Voting Against Values - by Mark E. Smith
Today, while at the organic food cooperative where I do most of my shopping, I ran into one of their founders, a dear man, a good man, and a man I've known for many years and happen to like. He and his wife, the co-op's general manager, helped take the co-op from a hippie storefront thirty years ago, to the multi-million dollar business it is today. But as dedicated as they are to healthy, vegetarian, non-GMO organic food, they are even more dedicated to the Democratic Party. This makes for some interesting conflicts, of which they appear to be in total denial, where they consistently vote against their most deeply held values and principles. For example, not only did they vote for Obama in 2008, in 2012, after he had appointed Monsanto loyalists to high level government policy making positions, they voted for him again. At the same time, the co-op was waging a big campaign to encourage people to vote for a GMO labeling proposition on the California ballot. It didn't make sense. How can you be against GMOs and vote for a President who is protecting GMOs? Or are GMOs like war crimes in that Democrats only oppose them when they are done by Republicans?
Just before the November 2012 election, the co-op newsletter had a front page banner headline that said, "If you don't vote, who are you electing?" As an election boycott advocate I was outraged. I requested five minutes to speak to the Board of Directors at their next meeting, and I spent a week working on my presentation and the accompanying handout, which I'll append below this article. Basically what I said was that I didn't think they should be denigrating co-op member/owners whose refusal to vote is based on the same moral and ethical values and principles the co-op claims to stand for and which are written into their by-laws. Needless to say they didn't listen to what I said and I seriously doubt if any of them bothered to read the handout. A couple of months later they voted to authorize voter registration tables in front of the co-op, as long as they were nonpartisan. But what exactly does nonpartisan mean in a winner-take-all electoral system where the only possible winners are funded by the same banks, defense contractors, and multinational corporations? Can you call yourself a people's cooperative when you encourage voting for a government that favors corporations over people?
Anyway, trouble-maker that I am, and knowing that Obama had just signed the Monsanto Protection Act, I asked this guy if he would still vote for a Democratic nominee if he knew that person advocated making cooperatives illegal. He hesitated a second, and I told him that I knew he would. He might grumble, but he'd vote for the Democratic Party nominee even if that candidate happened to be the CEO of Monsanto. As firmly as he believes that GMOs are bad, he believes that Republicans are worse than Democrats, so no matter how evil the Democrats, he has no choice but to vote for them. The co-op claims to be opposed to the winner-take-all capitalist system, but they appear to be supportive of the winner-take-all electoral system that controls our capitalist economy. If Monsanto told a Democratic President and the Democrats in Congress to make organic food cooperatives illegal, the Democrats would have no choice but to obey. Without corporate funding neither the Democrats nor the Republicans could compete with each other for the same corporate funding that both require in order to exist, so in the end, they both have the same agenda, to please the big corporations without whom they couldn't exist.
How can such intelligent, caring, sincere people as this guy, his wife, and the co-op board of directors, consistently vote against their own values? It isn't ignorance, it isn't stupidity, and it certainly isn't a lack of values. I believe it is an identity issue, that they identify themselves as Democrats (some members of the board may be third party voters, but in a winner-take-all electoral system who one votes for is irrelevant) and believe in their heart of hearts that it is better to be a Democrat, no matter what evil their party may do, than to be a Republican. I suspect that even if the Democratic Party did make organic food cooperatives illegal, and in so doing destroyed these people's lives, they would continue to vote Democratic because that's who they believe they are. Like many in Cambodia who believed in and swore allegiance to the Khmer Rouge, even as it was starving, torturing, and executing them by the millions for no reason, their faith is unshakeable.
Here's my 5-minute oral presentation, along with the proposal and an essay that I gave to the co-op board of directors:
Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today. My name is Mark Smith and I'm an election boycott activist, so when the November issue of our Co-op News carried the top headline, "If You're Not Voting, Who Are You Electing?" it really hurt me.
Would you ask, "If you don't shop on Black Friday, what are you buying?" Of course not. If you don't shop, you're not buying anything. And if you don't vote, you're not electing anyone.
A better question is, "If you do vote, who are you electing?" We have a winner-take-all electoral system, and what that means is that when people vote, they are not electing the person or issue they vote for they are electing the person who wins. The winner claims the entire election turnout, including votes for their opponent, votes for third parties, write-in votes for Mickey Mouse, Nobody, or End War Now, and votes cast by voters who voted only for local issues or candidates and left the line for President blank. Whoever signs their name at the polls or on the back of a mail-in ballot envelope, is granting their personal consent of the governed to whoever wins and delegating to whoever wins the power to do whatever they wish in that voter's name.
Even if you only voted for Prop. 37 and left the rest of the ballot blank, your vote still counted as the consent of the governed in a Presidential election where the only two candidates with any chance of becoming President were both dedicated to war and to environmental destruction.
The fact is that if you voted, you were part of the total voter turnout that elected the winner of the Presidential race, who you knew would be either Obama or Romney, who you knew would appoint Monsanto executives to government agency positions, who you knew would continue the nuclear and environmental pollution that is driving climate change, who you knew would continue to protect and bailout corrupt banksters and cut social programs to reward them for their crimes, and who you knew would continue the wars of aggression based on lies--the worst crimes against humanity known. If you voted, you elected the winner. Is it right to use Co-op resources to falsely allege that nonvoters were doing what voters actually did?
Governments derive their just powers, as the Declaration of Independence states, from the consent of the governed. They demonstrate that they have the consent of the governed by holding elections. Your vote is your consent. If a substantial percentage of the electorate votes, the government can claim to have been democratically elected, to have the consent of the governed, and therefore to represent the will of the people. If people don't vote, the government cannot claim to have been democratically elected, cannot claim to have the consent of the governed, and cannot claim to represent the will of the people. That's why I don't vote and that's why I urge others to boycott our elections.
I'm not withholding my consent because I'm apathetic. I was a conscientious voter for decades and then, as Nancy can tell you, I was an election integrity activist, trying to find some way to ensure that our votes would be counted. It took me six years of monitoring elections, doing research, filing Public Records Requests, and bringing litigation to understand that the Supreme Court was correct in 2000, that due to the way our Constitution was written, our votes do not have to be counted, and that not even a Constitutional Amendment could change that. That's when I stopped voting. I care. I am morally and ethically opposed to crimes against humanity and environmental destruction, so I won't vote in any election where the known and only possible result of the election will be continuing genocide and environmental destruction. There is no right, privilege, or benefit so precious to me that I will knowingly sacrifice the lives of innocent people and the survival of the planet to get it. There are moral and ethical reasons for my refusal to vote and I don't think co-op resources should be used to criticize owners for having values and principles, or to help get out the vote for an amoral, unethical, and undemocratic form of government.
I understand that the co-op was trying to encourage better nutrition through legislative reform. In the essay entitled, "Legislative Reform School" that I've passed around to the board, I explain why that isn't really a good idea. I also have a proposal I've passed around to the board members, suggesting that we no longer use co-op resources to promote genocide and environmental destruction, or to disparage owners opposed to genocide and environmental destruction, and I ask that the Board please consider it.
Proposal to the Board of Directors of Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Cooperative:
No Co-op Resources Be Used to Help Get Out the Vote
Whereas governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed" (Declaration of Independence), and
Whereas governments demonstrate the consent of the governed by holding elections, and
Whereas the United States has a winner-take-all electoral system, so that the winner of an election claims the consent of all voters, not just those who voted for that candidate, and
Whereas, if people vote, the government can claim to have been democratically elected, to have the consent of the governed, and to represent the will of the people, and
Whereas, if people do not vote, the government cannot claim to have been democratically elected, to have the consent of the governed, and to represent the will of the people, and
Whereas the US government has been and is engaged in wars of aggression based on lies, crimes against humanity, the worst war crimes known, in which many innocent civilians are killed, and
Whereas the US government is one of the biggest drivers of global climate change, and
Whereas People's Mission Statement includes the following vision: "The Cooperative is dedicated to helping people live in ways that are ecologically sustainable and that promote personal health and well-being," and
Whereas genocide and climate change are not ecologically sustainable and do not promote personal health and well-being, and
Whereas People's Mission States includes the following values: "We believe that informed choices made by all consumers have far reaching impacts on the local and global community, and are committed to providing education and information to enhance nutritional and environmental awareness," and
Whereas genocide and climate change do have far reaching but negative impacts on the local and global community, and have an extremely negative impact on the global environment, and
Whereas the Fourth Principle of Cooperative Business Principles is: "Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy," and
Whereas the United States has a hierarchical form of government, and
Whereas voting in federal elections does not ensure democratic control, and indeed is a contract between the voter and the government that the voter delegates their authority to the government, and
Whereas it is inappropriate for People's to encourage owners to enter into a contract that cedes control to the federal government and grants the federal government the undemocratic right to make policy decisions without regard to public opinion, and
Whereas even the most benevolent local candidates and issues on a federal ballot come at the price of the vote being counted as part of the turnout granting the consent of the governed to the federal government to continue committing genocide and driving climate change, and
Whereas the continuing genocides and environmental destruction by the United States federal government threaten the survival of the planet and are contrary to cooperative principles and values, and
Whereas it is inappropriate for People's to actively seek to gain benefits for some at the cost of genocide against others or global environmental destruction, and
Whereas big corporations spend billions of dollars to finance Presidential and Congressional election campaigns to ensure that they will control policy and that their executives and attorneys will be appointed to head and staff federal regulatory agencies, and
Whereas it is not in the interests of an organic cooperative to encourage people to delegate supreme power to a government opposed to cooperative principles and values,
Be it therefore agreed upon by the Board of Directors that no resources of the Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Cooperative be used for the purpose of encouraging owners to vote for candidates or issues on any federal ballot or to disparage owners whose refusal to vote is based on ethical and moral values and principles.
Essay included in handout:
Legislative Reform School
by Mark E. Smith
Many voters believe that voting can bring about social progress through legislation, but I've been unable to find any concrete examples of this happening in the United States. There has often been legislation that appeared to have the intent of reform, but such reforms have proven useless or merely temporary at best. That's because legislation is subject to interpretation by the Supreme Court and to selective enforcement by the state. We're told that the reason that the Supreme Court is given supreme power is to ensure its independence, but since Lord Acton was correct in saying that, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," what the Supreme Court's independence from accountability really ensures is that it is absolutely corrupt. Sure there may be an occasional Supreme Court Justice who is honest and ethical, but the arc of the Supreme Court always bends towards injustice because of the corrupting influence of the court's supreme power.
Absolute power means that the Supreme Court is beholden to no one. Theoretically, justices could be removed by Congress for bad behavior, whatever a majority of corporate-financed politicians thought bad behavior to be, but in reality Congress has never removed a sitting Supreme Court justice from power and never will. How could they, when they believe that holding the Supreme Court accountable would limit its independence? Corporations and their political puppets aren't interested in limiting the Supreme Court's independence, they're interested only in limiting ours, and in this they have reliable accomplices in the Supreme Court.
Even if voters were to read and understand legislation, which most do not, only the Supreme Court has the Constitutional power to interpret legislation and only the federal, state, and local governments have the power to enforce it, so even laws which appear to be beneficial can be, and have been, interpreted and enforced in malevolent ways. Before we look at Executive and Congressional legislation, let's take a quick look at our Constitutional Amendments, which were all supposedly intended to protect our rights.
The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." But Congress doesn't need to make any such laws. When the Department of Homeland Security coordinated the destruction of all Occupy encampments in the United States, they had no law requiring or even allowing them to do it, and in most cases the Occupiers who had been arrested were released without any charges being brought against them. Congress didn't pass a law abridging freedom of the press, the Supreme Court simply ruled that money is speech, thus ensuring that whoever has the most money will have the loudest media voice. If the intent was to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, the interpretation ensured only the power of money. As for the fight to petition the government for redress of grievances, any wronged person anywhere has that unalienable right, but there is no corresponding requirement in the Constitution that our government actually listen to such grievances or provide such redress.
The Second Amendment says that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." That was the case in the early days of this country, when nobody had to apply for a license to carry a weapon, but it isn't true today. While that may or may not be a good thing, restrictions on who may legally own and carry a weapon are most certainly infringements.
The Third Amendment is a classic example of how sneaky legislation can be. It says, "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." In other words, this shall not happen unless the government enacts legislation saying that it can. It's like saying that I do not have the right to put a soldier in your home unless I give myself that right.
The Fourth Amendment, protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures," has turned out to be a joke. The government no longer needs warrants or probable cause to search us and seize whatever it wishes, and protests against such unreasonable searches and seizures have to go to the Supreme Court, where they will be dismissed on the grounds of national security, the basis of which is classified and therefore cannot be revealed to those whose rights were violated. In the interests of national security, the right of the TSA to molest small children at airports trumps the Fourth Amendment.
The Fifth Amendment was done away with by Executive Order and Congressional legislation. Nowadays people can be held to answer for crimes, or even without any evidence of any crime whatsoever having been committed, and "deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law," if the President or those to whom he has delegated his power wish to do so. US citizens can be indefinitely detained or even assassinated by our government without the right to due process, and the Fifth Amendment is impotent and irrelevant.
The same is the case with the Sixth Amendment, as the "right to a speedy and public trial," doesn't exist when we no longer have the right to any trial at all. Under NDAA, US citizens can be indefinitely detained or even assassinated without trial, so the right to a speedy and public trial is just another sick joke.
Prosecutors found a way around the Seventh Amendment, which was supposed to preserve "the right of trial by jury," a long time ago. Prosecutors tell defendants that if they seek jury trials, the prosecution will seek the most draconian sentences, but offer to let defendants off with lighter sentences if they waive their right to a jury trial and plead guilty. Most defendants, facing the possibility of a biased jury giving them a death sentence or life without parole for a minor offense or for something they didn't do, are terrified into copping a plea.
The Eighth Amendment was supposed to protect us from "cruel and unusual punishment." Ask Bradley Manning how that one has worked out.
The Ninth Amendment says that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." But it is enumerated in the Constitution, Article Six, that the Constitution "shall be the supreme Law of the Land," and Article Three says that in all cases arising out of the Constitution, judicial power shall reside with the Supreme Court. In other words, it is the Supreme Court that has the sole power to interpret the Constitution, and in Bush v. Gore 2000, the Supreme Court decided that since the right to have our votes counted is not enumerated in the Constitution, we have no such right. According to the Ninth Amendment, since the Constitution did not specifically grant the Supreme Court the right to prohibit the popular votes from being counted, the right to have our votes counted should have been retained by the people, but the Supreme Court didn't pay any attention to the Ninth Amendment when they stopped the vote count.
The Tenth Amendment says that, "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." I've searched and searched, but I cannot find anything in the Constitution delegating to the federal government the right to arrest medical marijuana patients in states that have legalized medical marijuana, but the feds are still doing it anyway.
I don't understand the Eleventh Amendment. It says, "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State. Since the Supreme Court has refused to allow cases brought by citizens of foreign states against the United States for torture or war crimes to proceed, and the United States has exempted itself from international law, I can't figure out what the Eleventh Amendment means.
The Twelfth Amendment enumerates how the Electoral College is to elect the President and Vice-President, sort of a codicil to Article Two of the Constitution which denies US citizens the right to vote for President or Vice-President and gives that right solely to Electors. It doesn't protect our rights as it is only about rights that we don't have and the manner in which the Electors who do have those rights, shall exercise them.
The Thirteenth Amendment is the all-time sneakiest of all. On a cursory examination, it appears to abolish slavery. But look more closely. It says, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States." So it doesn't abolish slavery. It establishes slavery as legal and Constitutional "punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." But what is a crime? During Prohibition, it was a crime, according to the Eighteenth Amendment, to distill, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages. When the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed by the Twenty- First Amendment, it was no longer a crime. So a crime is whatever legislators say it is. And then selective enforcement comes into play. These days it is considered a crime in most states to use drugs. But the cops rarely do stop-and-frisk or home invasions in search of drugs in white neighborhoods, so the bulk of arrests and prosecutions for drugs are against people of color, primarily Blacks. And biased judges and juries are more likely to convict Blacks than whites of similar crimes. So Black people are regularly arrested for, tried, and convicted of crimes for which whites are much less likely to be arrested or convicted. Those Blacks can then be, and in many cases, such as Angola State Prison, a former slave plantation where inmates still work in the exact same conditions which prevailed before it was renamed as a prison, or Texas prisons using prison labor without compensation, actually still are sentenced to slavery or involuntary servitude, and this is both legal and Constitutional. In fact, we have more Blacks who are legally enslaved today, than there were Blacks enslaved before the Thirteenth Amendment. What a crock!
The Fourteenth Amendment is supposed to ensure "equal protection of laws" including the right to vote (a right which, as we noted with regard to the Ninth Amendment, we don't have anyway), and, being adopted in 1868 after the Civil War, was intended to protect the right of Blacks to vote. However it was used by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore 2000 to disenfranchise Blacks in Florida, exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do.
The Fifteenth Amendment, adopted in 1970 was also supposed to protect the right of Blacks to vote, but if it had been effective, there would have been no need for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Amendment theoretically protected some rights, but like much legislation, in reality it didn't do so because it wasn't enforced.
The Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the right to collect income tax, conveniently allowing Congress to give preferential treatment to capitalists, whose income was called "capital gains" instead of income because they got it through exploiting the labor of others instead of from their own labor. Equal protection again?
The Seventeenth Amendment allowed people to vote for Senators, which until that time had been prohibited. Senators, like Presidents and Vice-Presidents, had been elected only by Electors, and citizens had not been allowed a direct vote for those high offices. Once again, no right of the citizens to have their votes counted was enumerated, so only the right to cast uncounted votes was extended.
We've already discussed the Eighteenth Amendment, Prohibition.
The Nineteenth Amendment was Women's Suffrage, giving women the same right as men to cast votes which did not have to be counted. Of course in our hierarchical undemocratic system, supreme and ultimate power rests with the President, whose Executive Orders, even when made publicly rather than secretly, cannot be appealed, and the Supreme Court, who also enjoy supreme and ultimate power and whose edicts also cannot be appealed, and the right to suffrage does not extend to the right to vote directly for President or to vote for Supreme Court justices. Ultimate power has to be preserved from the will of the citizens, or else we'd have a democratic form of government, something the Federalists who wrote the Constitution weren't going to allow.
The Twentieth Amendment provides for the terms and procedures for succession of Presidents and says, "The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them." I'm not sure, but I think that could be interpreted to mean that if Congress doesn't like a President, they can have him or her assassinated and succeeded serially until they get a President they do like. In no case, however, can a new election be held or can the citizens have any direct say in who becomes President.
The Twenty-First Amendment repealed alcohol Prohibition, which was later replaced, without need for a Constitutional Amendment, with de facto drug Prohibition.
The Twenty-Second Amendment limits the President to two terms of office, and is likely to remain in effect unless repealed or overruled by Executive Order.
The Twenty-Third Amendment gives the District of Columbia the right to appoint Electors, but not the right to elect Congressional representatives.
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment abolishes the poll tax, denying states the right to tax people for the privilege of casting votes that don't have to be counted.
The Twenty-Fifth Amendment sets out the rules for who gets to succeed the President in the event of his removal from office, death, or resignation. It still does not allow for a new election by Electors until that President's term of office is over, and still does not allow citizens to vote directly for President at all. Ever. That's much too important a decision to be left in the hands of the mob and rabble of democracy.
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, on the basis that those who were considered old enough to fight and die for their country, should be allowed to cast votes that did not have to be counted for Electors who would choose the President that would send them to fight and die.
The Twenty-Seventh Amendment prohibited Congress from voting themselves raises more than once between elections. But it still allowed them to raise their own salaries, a right that few other citizens enjoy.
Although the Fourteenth Amendment had been intended to protect the rights of former slaves, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were people and used it to protect the rights of corporations. As John Curl writes in his book *For All The People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America,* "Of the 307 Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, 288 were about protecting corporate property, and only 19 about protecting people."
Curl goes on the explain how the Sherman "Anti-Trust" Act of 1890 was also perverted. "Since the monopolistic practices of the trusts were based on collusion, they were supposedly outlawed. That act supposedly favored small business by curbing monopoly, but it made no distinction between the conspiratorial practices of big business and the cooperative practices of small producers, small businesses, or unions. The Sherman Act outlawed cooperatives engaged in interstate commerce, and unions organizing interstate strikes. Agricultural co-ops requested an exemption, because the very existence of small farms depended on co-ops. Although the farm family remained an American icon, the exemption was refused. The Sherman Act made numerous co- ops illegal. In theory a powerful tool against monopoly, in practice the Sherman Act was a powerful tool of big business against co-ops and unions. It was used to break strikes twelve times in the decade, but never once to break a trust."
The Supreme Court only decides to hear about 3% of the cases brought to it, and when they decide to hear a case it isn't usually good news. There was a NASA whistle blower who had sued the government and lost in the lower courts. But because the black letter law was on his side, he appealed to the Supreme Court. The court granted certiorari but their decision not only went against him, it also set back the rights of all whistle-blowers, and he has always regretted that his pursuit of justice was what gave the Supreme Court that opportunity. Recently, voters in California have attempted to get GMO labeling. It isn't that GMO labeling doesn't already exist, but it is voluntary, in that corporations that don't use GMO ingredients can get a "non-GMO verified" label for their products, and since any corporation that qualifies will jump at the change to increase sales and profits, it can be assumed that products which don't have the "non-GMO verified" label contain GMO ingredients. But if GMO labels become mandatory, corporations like Monsanto will appeal to the Supreme Court to protect their Constitutional rights to maximize profits by not having to label GMO ingredients, and the Supreme Court could easily make GMO labeling illegal, even the voluntary labeling we have now. Why tempt fate?
In a system like ours where the Supreme Court has absolute power to interpret laws and the state has absolute power to enforce laws, laws will be interpreted and enforced absolutely corruptly. That's why those who vote because they are seeking legislative reforms are doomed to failure. Oh, they might get some temporary reforms, like the New Deal, but regulatory reforms can always be deregulated. In my opinion, people who vote because they want legislative reforms are delinquents who deserve to be put into some sort of legislative "reform school" until they learn how the system works. US history shows that whatever temporary successes they think they may gain, can and will be used against them in the long run. We are not a nation of laws, although our laws fill many libraries. We are a nation of those men and women who have the sole power to interpret and enforce the laws, and that's a very important difference.
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