Voting: The Sham and the Shame

Imagine something so precious that only the most powerful rulers and their cronies are allowed to have it, and it is forbidden to ordinary people. That precious right is the ability to make decisions about how you can live, what you can or cannot do, and what opportunities your children will have. It is what the right to vote should be, but is not. The right to vote is a right that Blacks, women, and other groups fought and died for. But it would be wrong to think that those struggles were successful, even when the vote was obtained. In the United States and many other countries, the right to vote is not the power over government for which so many martyrs sacrificed. There is, in fact, only the slightest, most superficial resemblance between the decision making power held by the ruling class, and the hard-won "vote" available to the most privileged of the rest of us.

A real vote is the exercise of equal power in governance. If power is vested exclusively in a ruling class, the people do not have equal power, no less the supreme power that defines democracy. A fake or sham vote is a meaningless ritual that keeps decision-making power exclusively within the ruling class, but is designed to make people think that they have some way to exercise power through their vote.

Here are some ways to distinguish between the real thing and the counterfeit:

A real vote must be counted and the results of elections with real votes can be verified. Nothing needs to be taken on faith or on trust. If power resides in the hands of the people, which is the dictionary definition of democracy, than the people can control all aspects of elections. At no time is the counting done secretly, behind closed doors, or within machines that are easily hacked and cannot be audited.

A real vote determines real issues. If you cannot vote directly on important issues like war, budgets, or priorities, you have only an advisory vote, not a real vote.

A real vote cannot be ignored or overridden. It is the final say.

A real vote determines who can act in the name of the people. If there are people in your government for whom you cannot vote, such as those who inherit their positions, those who are appointed to their positions, or those who can cast determining votes in your name without consulting you, you do not have a real vote.

In a democratic form of government where people have a real vote, the ruling class cannot say, as both the Bush and Obama administrations did, that they do not allow public opinion to influence their policy decisions. In a democratic form of government, only public opinion, expressed by means of genuine votes where everyone has an equal voice, can determine policy decisions.

What happened was that people struggled to gain something valuable, and ended up with a cheap knockoff. Oh, it looks the same, at least if you don't examine it too closely, but it isn't worth nearly as much.

Still, if you can't afford the real thing, isn't a fake better than nothing? Isn't an advisory vote, an uncounted vote, a flipped vote, or an overridden vote, better than no vote at all?

Unfortunately, no. Decision-making power either rests with the people, or it rests with tyrants. A sham that appears to grant at least some apparent choice with regard to who will have decision-making power, rather than allowing decision-making power to be shared by all, is actually worse than having no decision-making power. If you know that only your lords and masters can make decisions, you know that you're a slave, and that, as Harriet Tubman noted, is a precondition for becoming free. But if you believe that you have a share in making decisions, when you really do not, you're apt to believe that you're free and reject anyone who tries to abolish your slavery and lead you to freedom.

In the United States and in many other countries, elections are a sham--and that's a shame.

There is only one possible nonviolent way to obtain decision-making power for the people, and that is to stop delegating it to a system controlled by the rich and powerful. To stop voting. To say, if I cannot vote on issues, if I cannot vote directly for President, Vice-President, or Supreme Court Justices, if my vote doesn't even have to be counted and even when counted is not necessarily the final say, then my vote is not the franchise that so many shed their blood to gain. It's a lemon. I won't buy it. If I can't have the real thing, I won't settle for a cheap imitation. It's not a matter of fad or fashion, it is the fate of the planet at stake. I want the right to decide if there's a nuclear waste dump near my child's school, not the right to elect bureaucrats who I can then petition but who may not care about my kids the way that I do. Nobody struggled so that I could settle for something less than a voice in my own destiny and that of my kids. If I can't have a real voice in government, I won't accept the sham of a worthless "vote" and try to pretend it is real. I will carry on the struggle for a real vote in honor of those who went before me. I will not vote until my vote is equal to and fully as powerful as the vote of any elected or appointed official. Until I have as much right to cast decisive votes on wars, budgets, priorities, and all issues of importance as they do, not merely to cast ballots for those I hope might vote on my behalf. One person, one vote. And I am as much of a person as anyone in government.

What about you? There are those who govern and those who are governed. If you are willing to vote for those who will govern you, rather than insisting on a real vote which is the right to an equal voice in government, you have not only rejected freedom, but sold your children into slavery too. Don't blame the rulers you voted for--until you can take responsibility and face the truth, the blame lies only with you. The right to vote for those who will decide how your money is spent is not the same as the right to decide for yourself how to spend your money. If you'll settle for a cheap imitation "vote," you'll never get the real thing, and those who struggled before you will have fought in vain.

Power to the people!

Discussion Forum