Election: Choose Your Poison

No matter who wins in November, the struggle for liberation will continue on November 3 because both major candidates are running to serve the same basic interests and to promote the same basic type of future — one based on hierarchy, consumerism, environmental irresponsibility and the status quo. After the election, those interested in human values, instead of corporate interests will oppose whichever candidate wins the election. While both of the candidates want ever more industrial production, consumption, spending, economic growth and jobs, we seek a world in which human beings, cooperation, sharing, beauty, pleasure and the earth are the highest goals. Social institutions need to serve these goals, not abstract accumulation of wealth for the few.

The most important opportunities for social change lie in opposition to the dominant culture — in the streets, in communities, in a million small interactions — including opposition to the system’s electoral hoax. Every four years, the wheels of the electoral political machine spin to convince society that voting is the only or the best way to change things — and every four years, this is a fundamental mistake. Changing the leader of the US is like changing the head of a corporation — at the end of the day, you still have a corporation, and it still functions to serve its own goals and interests at the expense of its workers and the earth.

In view of the foregoing, it might seem a bit strange that I’m planning to vote in the upcoming election anyway, and for you know who. While it is clear to me that the major candidates are the same on what I consider the “big issues” (continuation of capitalism, industrialism, the basic framework of the status quo), it is equally clear that they are not precisely identical on every issue. My vote shall be a vote for the lesser of two evils.

The idea of the lesser of two evils means two things. First, it means you have to be keenly aware that either way, you get evil. That means that after the election, no matter who wins, I’ll be out in the streets and working in whatever way I can to address the mess this society is creating. That involvement is far more important than my vote, or conversely, any decision not to vote. The idea of the lesser of two evils also means that the real social struggle after the election may have a different character depending on who wins — some things aside from the “big issues” will be different depending on who wins.

In deciding to vote, I’m employing a cost benefit analysis. If the cost of voting is very, very small, then the benefit can also be pretty darn small, and it will still be worth it. My analysis of the cost of voting is that it takes a few minutes, and that is the only cost. I don’t find the idea that the mere act of voting itself somehow ratifies and endorses our oppressors very convincing, thus I don’t consider this a “cost”. Millions and millions of people don’t vote in each election — sometimes almost as many as do vote — and this non-participation in no way endangers the state or corporate power structure. The small degree to which non-voting may threaten the legitimacy of the state apparatus is far outweighed by the other ways in which the power structure ruins its own legitimacy every day by killing the planet while compelling most humans to live an empty life working meaningless jobs.

Though the benefit of voting may also be small — after all, one of the rich guys is going to win either way, I only have one vote, and the real struggle isn’t about electoral politics anyway — there is a measurable benefit if the election comes out one way, rather than another. In general, I think radicals spend a lot of time arguing about whether voting will help or hurt the situation — time that could better be spent doing something.