Building an electoral alternative
In "Republican creeps and Democratic enablers," SocialistWorker.org writes, "An occupier in Massachusetts got it exactly right in an article titled 'Occupy Wall Street, not the ballot box.'"
I do not consider such a position to be "exactly right" at all. It is a total non-sequitur to present electoral politics as a choice between support for the Democrats and total non-participation. It's as if they are assuming that "occupy the ballot box" can only mean "on behalf of the Democrats." What's up with that unwarranted assumption?
Of course, I understand why the Occupy movement as such, on an organizational level, would prefer not to get involved in endorsing candidates for office. But I think supporters of the movement would be better advised to get over these false dichotomies and look at the question differently: What is the ballot box but one of the chief means of system-reinforcement available to the ruling class?
It really makes no sense to shy away from challenging their power in this area, while at the same time calling for such challenges in so many other places and institutions. Are they thinking that it's low participation in elections that will help to weaken the system?
The powers that be couldn't really care less whether voter participation is high, low, or in between--provided that all but the most minuscule percentage of the vote is allocated to the corporate parties.
When participation drops without any change in the combined corporate share of the vote, the pundits will claim (as they have before, however absurdly) that non-particpiation in elections is an indicator that such voters are basically content, that otherwise they would have felt compelled to vote, etc.
What can weaken the system-reinforcing effects of these elections? Clearly not by turning out to help some corporate candidates defeat other corporate candidates. Nor by having voters who are fed up with corporate domination of U.S. politics simply withdraw from the electorate, and abandon the contest to those voters who are most susceptible to the appeals from the corporate parties.
Instead, the best (and only, as far as I can see) way that supporters of the Occupy movement can best complement their protest actions in all these other areas of public life is to turn out on behalf of non-corporate (by definition, neither Democrat nor Republican) progressive candidates.
The better the showing for such candidates--and for the non-corporate parties who nominate them--the more that the corporate share of the vote is drawn down; the harder time the punditocracy will have claiming that the people are essentially satisfied with the "two-party system"; the more Americans will demonstrate to themselves and to one another their capacity for thinking and acting independently in a domain of American life that has hitherto been such a critical bastion of corporate power and mass submission--namely, the electoral system.
It is one of the pillars on which the system rests. With other pillars of the system, it will need to be shaken up if the Occupy movement is to have maximum effect.
Ron MacKinnon, New York, N.Y.