Nader is certainly one of the last century's greatest Americans and a man of admirable principle and intellect. But he is not trying to build a movement with his independent campaign. His contributions to social progress and his denunciations of the war and of egregious misuse of corporate power are, and will always be, welcome in our narrow national debate, but with vision should come a more substantive commitment to collaborate and build for the future.
Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian, understands and speaks wonderfully about the civil, social, and cultural liberties that America is today badly neglecting to safeguard. But his analysis of the issues facing American and global society are too simplistic; it's as if he were scared of the very notions of sharing and community – two concepts necessary for any human culture to navigate new challenges.
Michael Peroutka, the Constitution Party candidate, envisions a government that only a soul who was certain he or she was bound for a Christian heaven could like. His fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, of political science, and of the role of government would probably lead backward rather than forward in our human attempts to make a more peaceful, just, and livable world.
Heed Not the Fear-Mongers
What about the corporate media in 2004? Well, take a look. We're supposed to be scared here in the land of the free, home of the brave. Be afraid, America, be very afraid. That's the message. Talk "homeland security." Talk terrorism. But why? Who are our enemies?
If you've read much about it in G&G or elsewhere, you know that the story of what really happened on 9-11 has probably never been publicly told. [See G&G's Top Ten Unanswered Questions About 9-11]. We know we've been lied to, but we're not sure why or how badly. We can guess that, perhaps, these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not about terrorism at all. Indeed, another of the many reasons to question the official story about 9-11 is the story of how we responded to the crimes of 9-11. We went out and conducted brutal invasions of two sovereign nations. The nations we invaded and are now occupying are, oddly, both sitting in key locations for solidifying control of the greatest oil reserves on the planet – ahead of what is widely called "Peak Oil," the beginning of the end of easily available fossil fuels. Really, honestly, would these nations ever have attacked the United States, which spends today more on its ultra-sophisticated military than the rest of the world combined? Doubtful. Perhaps we simply needed a pretext to invade them and seize control of their oil.
This may seem like a radical analysis of the "War on Terrorism," but it's much better supported by the facts than the official story. And if oil wasn't in fact the reason, then Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld certainly aren't willing to tell us what the real reason was. Why? And why do they say this war is "of epic proportions" and "will not end in our lifetimes"? Perhaps because they are planning on taking other nations' natural resources, as well. Empires have always done this. But they will need the support of the American populace to keep fighting and expanding their wars.
This brings us back to the Pentagon report I mentioned earlier. Called "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," the report, released in February, suggests climate change be elevated above a debate and considered a national security concern. A scenario of catastrophic climate change is "plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately," the report concludes. Over the next 20 years, according to the document, climate change could: cause a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters; bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water, and energy supplies; sink major European cities beneath rising seas; plunge Britain into a 'Siberian' climate; and spark nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine, and widespread rioting across the world.
Not a pretty picture. Were it written by tree-hugging environmentalists, or even by college professors, no doubt the report would have been waved off by many. But the Pentagon has a unique reputation, and the publication of this report, though underreported in the mainstream media, certainly seems to foretell a great threat to global stability — far bigger than the one posed by terrorism by Al Qaeda (whose parent organization, the Mujahedeen, was funded by the CIA).
That the document was prepared for military decision-makers is important. The Pentagon is saying, in effect, that there may soon be massive wars for water, food, and air, and that many countries may become absolutely determined to get nuclear weapons just to ensure they can eat. The Pentagon's conclusion? We need to win those wars. Hence the massive military buildup that is already underway.
Of course, this is insanity. No country will 'win' global wars for food and water. We will all lose. Most of us will die. The only solution to the threats posed by potential imminent climate change and mass migration is collective action. How could this be more obvious? There is no one to point a gun at. We have to work together. The solution is, first, to unite as a species to reduce the harm we are causing to our one home, Earth. Second, we have to realize that we can share what we have, including food, water, air, oil, and even money and power. This is the only solution. We as a species need to begin to envision, support, and sustain a new moment. We need to work together.
The Democrats and Republicans, however, agree with the Pentagon. We should try to win those wars. We should build a still more massive military. We should solve this with guns. They will call it defensive – just like they call putting nuclear guns in space "missile defense" – but in fact it will be another form of "pre-emptive" military action. It will be another form of conquest. Perhaps they saw the invasion for Iraq's oil as the first of those wars.
A Time to Envision
Were we living on the face of a clock, we would be heading in the direction of the 6. We need to be heading in the direction of the 12. The Republicans say going to 6 is just fine. The Democrats propose going in the direction of, well, 5:30.
Are we living in a clock?
Yet change will happen. There can be no doubt about it. Change is the only way through for humanity. We as a species have evolved through many challenges before. Our choice today in 2004 is how deliberate – and how sudden – the change will be.
Voting, such as it is, is only the bare minimum of engaged citizenship. We do not, unfortunately, have real democratic self-government in this country. But voting is our solemn opportunity to communicate with those who are controlling our government. And our vote is one of the real resources we have at our disposal to envision, support, and sustain a new movement.
So let us do it. Let's create and sustain a vibrant new movement. The time has come.
Finally, let me suggest that we vote how we would like to live — with joy rather than animosity, with confidence rather than confusion, and with love rather than fear. Thus the outer movement we create will also be an inner movement for our own evolution.
Tony Brasunas (firstname.lastname@example.org) is publisher of Garlic & Grass.
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