An interview with Election Boycott Activists Mark E. Smith and Terri Lee of the Boycott Election 2012 campaign.
This interview was conducted in September and October 2012, via email, by Joe Ramsey. The responses below were co-authored by Terri Lee and Mark E. Smith.
Joe Ramsey: Do you think that it’s correct to describe the U.S. as a “democracy” in 2012? How so or how not?
The definition of a democracy is a form of government where supreme power is vested in the hands of the people. In such a government, the final say on everything, including fiscal and foreign policy issues would be up to the people to decide by a direct vote.
Obviously we don’t have that kind of government, in fact both the Bush and Obama administrations were explicitly clear that they would not allow public opinion to influence policy decisions, so rather than having the final say, as we would if we the people had supreme power over government, we have no say at all. A republic is also a democratic form of government, but in a republic the people exercise their supreme power over government through their elected representatives rather than directly. But in order to exercise power over our elected representatives, we’d have to be able to hold them accountable and we can’t.
The best we can do is ask them to hold themselves accountable, and they don’t seem to want to do that–in fact they tend to grant themselves immunity and/or pardon themselves even for flagrant Constitutional violations and war crimes.
JR: What exactly are you calling for? And what’s your motive for doing so?
We’re calling for a boycott of the 2012 election. The reason for this is that only a major party candidate has any chance of winning, and both major parties are dependent upon big corporations to fund their election campaigns, so both would represent Wall Street rather than Main Street. We already know that however people vote, the election will result in more trillions spent on foreign wars while domestic needs go unmet, and more bailouts for banks that deserved to fail due to their irresponsible investment schemes. When you know the results of an election beforehand, it isn’t really an election and doesn’t deserve the consent of the governed.
JR: Why do you believe that people should boycott the Presidential election?
There are many reasons. Back in Bush v. Gore 2000, the Supreme Court said that there is no Constitutional requirement that the popular vote be counted. If they don’t have to count the votes, we don’t have to cast them. Most voters don’t think that our government has been doing a good job. Retaining or even promoting employees who don’t do their job is a sure way to lose your business, unless, of course, you have a corrupt government to bail you out. Our government only bails out the rich, so only the 1% should vote for it.
JR: What has been the response to this boycott call so far?
The response has been mixed! Some naturally gravitated to the Election boycott as they had already been quietly boycotting presidential elections for years. Others are attached to elections and hold on to the illusion that it has something to offer. For others still, there was lack of clarity about the Election Boycott.
Our first task was to clear up some misunderstanding about the 2012 Election Boycott.
Some think that the Call to Boycott 2012 is a ‘call for apathy’ and ask “How can you make a difference by not participating?” They view the boycott as lazy and irresponsible ‘inaction’ and view voting as ‘participatory’. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Those ideas are completely reversed: The Election Boycott is a call for Direct Action and requires much more effort, coordination and effort than the simple “two minutes it takes to pull the lever” (Howard Zinn) required to vote.
Some say: “Boycott the Two Parties!” or “Boycott the Corporate Candidates!”. This, of course, is code for ‘vote third party’ which is what the left has been accustomed to doing year after year with no results to show for it. The alternative party presidential candidates and the voter both know — in advance and with absolute certainty — that third party candidates have absolutely no chance whatsoever of sitting in the Oval Office. Ever. And yet the left circles around them agonizing as to which non-viable third party candidate to choose from.
JR: Who else is involved in the campaign?
Mark and I are working closely with Boycott author and speaker, Linh Dinh as well as the blog owner of Proletarian Center for Research, Education and Culture
The Proletarian Center has officially endorsed the Boycott 2012 campaign.
Author, syndicated columnist, cartoonist and Election Boycotter Ted Rall has provided several ‘boycott cartoons’ for the Election Boycott campaign.
Mark and I have been the radio guests of Bob Carson of Carson’s Corner, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox Radio, and Dave Fletcher’s Public Reality Radio Show.
A great audio for Election Boycott Skeptics can be found here: The Election Boycott show on Bob Carson’s radio program, “Carson’s Corner”.
JR: What would it mean to succeed in a campaign like this? What do you think that this campaign can accomplish? What has it accomplished so far?
Success would be a clear demonstration by means of a historically low turnout, indicating that most people do not feel this government represents them.
JR: Is the goal to delegitimize the existing so-called “democratic” system? What kind of change would you like to see in our current political situation?
People often say that others fought and died for our right to vote.
That’s not exactly correct. What people fought and died for was a voice in government. What we’d like to see is a democratic form of government where power was vested in the hands of the people.
Uncounted, mostly unverifiable votes, for candidates who don’t let public opinion influence their policy decisions and who can’t be held accountable while in office (which is the only time they’re supposed to represent their constituents), are not a voice in government.
JR: Do you conceive of your efforts as an attempt at pressuring for reform, or more as laying the basis for a more revolutionary movement? Do you think that the US political system can be reformed, or will it have to be overthrown? How can a boycott of elections contribute to a more radical political shift?
The boycott is a revolutionary rather than a reformist movement. We don’t want government to grant a few privileges here and there–a more benign tyranny so to speak–we want government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
JR: Is it simply the limited offerings or bad policies of the two major parties that you object to, or is it something deeper that is at issue here? What do you see as the fundamental nature of the problem we face?
The problem we face is that no matter who is in power, the US is only has two major growth industries, the military-industrial complex and the prison industrial complex–killing people and caging people.
Derivatives and other fraudulent fiscal schemes always crash, so we need a sustainable economy that isn’t based on killing people or caging people but on making the world a better place for people to live in. If we can get to the moon and send a surveyor to Mars, I think we could manage something that easy. Other countries have and we’re not really less intelligent or less competent.
JR: According to recent polls, very significant numbers of Americans are not planning to vote in the upcoming election. This includes an even greater percentage of young voters. Why is that?
When you have lackluster candidates and nothing to gain from voting, it makes sense not to vote. Even without the election boycott movement
2012 is likely be a historically low turnout for a presidential election. We certainly don’t need more parties–I think that what young people are saying is that the party’s over and that they’d like to go to work so that they can have a decent life.
JR: Do you see the Democrats as “the lesser evil”? How so or how not?
Let’s say you have the Devil himself, Satan, running for President on the Republican ticket. The Democrats nominate a little demon from Hell, who is obviously a much lesser evil than Satan. Unless you look a little closer and understand that the demon takes his orders from his boss, who happens to be Satan. So there is no lesser evil. When corporations spend billions of dollars funding the election campaigns of both major parties, they consider it an investment and they know they’ll get trillions back in government contracts and bailouts no matter who wins. Corporations aren’t exactly known for their philanthropy, they have a bottom line to consider and a fiduciary duty to their shareholders.
Why would they spend billions of dollars funding the campaigns of candidates who will only have about a $400k salary once in office?
With Citizens United, they can spend as much as they want. But supposing they spent billions of dollars getting out the vote for the major parties and nobody voted–do you think their boards of directors would let them do it again?
The Official Website of the Call to Boycott the 2012 Election: www.electionboycott2012.org
Mark E. Smith’s blog, Fubar and Grill