Occupy Wall Street, not the ballot box

By Mike Tudoreanu

Hannah Cohen/Collegian

Ever since the Occupy movement started, there have been people saying we should take our concerns to the ballot box. There have been people saying that it is uncivilized and disruptive to start encampments in cities across the nation when we can have our concerns met by voting progressive candidates into office. Their argument is that we should enact change through the proper channels, and anyone who refuses to do that is just being a nuisance. As a proud member of the 99 percent, I wish to give my reply to such arguments:

We already tried doing what you suggest. It didn’t work.

In 2008, the Democratic Party scored its greatest electoral victory in over 30 years. A supposedly liberal president got elected to the White House, while the Democrats swept through the U.S. House of Representatives and won a super-majority in the Senate. If your strategy for change is to vote for liberal candidates, you could not possibly dream of a better outcome than in 2008. I remember people eagerly speculating what the new liberal era might hold. Would Barack Obama be a new Franklin Roosevelt? Would there be a new New Deal, with bold new infrastructure programs – perhaps high-speed rail – to create jobs and revive the economy? Would the government bailout working families and stop foreclosures? Would they repeal George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich? Would there be universal health care? Would there be a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade scheme to fight climate change? Would the Employee Free Choice Act be passed to defend unions? Would Obama close Guantanamo, stop throwing people in prison without charges or end the wars?

As it turns out, the answer was none of the above. Not a single one. The Democrats spent two years in control of every branch of government, and could not pass even one of the policies demanded by the people who campaigned for them and voted them into office. The best they could do was to pass a pathetic excuse for health care reform, which made things only slightly better and was actually more conservative than the health care reforms once proposed by Richard Nixon. To defend this amazing record of inaction, the Democrats kept blaming the Republicans for being “the party of no” and continually trying to obstruct their legislation. I’m sorry, but if you can’t get your legislation passed even when you control all branches of government by wide margins, then you have got to be the most incompetent political party in the history of this planet. So why should we once again pin our hopes and dreams on people who basically admit they are useless?

The Occupy movement arose precisely because mainstream politics failed the working people of this country. There are only two political parties to vote for: one of them is insane, the other is useless, and they are both receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from corporations and banks. Trying to enact change through the ballot box has clearly become little more than a waste of time. Nearly all politicians rely on lavish donations from the top 1 percent to get into office, so they will naturally do the bidding of the 1 percent once they get there. It may be possible to elect one or two congressmen or senators without relying on corporate sponsors – that does happen every now and then – but what can a few good people do inside a government where everyone else has been bought and paid for? And how long could they stick to their principles when Wall Street starts making them offers they can’t refuse? Also, let’s not forget that the media is dominated by a few corporations owned by the 1 percent. Any elected politicians who really threatened the interests of the rich would have all major TV stations, newspapers and high-traffic websites turn against them.

That is why we cannot win from within the political system. So we have no choice but to go outside it. When the rules of the game are stacked against you, you have got to change the game. The Occupy movement does not and must not get involved in electoral politics, because campaigning for candidates who promise hope and change is a waste of time and energy. As Bush so eloquently put it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on … well, you can’t get fooled again.”

But, one might ask, what else is there to do other than trying to get candidates elected? There is plenty to do. Corrupt politicians will not listen to the people when we give them what little money we have or campaign for them, but they will listen when they fear what might happen if they don’t. They will listen when workers across an entire city or state go on a general strike. They will listen when tens of thousands of people march peacefully in the streets in defiance of orders to go home. They will listen when those same people occupy parks and keep coming back in spite of police brutality.

The purpose of the Occupy movement is to deliver a simple message to the 1 percent and their paid spokesmen in government. That message is this: You rule because we allow you to rule. Your government, your corporations and your banks exist because we give our consent for them to exist. If you will not listen to us, we will withdraw that consent.

Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]