from”The Electile Dysfunction Chronicles”: the climax of Chapter 2018

25 11 2018

My apologies for being so late with this show, our first live show since the election. The first thing that happened to me was, “Climate change ate my homework.” Two weeks ago, heavy rain took me offline for enough of the week so that I couldn’t get the show together in time. Last week a close member of my extended family passed away, and his family scheduled his memorial gathering for….Sunday evening, so here I am, the Sunday after  our Continental Native American Day of Mourning, finally getting on the air with an election report.

Honestly, it was not a great election for the Green Party.  We had a few candidates whom we thought might pull off Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez-type upsets against Democrats in races where the only candidates on the ballot were a Green and a complacent corporate Democrat, but none of those races were even close. Beyond those few contests, Greens rarely polled as high as five percent.There’s even one instance of a Missouri Green running against a Republican, with no Democrat in the race, who allegedly received no votes. He didn’t even vote for himself? I find that a little peculiar. I’ve had friends  who voted Green in precincts that later reported no votes for Green candidates, so I have to wonder if that’s what happened there, only on a grand scale. More on that later.

The “successful losers,” especially Kenneth Mejia in California and Samson Lebeau Kpadenou in Florida, along with many of our other candidates, are philosophical about their losses, saying they understand that, the first time you run, you’re mostly just getting your name out there, and are likely to do better in future elections. There are plenty of examples in other countries of parties that have experienced a meteoric rise in popularity as the public camr to the understanding that their countries’ traditional major parties are either utterly clueless about how to meet changing conditions or actively making matters worse, but that has happened in countries that have much more open democracies than ours. More on that later, too.

Perhaps The Green Party’s biggest win in November of 2018 was in a race that didn’t have a Green running in it. In Maine’s Second U.S. Congressional district, the Republican candidate received 46.4% of the vote, the Democrat 45.5%, and two independents shared 8.1% of the vote. Because Maine is now using ranked choice voting, and the leading candidate did not receive a majority of the votes, the second choices of those who voted for the two lowest-polling candidates were factored in, and the result was that the Democrat won with 50.5% of the vote, the first time the Democrats have represented that district since before The Second World War. Democrats have always been vehemently opposed to ranked-choice voting, but, now that it’s worked for them, maybe they’ll get on board. This is the first time a US state has used ranked choice voting, truly a historic occasion.runoff

Here in Tennessee, the courts have decided that, as Greens, or Libertarians, or anybody whose party affiliation is not Democrat or Republican, our First Amendment rights do not extend to expressing our party affiliation on the ballot unless we jump through some very expensive hoops that nobody has been able to negotiate since the days of George Wallace, fifty years ago, so “officially,” there were no Greens on the Tennessee ballot, although our state party chair, Yvonne Neubert, was on the ballot as an “independent” candidate for governor, She received about three thousand votes. Isa Infante, who was on the ballot with a “Green” designation in the last gubernatorial election, received over 18,000 votes, with  hardly any more campaigning than Ms. Neubert, and the same press blackout. Party labels clearly make a difference.

There was good news in Memphis, were a city-backed attempt to repeal ranked-choice voting in city elections  failed to pass, as did two other city-originated initiatives that would have ruled out the possibility of ranked-choice voting in the future. Here in Nashville, a measure to establish an independent police review board passed. Increased civilian oversight of the police is definitely a Green way of doing things, a marker on the road to community self-policing, so we are grateful to have that.

The Libertarians protested their exclusion from the ballot by having about twenty people run for governor as “independents.” I appreciate the spirit of that protest, and wish we Greens had done the same in the Senate race, where the Democrat who was running said he would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.  Ain’t the two-party system wunnerful? But, I digress. It only takes twenty-five signatures to get on the ballot as an “independent.” A party name takes between thirty and forty thousand signatures, and our courts think that’s reasonable. Uh-huh.

It’s also worth noting that, while the 2016 election, which was framed by many as our last chance to stop fascism from taking over America, saw voter turnout of around 55%, the gross malfeasance of the government that was elected (by about a quarter of the electorate) resulted in this year’s election, being framed as the “Now that you’ve seen how horrid they are, do you believe us?” election, having a turnout rate of…about 50%. That’s actually a pretty good turnout for a non-Presidential election in this country,, but hardly a vote of confidence in the Democrats as our bulwark against fascism.

Such massive indifference in the face of  such great danger demands some kind of explanation. Were 50% of the potential voters simply too busy to get to the polls? Or were they so unimpressed with the Democrats’ past record that they had no faith in the DP’s promises for the future? I wish I could say it’s the influence of the Green Party, but, considering our poor showing, I don’t think I can. Given the typical American media diet, most voters probably don’t know much about us. I suspect that, if all those who have heard of us, but won’t vote for us because the mainstream media have convinced them that “Greens can’t win,” actually voted for us, we could win, even on America’s steeply tilted playing field. Corporate media mostly just doesn’t do Green. Here in Tennessee, they treated us like an amusing fringe of wackos until we got on the ballot, when they ignored us so completely that we suspect it was a coordinated decision. Hey, what else should an anti-corporate party expect from corporate-owned media? We don’t publish puff pieces about Monsanto, y’know?

OK, there are some things I said I’d talk about “later,” and now it’s later, so here goes. First, there’s the issue raised by the Green candidate who allegedly received no votes. Democrats are openly antagonistic to Greens, Republicans don’t care for us either, and that’s who’s counting the votes. As Joe Stalin is repubted to have said, It’s not who votes that counts. It’s who counts the votes.”

stalin

As for the difficulties new parties have in the US political system, and the many layers of  electoral shenanigans that have been chronicled–from the difficulties of Democrats is Florida and Georgia to the difficulties of Berniecrats in New York State to the irregularities Republicans have faced in….well, I’m sure they’ve had these kind of problems somewhere, Chicago or New York City maybe…..anyway, all these stories are spawned by one key feature of the American electoral system: it is controlled by the parties that participate in it, who co-operate to keep other parties non-competitive and who scheme against each other for control of states and the US government.

In England, voter registration is non-partisan, and elections are conducted by a non-partisan government bureau.

In France, voter registration is automatic, and the country’s Constitution lays out the proper procedures for holding elections.

In Canada, voter registration and the conduct of elections are carried out by a non-partisan government bureau.

In Germany, voter registration is automatic and elections are conducted by a non-partisan government bureau.

In Australia, voter registration and elections are managed by a non-partisan government bureau.

In Brazil, voter registration is automatic, and elections are conducted by a non-partisan government agency. Oh, yeah–in Brazil, voting is mandatory. (It’s not mandatory in Canada, where they still average around 70% turnout.) And yes, I know the Brazilian government threw their version of Bernie Sanders in jail and ended up electing somebody who makes Turnip look like a nice guy, but he was by-Goddess honestly elected. Am I making my point clear?

In all of these countries, it’s no big deal to get a political party on the ballot. Most of them have proportional representation in their legislatures and more than two parties featuring prominently in their governing process.

In America, we have governments determined to let as few people as possible vote, and elections tainted by obvious fraud. In Georgia this year, we had the bizarre spectacle of a gubernatorial candidate, who was also the Secretary of State, repeatedly admitting that he was doing all he could to disqualify voters and potential voters whose profile indicated that they would probably vote for his opponent, and that’s just one example.

The solution to this kind of systemic corruption is not to “clean up the system.” The solution is to change the system. How will that happen? Those in power will not give it up without a serious struggle.

A short film I viewed recently reminded me that World War I didn’t end because the government of Germany admitted it was defeated by the French, British, and Americans. It ended because sailors in the German Navy refused to follow the government’s orders, and marched on Berlin, instead. As they proceeded, they were met with, and joined by, enthusiastic crowds of civilians who were tired of making sacrifices for a war they didn’t want or need. By the time the sailors and civilians reached Berlin, so many people had joined them that the military and police who remained loyal to the government were overwhelmed. The Kaiser, the hereditary King of Germany, abdicated, and the government, as they say, fell.

Meanwhile, in the trenches, large percentages of troops on both sides were increasingly mutinying against orders to attack. The war ended not because of the politicians, but in spite of the politicians and because of the people.

 

 

 

 

After that crisis, it took a few years for the politicians to regain full control, which is what got us the mess that eventually turned into World War II. The stakes are even higher this time. We don’t just need peace and justice, we need to avoid the likelihood of total oblivion. We can’t allow that kind of repression to happen again, , nor can we fall prey to what happened in the seventies, when, as my old teacher put it, “A generation tasted enlightenment, ended a war, toppled a government, and then went off to drink beer and play frisbee.” We need for a working majority of us to be as observant, kind, honest, forthright, and humorous as we can, and to keep ourselves open to improving our embodiment of all those qualities. I think that, under our current circumstances, we should all work on “bravery,” as well, because, in the short term, we are going to have to do a lot more than just vote–we are going to have to put our asses on the line and risk  being beaten, arrested, and incarcerated until the number of those “in authority” who see things our way hits a tipping point, and the government loses its authority. We can’t know when, or even if, that will happen, and maybe the big changes that need to happen will take place some whole other way–or not at all, and the human race will swirl down the drain into extinction. It really is that serious, so serious that working to acquire the ability to vote for political candidates who have a reasonable chance to win, and who will uncompromisingly address these issues when elected, may seem like too little, too late, but it’s just one of the many steps that we, as a polity and as a species, are going to have to take to get out of the danger we are in. No individual step will ever seem sufficient, but only if we keep taking those steps will we survive.

Inasmuch as it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I’m going to end with an old prayer from The Royal Navy, back in the days when naval warfare was about ships pulling up next to each other and firing cannon balls at each other. This is the prayer: “For what we are about to receive, let us be truly thankful.” Amen.. 18 min

music: The Waterboys “Let It Happen” 6 min

James McMurtry “Holiday” 6 min


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