This morning I read “Radical Russ’s” article on theweedblog.com urging ‘marijuana legalizers’ to vote “pragmatically” with a mixture of dismay and resignation. Resignation because, as someone who spent twenty years involved in national politics, I’ve seen this well oiled canard before. Dismay because, by following Radical Russ’s suggestion, the entire anti-war on drugs movement guarantees the status quo.
For those who don’t want to take the time to read the article, I can sum it up for you in one sentence: Vote for Obama because Romney would be worse, and there are no viable third party alternatives who can win.
The problem with his argument is that there’s just enough truth in it to to be dangerous, which is why he, and a good many other people, continue to drink the ‘don’t throw your vote away’ cool aid. Yes, as things stand today, either Obama or Romney will be elected in November. The apparatchik of the two major parties spare no energy in ensuring that their spin machines churn out a constant stream of ‘don’t throw your vote away’ propaganda every presidential election cycle. And the bigger the third party threat, the bigger the propaganda machine is guaranteed to be, aided and abetted by the MSM’s favorite political talking heads, all of whom are in one political camp or the other. Then, of course, there is the deck stacking that makes it very hard for any third party to challenge the cigar smoking titans of the big two. Right down to, and including, the fact that a third party candidate isn’t even allowed onto the debate stage unless they have “at least 15% support in five national polls as of the date of determination. A rule only valid because of the tremendous pressure the two parties bring to bear on the MSM outlets that broadcast the debates. Opinions that might prove more popular than the apparatchik’s approved party message(s) might dilute their power base, you understand. And while the two parties don’t agree on much, one thing they can agree on is that they don’t want to lose their power base.
But just because the MSM and the apparatchik of the two parties have well oiled propaganda machines doesn’t make their propaganda true. What makes it true are people like Radical Russ and millions of others believing it, acting on it, and mindlessly repeating it. Try this thought exercise: Open your wallet (or purse) and take out a bill. It may be a $1, a $5, a $20, whatever. Now ask yourself this: Why is it worth what it says it’s worth? What, exactly, makes that piece of paper worth more than its value in btus of heat if you burned it?
The answer? Because you, and everyone else on this planet, believe it to be worth what the face value says it’s worth and act accordingly. That’s it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, backing the dollars in your pocket except the widely held belief that Ben Bernanki can make good on his promise that a $20 bill is really worth $20 in goods and services. Likewise, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, guaranteeing that the Republican or the Democrat will be elected save that the majority of those going to the polls on election day believe that to vote for the Green Party, or the Libertarian Party, or the Communist Party candidate they really believe in would be the same as ‘throwing their vote away.’ So they hold their nose, vote ‘pragmatically,’ and then spend the next four years wondering why nothing has changed.
But the day that Americans quit believing the apparatchik propaganda, that truth will no longer be true. The day even a single voting block goes to the polls and votes their heart rather than ‘pragmatically’, all bets are off on just who will make it to the White House.
But that’s not today, you say, and you’re probably right. So, until such time as a majority of Americans do quit believing the propaganda, Radical Russ is right, I need to vote ‘pragmatically’ rather than my heart, right?
Glad you brought that up. Let’s look at that with a clear eye, shall we?
As things stand right now, no national candidate in modern history has every paid a political price for being “tough on crime”—which amongst other things means supporting the War On Drugs. But plenty of national politicians have been crucified for being “soft on crime.” Translation: To date, there has been absolutely no political cost for having locked up and ruined the lives of 2.5 million Americans for drug crimes (just in the last three and a half years). And until there is a political cost, nothing is going to change that political calculus for Obama, Romney, or any other national politican. I’m sorry to burst the bubble of the marijuana legalization warriors out there, but from Obama/Romney’s perspective, marijuana legalization, and even the whole War On Drugs, is a minor issue that can only hurt them, never help them.
There is a myth, promulgated by those of us who have and do work in the political world, and the media, that politicians are leaders. Think about it: How many times have you heard some reporter or lobbyist say something like “our political leaders” blah, blah, blah? But the truth is, democratically elected politicians are not leaders, they’re followers. To survive, they have to be able to read the public mood and flow with it, or they’re out of a job. Any politician who has a real spine and real beliefs for which s/he’s willing to fight will, despite what pollsters and the media tell us about ourselves, quickly find themselves back in private life. Democracies don’t want politicians who fight for their beliefs. They want politicians who fight for our, i.e. the electorate’s, beliefs.
And that dear reader, is why voting your heart, your conscious, even if, and perhaps especially if, the candidate of your heart is in a third party, is so important: It causes political pain! Okay, so maybe you can’t prevent Obama/Romney from being elected this time. But you can dis-empower him! A president who wins with only 40% of the vote has no mandate, no political capital. And the only real power a president has is that granted him by the majority of the people. No majority, no mandate, no political captial to do anything meaningful. It’s W. again—hopefully minus 9/11. Had we not been attacked, Bush would have been nothing more than a placeholder until the next election; a footnote in history.
Imagine an Obama/Romney with no power because the third parties sucked up almost as many votes as did they! Imagine a Congress so polarized by the insertion of real, third party coalitions that it’s even more dysfunctional than it is today. Sound scary? Maybe. But change is always scary, and there is so much to gain!
If enough anti-drug war warriors vote their conscience rather than ‘pragmatically’ as Radical Russ wants you to; if the third parties get enough votes to crack open the monopoly of the two major parties, if even only a little, then—then my friends, the game is on! Then we will finally be heard; we will no longer be able to be ignored by the entrenched plutocratic corpratocracy.
So go out and vote! Vote your heart; vote your conscious; vote for change; refuse to settle! For, as Thomas Jefferson once said: “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”