Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Take it to the Streets, Not the Polls!

By Kevin Lamory

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“I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”

Almost 56 years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois made the above statement in an article titled “Why I Won’t Vote.”  The quote is in reference to an all too familiar philosophy that has been an integral part of American democracy since its birth. The idea goes that even though a person may not agree with a certain candidate, at least that candidate is not “as evil” as the other candidate. It is heard over and over again within the context of the upcoming election. “Lesser of two evils” might as well be President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan. It gives any person planning to vote Democrat an incredibly easy cop-out answer to any question they may be asked on what they think of Obama’s stance on a certain issue. It will be heard over and over again: “his stance is better than Romney’s” or even the basic “at least he’s not Mitt Romney.”  This response is defensive and begins with a particular reluctance.

At the very core of the “lesser of two evils” doctrine is the understanding that the person doesn’t necessarily agree with the candidate but doesn’t really have a choice. One can almost picture the person dragging their feet to the voting booth surrounded by an air of defeat. This is not politics and it is certainly not democracy.

The point of this piece is not to shed light on the problems of the two-party system. I write to explain why I no longer believe in voting for any candidate, white or black, male or female. The reality is that the vast majority of the problems this country faces are problems that stem from living in a capitalist society. From the reoccurring economic crises that have devastated the populace time and time again to the incredible wars the U.S. has forced on the world in the interest of capital, it is the presence of a world system that values profits over people that needs to be attacked, not the politics of whoever is in office.

As long as we live in a capitalist society, even if the head of the state is for the people, he or she will always be at the whim of industry. We saw Obama side with capital during the Great Recession as he bailed out the banks, leaving the people to suffer the consequences that will ensue from the austerity measures that are sure to continue throughout the decade. Many have and will continue to make the “it could have been worse” argument. They argue that if a different person had been president, the economic devastation could’ve been much worse. This is to be expected as it fits in perfectly with the “lesser of two evils” philosophy. However, at the same time, it is the disillusionment of the people with the political system in the aftermath of the Obama election that led to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.

More people voted for Obama than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history, yet once it became clear that he wouldn’t bring the change and progress that he promised, instead of waiting for the next election, many of these same voters either formed the Occupy movement or became firm supporters of it. What one witnessed in the growth of OWS was the emergence of an understanding that change must come from the streets, not the White House.

If one looks carefully at history, it becomes evident that real change and actual progress have always come from movements by and for the people. If one looks at something as monumental as the abolition of chattel slavery, or as simple as the recent stoppage of tuition hikes in Quebec, one will find people working outside the political apparatus to achieve their goals. It is people’s resistance to and struggle against the different forms of oppression that exist in society that drives history, not presidential elections.

If ever there is a presidential candidate who promises to make the radical changes that are within his or her power, one may see me change my mind. The day there is a candidate who will pardon all the political prisoners wrongfully accused of crimes they didn’t commit – such as Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier – or who will pull the military out of every foreign country and stop waging secret wars against third world nations behind the people’s back, this is the day you will find me at the voting booth. Until then, my faith will be on the streets where the real power lies.

Kevin Lamory is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Take it to the Streets, Not the Polls!”

  1. SENOR GATO on September 28th, 2012 12:20 am

    Or instead of not voting you could pick one of the third party candidates :/ Also, I think people overestimate the actual power of the POTUS. If change is what you want you should take a page out of the teabaggers’ book. Elect some of your dudes to congress or on the local level. /tangent

  2. Jarred Rose on September 28th, 2012 10:19 am

    The problem with this theory is that a President will be elected regardless of whether you vote or not. If everyone takes to the street except for one person and that one person votes, whoever they voted for is just as President as someone who got elected unanimously by every American voting.

    Without a doubt there are serious problems with the electoral system. You could make an argument for many different flaws and you would likely be correct. But regardless of its many problems, you still get an opportunity to pick the person who is both the CEO of the largest organization in the world, chief banker of the largest bank in the world and commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world. And that counts for something.

    If you don’t vote, you don’t count as someone the politicians care about, unless you can sway other voters. So if you want change on the level you are talking about you must vote AND organize. Even if, hypothetically, everyone who supports Obama agrees he is the “lesser of two evils” not voting will ensure Mitt Romney or any challenger who is ‘more evil’ will be elected and your movement is hurt even more and the hill you have to climb is that much more steep.

  3. x on October 23rd, 2012 9:18 am

    jarred,
    you don’t really get to pick the person, you get to pick from one of two people, who have already been selected by a massive, thoroughly money and power infested system. there’s a big difference there, for starters. if you don’t live in ohio, florida or one of a couple other states, your vote for president doesn’t mean anything at all except to fill out a bloc whose victory or defeat is known well in advance.
    i guess i agree that you might as well vote as not, at least that’s the reasoning i’m giving myself, but i’m not kidding myself that it’s anything but a tiny impact on anything at all.

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