Election Boycotting Can Be Co-opted - by Deborra Ann Low

A recent meme originating from the Facebook Group called, "Election Boycott Advocates," stated the following: "ELECTION BOYCOTTING CANNOT BE CO-OPTED:  How cool is that?" Actually, there's nothing cool about that, because it isn't true. Attempting to conquer or subdue the government's mock democracy by building an "election boycott movement," and using the same political organizing tools devised by a corrupt, top-down system, merely elevates the artificial relevancy of the political system that election boycotters say they oppose.

The idea is that an active organizing process, because it is outside of the political system, will build a strong election boycott movement and at the same time, it will help put to rest the notion that non-participation in the electoral system means surrendering to it instead. Whether you consider yourself outside of the system or not, identifying the corrupt system as a dominant political force that must be countered by a greater, well-organized political force coordinated by self-appointed leaders, is as self-defeating, and demoralizing as another impotent third party.

There can never be an election boycott campaign or movement that could ever negate or overshadow the star-studded, multi-billion dollar propaganda of the dominant political system.  Having no viable way to compete with that monstrosity, the best a boycott "movement" can hope for is relegation to the status of an interesting political oddity, like those who adamantly refuse to pay their taxes until a minute before midnight on April 15th.  Plus, a divergent group of non-voters cannot be organized for political action when the only thing they can potentially agree on, is not voting, and while some still argue that participating in local elections is germane, we can't even agree on that.

A boycott movement is diversionary. It’s neither a better way to reveal the system as the contrived power it is, nor an easier way to repudiate it as a fraudulent, yet voter-legitimized authority. Plus, maintaining the illusion of a strong electoral system, even when it is considered your formidable foe, not only sustains but reinforces that facade. 

Moreover, a boycott movement cannot measure its own effectiveness, even if it gives its member base a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. The gauge of its effectiveness is whether the number of people who stay home from the polls increases or declines, and there is no way to prove your movement had anything to do with the reported numbers, and those outcomes are handed down to us by a system that has no constitutional obligation to count all the votes, or the number of non-voters, or even report any of these numbers accurately. Expecting truth from a tyranny is not advisable, and that may be a warning most election boycotters should observe.

It doesn't matter why people do not vote, it only matters that they are not consenting to tyranny, whether they are intricately involved in fomenting a violent revolution or completely unengaged in the obvious charade of the electoral games. Election boycott advocates ought to be upholding and advancing the relevancy of any position taken by non-voters and not glorifying and empowering the stolen dominion of this fraudulent, staged, electoral system.

Trying to build a boycott movement can make self-appointed "leader/organizers" feel less idle and more competitive, but I believe that sense of “fight-back” solidarity is important only for those who consider election boycotting more of a political tactic than a moral imperative.

Political Movements Legitimate the David vs Goliath Myth

Attempting to build an election boycott movement for the purpose of obtaining political power via solidarity within the borders of a police state is a contradictory proposition. Providing a show of "people power" has never led to overturning tyranny, and every tiny dent that has ever been made in the system is eventually eroded and/or reinterpreted by the system.  Fighting power with unequal power has never worked (no matter how many martyrs get sacrificed). Unequal power includes the ability to infiltrate and co-opt every single dissident movement that has ever gained momentum in this country, to take the wind out of its sails, to watch it whither on the vine and eventually collapse to the point of having to rebuild itself over and over again.

To think an election boycott movement cannot be co-opted because it considers itself "outside" the system is irrational. We cannot be completely outside the system, even if we are in opposition to the system, because we are still operating from within the boundaries of the state's power to do whatever it pleases in the name of, or at the expense of, the people.

My premise here is this:  if we contend that we cannot, without the aid of a political movement, convince people to stop oppressing themselves by simply not voting, then we would actually be advocating for the political party system of power.  If we were to advocate for an "election boycott movement" for the purpose of gaining political power we would essentially be shooting ourselves in the foot as election boycott advocates. Non-participation in the system means letting go of the concept of "political party power" under a violently repressive tyranny. Doing otherwise legitimates the David vs Goliath myth. Isn't that one of most important reasons for boycotting the electoral process?

Competition is difficult to unlearn.

In order to go from a competitive to a cooperative social model, we need to unlearn a lot of bad habits. But if we remain in competitive mode, no matter what we call it, we will never be self-governing, as we will always be competing with others for leadership status.

Some people do seem to think of boycotting elections as just another political party, one that seeks to build up its membership numbers and have an agreed upon party line, even if they don't vote. Moving away from hierarchy and towards personal responsibility requires a different mindset. 

I agree, fubarrio. We need to "convince people to stop oppressing themselves" and to stop electing others to oppress them.

Maybe we need to turn the saying "the personal is political" around and make the political be understood as personal.

One of the many reasons I don't vote is that I don't want to collaborate in giving someone the power to arm, train, and command law enforcement officials who are likely to use force against me if I attempt to influence the policy of the person I helped put in power. Sure, other people will, and the problem isn't going to go away just because I won't reinforce it, but if everyone realized what they were doing when they voted, abdicating their right to a voice in government instead of expressing their voice, the problem might go away. Even the slightest chance is better than no chance at all.


The (Greater Than) Equal and Opposite Reaction

The problem with political activism is that for every action against the state, there will be a greater than equal and opposite reaction from the state.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was a good example. They organized nonviolent protests and were met with overwhelming organized violence from the state. It wasn't that they were nonviolent, but that they had targeted the state and the state reacted. Simultaneouly, various groups and political parties coopted Occupy from within, registering voters to participate in the "politics as usual" that the first OWS policy statement had eschewed.

Boycotting elections is, as Deb points out, a moral rather than a political action. But political activists and organizers don't know how to operate outside of a bureaucratic system, so they re-form and re-create exactly what they're attempting to oppose.

Although Fubar and Grill bans political operatives, many election boycott sites have allowed and even welcomed them. Various Communist, Socialist, Green, Libertarian, and other political party activists jump into such groups claiming to be election boycott activists but quickly show their true colors when they attempt to organize people to vote for their party, often stating that self-governance is indeed their goal, but only in some distant future that never arrives.

To organize people means to establish a hierarchy with the organizers at the top. To participate in a political system means to have at least two classes of people, the political class and those judged not qualified to be part of the political class. For people to act in concert, there must be discipline, which means that people have to be punished in order to keep them in line. Punishing people is the opposite of freeing them. People who submit to discipline and punishment have lost the spirit and flexibility of people autonomously fighting as equals for the right to function as equals, and inevitably lose.

An organized movement is easily co-opted by simply discrediting or eliminating those at the top. Without their leadership, those who were organized by that leadership have nobody to follow and just fall apart. When the cops approach a street demonstration their first question is always, "Who's in charge here?" When the people respond, "The people are in charge!" the cops have no choice but to either arrest everyone or to just give up and walk away. Where there are obvious leaders, a protest can be disrupted with a minimum of arrests.

There are as many reasons for not voting as there are nonvoters. Since all are refusing to legitimize the state, they do not need to be organized.

As anti-war activist S. Brian Willson points out, boycotting elections is a form of noncompliance. That's why voting is also referred to as "doing your civic duty." Voting is compliance; not voting is noncompliance.

Boycotting elections is a practical, effortless, nonviolent, risk-free way to stop supporting the state, and there cannot be a legitimate state without the support of its people. The Declaration of Independence states that when a state stops serving the people and instead becomes an enemy of the people, it is the duty of the people to alter or abolish that state. But to re-form or re-place one state with another doesn't help, because when you elevate some people to positions of power where they are above the law and have immunity to laws, you relegate everyone else to positions of subjugation and eliminate any possibility of equal justice under law.

As more and more people become aware that voting within an undemocratic political system is a waste of time, fewer people will vote. If the goal is to eliminate oppression and bring about equality, dignity, and respect for all, then it cannot be done by electing people to positions of power over others. Power corrupts, so even good people will become corrupted once they find themselves a part of a corrupt system.

The United States is just beginning a consciousness raising phase, and is not yet anywhere near having a developed social consciousness. Self-governance, along with the elimination of war, inequality, and corruption is very simple. All it takes is the Golden Rule, for people to do unto others as they would have others do unto them, with no exceptions. If somebody or something is not you, it is other, so it should be treated with the same respect that you would want.

That begs the question of what to do about the perverts--those who want to be organized, disciplined, and punished, and to organize, discipline, and punish others. Perhaps they should be quarantined so that their evil doesn't spread. A free person can only exist when everyone is equal and everyone is equally free. Anything else breeds resentment and conflict.

It is time to stop supporting those who profit from resentment and conflict, the war profiteers and their paid puppet politicians, and regain our autonomous human souls.

Great topic, Deb! Thanks for posting!




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