Why I won't be voting for Obama

THINKING ABOUT it now, I've never voted Democrat. The first national election I could vote for was in 2008, by which point I was a fully committed Marxist. I voted for the Progressive Party (a legitimate left-wing third party in Vermont) for all the local seats and wrote in "Troy Davis" for president. Davis was an innocent man who only three years later the president who did win would let be executed by the state of Georgia for a crime he didn't commit.

But that's not to say I've always been this way. No one is born a revolutionary socialist. We all have to get here by a myriad of different roots. So in 2004 in high school, I actively campaigned for Democrat John Kerry, a pro-war, lukewarm husk of a man who the antiwar movement was commanded to vote for.

The Kerry case is a good example of why the "lesser of two evils" argument is such utter bunk. Let's say Kerry did win in '04--what would have happened? What would have changed? Probably just as much as did under Obama: not that much.

In fact, things would, just like with Obama, probably also have gotten worse. The U.S. war on terror would have continued, killing innocent Arabs and Muslims thousands of miles away for no good reason. The unjust war on drugs would continue to lock up people of color in this country by the millions. Civil liberties would continue to be eroded and suppressed. The budget of the U.S. government would continue to overwhelmingly go toward wars and imperial occupations, not health care and education. And above all else, the rich would continue to rule, and the poor would just get poorer.

Clinton, Bush, Kerry, Obama. Look at their policies. Really look at them. Not what they say and what kind of rhetoric they use, but actually what they do. The differences are so minimal to be almost inconsequential. The line between the Democrats and the Republicans is a distinction without difference. It is true as they say, the Democrats are just the "B team" of American capitalism. Voting for the Democrats to stop war or reign in the power of Wall Street is like voting for Dr. Jekyll to stop Mr. Hyde.

Yet so many well-meaning left-wing people are going to voting for the Democrats come November. Why is that?

Part of it is just wishful forgetfulness. All the myriad of crimes and betrayals perpetuated by the Obama administration over the last four years against LGBT people, immigrants, whistle-blowers, unions, poor people, the Afghan people, the Pakistani people, the Libyans and Iraqis, etc., are going to be actively forgotten or ignored by his liberal base.

If there was ever a Democratic administration that has earned the title of "graveyard of social movements," it is Obama's. As radical folksinger Utah Phillips liked to say, "The long memory is the most radical idea in America," and we must never forget Obama's crimes.

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BUT A lot of the reason why people are still going to vote Democrat is the good old-fashioned cliché of the bad idea of the "lesser of two evils." Obama may be bad, they say, but Romney and Ryan will be worse.

This logic doesn't really appeal to me. You're still getting evil, and if you keep voting for the lesser-evil year after year (as many do) that evil keeps building up and up (as it most certainly has). Why aren't we allowed to vote for what we actually want, why must we be forever trapped between the rock and a hard place of the one corporate party with two faces? As the great American socialist Eugene Debs said, "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don't want and get it."

If we continue to be trapped by the two-party system, we'll never get anything that we want. Evil will keep on building--sure, less "evil" than with the Republicans, but evil all the same. Election cycle after election cycle, things will just keep getting worse and worse.

The solution isn't to be found in this or that scheme to retake the Democrat Party from within, which has never worked. Or even in schemes to retake the entire election process as a whole. It's not about what the politicians and pundits are doing, it's about what we do.

Struggle--mass struggle--is the answer to the current political morass. Historian Howard Zinn once said that, " It doesn't matter who's in the White House. It matters who's sitting in." That is, sitting in in the streets, at the lunch counters, and on Wall Street.

Real democracy is what happens in-between elections, when millions of working people take to the streets and make the elites of both parties bend to the popular will. Whoever wins in November, I'm still going to be protesting them. Don't vote, Occupy!
Ben Silverman, from the Internet