CAN WE VOTE THE RICH OUT OF POWER?
by John Spritzler
The URL of this article for sharing it is https://www.pdrboston.org/can-we-vote-the-rich-out-of-power
The billionaires were never elected*, so they cannot be un-elected. And the billionaires have the real power in our society because in our society money is power; they have it and we don't.
Egalitarians have lots of different opinions about whether, or how best, to try to use the electoral system in the United States. I will be happy to post your opinion here if it is from an egalitarian point of view; just contact us with your written opinion.
I, John Spritzler, the editor of this website, have written about voting in the following articles:
"Do Your Civic Duty and VOTE!" (satirical but very serious too)
Here are my thoughts about voting.
The actual way that the billionaire class (the ruling plutocracy) can be removed from power is discussed here, and it is not by voting.
While it is true that the plutocracy will not surrender its power just because of how people vote, it does not necessarily follow that there is no good reason to vote and, say, support an existing or form a new third party.
THE WRONG WAY TO ENTER THE ELECTORAL ARENA
Historically, however, entering the electoral arena has been a terrible decision for movements trying to challenge the power of the plutocracy. The reason it has been a terrible decision is because
a) the people who have done this adopted as their primary goal winning the election;
b) they believed that in order to win the election they needed to "water down" the message to avoid being "too radical" so as not to "scare the voters" away;
c) the movement therefore downplayed or abandoned entirely its militant "in the street" actions in favor of "getting the vote out," thus reassuring the plutocracy that it had little reason to fear the development of a truly revolutionary movement and hence little reason to give in to the movement's demands in order to prevent a real revolution;
d) the movement, to avoid "scaring the voters," also failed to explicitly aim to remove the plutocracy from power; and
e) the plutocracy remained in power and so ordinary people remained on the treadmill of defeat.
If one asks why this series of disastrous decisions were made by people entering the electoral arena, one sees that it is because of a belief in a FALSE PREMISE. This false premise is the belief that the vast majority of Americans are OPPOSED to removing the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor, i.e., that most Americans are opposed to egalitarian revolution. This belief is simply factually wrong.
The fact is that the vast majority of Americans would LOVE an egalitarian revolution (once they learn what that means), and the truth of this is illustrated by this video and this related video of "people-on-the-street" interviews in five neighborhoods of Boston showing that people want an egalitarian revolution and would support an organization advocating egalitarian revolution more, not less, because it advocated egalitarian revolution. More evidence that most people want an egalitarian revolution is the fact that most people who read "This I Believe" sign it.
THE RIGHT WAY TO ENTER THE ELECTORAL ARENA
If the people in a movement knew that the false premise was false, and the movement entered the electoral arena fully understanding that most Americans want an egalitarian revolution and would support an organization (or candidate) more, not less, if it explicitly advocated egalitarian revolution, what kind of electoral activity would this lead to?
I believe that in this case the movement's electoral activity would be entirely different from anything we have yet seen.
First, the movement would be totally honest about the fact that the aim is egalitarian revolution and the fact that the plutocracy will not give up power just because of how people vote.
Second, the movement would see its primary short term goal as increasing the number of people who support, and are active in, the movement explicitly advocating egalitarian revolution.
Third, the movement would evaluate its electoral activity strictly in terms of how well it contributed to achieving the above short term goal.
One way that an electoral campaign might do this is by demonstrating to the general public that lots of people voted for an explicitly egalitarian revolutionary candidate (or ballot question referendum). This would give the general public confidence that the false premise discussed above was in fact false, that in wanting an egalitarian revolution they are part of the vast majority. This is important for removing the plutocracy from power by the non-voting means discussed here. Of course the plutocracy may very well rig the vote count to make sure that it looks like advocating egalitarian revolution scares the public away. This is why it's not so obvious that entering the electoral arena is a good idea, even if the movement has rejected the false premise that made it a terrible idea in the past.
Another way an electoral campaign might strengthen an explicitly egalitarian revolutionary movement is by attracting the attention of the general public to the movement's speakers and message during the pre-voting campaign phase more than could happen otherwise. This too would have to be examined to see if it was actually true or not.
One big problem with an honest egalitarian revolutionary electoral campaign is that it necessarily sends a contradictory pair of messages to the public. On the one hand, it explicitly says that the ruling plutocracy CANNOT be removed from power by voting but nevertheless it must somehow be removed from power to make a substantially better world. On the other hand, by its very participation in an electoral system that purports to be the way "We The People" exercise our sovereign power over the government, it implicitly sends the opposite message that voting really IS the way to make whatever changes we need and it CAN remove the plutocracy from power. This dilemma cannot be ignored. It is another reason why entering the electoral arena may be a bad idea even if the false premise of former times is rejected.
One argument some people make for entering the electoral arena is that it is possible to actually get an egalitarian revolutionary elected, especially in a local town or city election, and even--who knows?--it may be possible to elect an egalitarian revolutionary to be the president of the United States.
Let's first consider the office of president of the United States. The plutocracy would more than likely do one or more of the following if an egalitarian revolutionary was coming close to being elected president:
1. Rig the vote to prevent the egalitarian revolutionary candidate from winning.
2. Assassinate the egalitarian revolutionary president (as the CIA assassinated JFK, whose "crime" was merely trying to end the Cold War).
3. Bribe the candidate to make him/her stop advocating egalitarian revolution.
4. Threaten the candidate (or his/her loved ones) with violence to make him/her stop advocating egalitarian revolution (remind the candidate of what happened to JFK).
With respect to local elections, it may indeed be possible to elect an egalitarian revolutionary. But whatever good EGALITARIAN (i.e., in violation of the rules of class inequality, and based on egalitarian values and principles as described here) legislation or executive orders one might imagine that person accomplishing would happen only because of the egalitarian revolutionary movement's "in the street" mass actions and would be equally likely to be accomplished with ONLY those "in the street" actions without the support of a politician in office.
The way to see how true this is is to consider that the "in the street" militant actions of the Civil Rights Movement forced Congress to abolish the Jim Crow laws even though the members of congress who ended up voting for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were mostly racists. These racists didn't vote to abolish Jim Crow because they had become anti-racist; they did it because the movement "in the street" that was growing increasingly revolutionary made them afraid of what would happen if they did NOT vote to end Jim Crow. Similarly, the notorious pro-Vietnam War Richard Nixon withdrew U.S. troops from Vietnam ignominiously in 1975. Why? It wasn't because he became a peacenik. It was because the anti-war movement "in the streets" (especially the refusal of GIs in Vietnam to fight the Viet Cong!) forced him to end the war.
The other side of the coin is this. When a local government body does decide to do something very good that the higher-up authorities disapprove of, the higher-up authorities have the power to step in to reverse the lower level decision. For example, in 2005 the Somerville (Massachusetts) Divestment Project collected 1500 signatures on a petition to the Somerville Aldermen (City Councillors) asking them to divest Somerville investments (the Retirement Fund) from Israel bonds. The Alderman were persuaded by the SDP arguments, and a majority of them voted to divest. But then higher-up authorities such as Congressmen and other politicians in the state (and the Israeli Consul for New England) read the "Riot Act" to the Somerville Aldermen, and the Aldermen reconsidered and voted NOT to divest from Israel.
Nonetheless, it is indeed possible to imagine that an elected egalitarian in a local political office could do things that would help the "in the streets" revolutionary egalitarian movement. First, winning the election on an egalitarian revolutionary platform would, itself, strengthen people's confidence that they are not alone in their egalitarian revolutionary aspirations. Second, the elected egalitarian revolutionary could sponsor truly EGALITARIAN legislation that, even if never implemented, would still make the vision of an egalitarian society in which class inequality is abolished more concrete in people's minds. Third, the election of egalitarian revolutionaries to local offices would help persuade a critical mass of members of the military forces that the egalitarian revolutionary movement is strong and determined enough so that it makes sense for soldiers to refuse orders to attack that movement and even use their weapons to help defend it from those who would attack it violently.
When we remove the plutocracy from power it will not be because we have egalitarian revolutionary politicians in office (as we very well might have). It will be because we did this.
* Which is to say that billionaires are not billionaires because of being elected, even though now and then one does run for office and wins the election. A billionaire's power comes from being rich, not from being elected.