Thursday, October 20, 2005

When You Don’t Believe Your Vote Counts, What Does It Mean To Be A Democrat?

Being a liberal these days is tricky business. When you live in a democratic society, the free exchange of thoughts and ideas is essential. Conversations must take place, within our homes, our communities and within the halls of power so that the best ideas can be tried and tested, argued over and honed to achieve the ultimate goal of being implemented to the betterment of society as a whole. This is the process by which leaders are made and the vote is the method by which we hold them accountable. But how do we influence our leaders when the vote is compromised?

One of the fundamental problems with the Democratic Party is that it has moved too far to the right and it has done so out of fear. Fear by the leaders of the party that they will not raise enough campaign money. Fear that they may appear weak or worst of all, fear that conservatives will call them un-American and religious zealots will deem them Godless. But instead of fighting the charges and raising their voices to shout the ideals of our party to the people, they instead acquiesce and become the very things that they fear the most.

Liberal ideals are the same as they ever were. Liberals believe in a strong social safety net, a strong educational system for our children, health care for all people, dignity in old age, job opportunities and a living wage. Liberals understand the need for strong environmental protections, strong unions and international cooperation on global issues. Liberals fight for equal rights and protection under the law and the continual expansion of civil liberties rather than restrictions on them. Some of these issues are discussed by some of our leaders at one time or another. The problem is, all of our leaders are not discussing all of these issues all the time. But again, how do we hold our leaders accountable if our votes are not counted fairly and openly?

For a primer on why our votes are irrelevant, read this and this by, Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman of the Ohio Free Press who have tirelessly researched and reported on the stolen 2004 election. Then do a little research of your own, because in order to participate in the marketplace of ideas, we must continually educate ourselves in order to affect real change. So if we believe our votes do not count or may not count at the whim of a corporate executive (after all, isn’t the effect the same), how are we to influence our leaders? How do we begin to pull the party back from its current state of offering nothing more than Republican lite? How do we bring the focus back to the issues that matter to us, the real Democrats? Do we vote in elections that we don’t believe in? Do we stop voting altogether? What are we supposed to do?

We go back to basics. We start sharing ideas and acting in ways that we can, however small. We force our leaders to accept the framework that we want to work in instead of accepting theirs. They are reluctant to discuss voter fraud and intentional voter disenfranchisement, so we must start buzzing at the bottom until the sound is so deafening, they can’t help but hear it. They know what the problems are and they have seen the effects up close. For decades Corporate America has, in large part, had the power to determine who gets to run for office and how long they remain there, simply by the power of the purse strings. With the implementation of electronic voting and proprietary vote counting software, we have handed over the counting of votes to them as well. We don’t even require that they share with us, the people, the methods they employ to do it. Any idiot can see that this is not a good idea, and most of our party leaders are not idiots. Misguided? Yes. Unprincipled? Perhaps. Stupid? Not likely.

They know that the system must be changed if we are to continue to call our country a democratic Republic, but like us, they feel powerless. Since there are more of us than there are of them, we have a better shot at coming up with the right answers anyway. Maybe we need to re-define what constitutes a Democratic Party Leader. If elections are not the way to endow them with power, then elected leaders are not appropriate vessels for change. Instead of encouraging great leaders to participate in a corrupt system, we should encourage them to change the system from the outside as activists, writers and speakers, even citizen lobbyists if necessary. If the way they get inside the system compromises them and the way they stay in compromises them further, how much good could they possibly do anyway?

It is time to start thinking outside the box. We can either continue to be disappointed by the likes of the DLC or we can take the control back. Give support to the few in Congress who are doing the hard work of actually speaking out about voter fraud and stop supporting those that are working against our best interests. Share ideas and support non-politicians who are taking actions that make a difference. We are Democrats, but our elected officials do not define our party, we do. They may sit in the seats of power and we may not be able to remove them by the vote, but we can strip their power by starving them of our support and more importantly, our ideas. Left on their own, they don’t stand a chance. If the system is corrupt, build another one. The Republican Party is unstable and about to come crashing to the ground. The Democratic Party structure is not much better. If we start building supports that are broader and stronger, those left clinging to their power within the old structure will eventually move to firmer ground. And when they do, there will be a stable base on which to stand. Although they may not get access to center stage, most likely that space will already be filled.

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