Election Farce 2000
by Joe Auciello
Makers of public opinion are everywhere hard at work, in newspapers, magazines, television, and radio, busily proclaiming precisely the wrong lesson from the Florida fuzzy-math fiasco. By the time these words appear in print, the sophomoric blathering of pundits and politicians will have hardened into received wisdom, a kind of ruling class dogma, beyond challenge or dispute, at least in respectable society.
We’ve heard it a million times already, and we will hear it a million times more: “Every vote counts.” It’s the sacred mantra of American politics, solemnly intoned by the priests of public opinion, self-appointed spokesmen (mostly) for that entity known as “the American people.”
Usually a second commandment followed the first: “No matter who you support, be sure to go out and vote for the candidate of your choice.” This year the corporate clergy will have to revise and adjust this last bit of secular theology so that the foolish faithful not be misled to squander their votes for third-party candidates like Ralph Nader, who tried but failed to obtain national ballot status for a legitimate reform party.
To say “Get out and vote because every ballot counts” means to swear allegiance to the corporate political system, to believe in the unbelievable, to cast hopes among the hopeless. The corollary belief, of course, is: “This is your government — of, by, and for the people.” It’s the mass illusion necessary to keep the political system alive.
Despite the pervasive patriotic cheerleading, for decades voter turnout has declined, averaging about fifty per cent in most recent presidential elections. The people who say, “They’re all the same,” to explain why they stayed away from the voting booth are entirely right. Democrats and Republicans are two parts of one party, and neither one has anything to offer us.
Your Vote Doesn’t Count
Your vote does not count for much at all. For one thing, the Florida mess shows that unusual irregularities are widespread and regular. Ballots are lost, destroyed, miscounted, mistaken, not counted, or double-counted. Machines may not yet possess human intelligence, but they do show human prejudice: the darker the skin color, the less likely the vote will be tabulated correctly, if at all.
The fiasco of the Florida tallying is only a loose thread of the political fabric. Pull it and the whole garment will come undone. The vote count in six other states was close enough to justify a recount, but Bush and Gore, who already agree on so much, agreed again to let the results stand, no matter how flawed they may be. The potential political fallout would be too great. Recounts in several states would turn up more suspicious errors and reveal the rottenness of the system, further eroding illusions in American political democracy, the very illusions necessary for the system to survive.
But even if all the ballots were recorded accurately and fairly, our vote would still not count. We would first need someone to vote for, that is, a political party with a program that will represent the interests of the majority of the people by challenging the system of capitalism.
The Labor Party, even though it is small and its program is not socialist, is nevertheless a step toward political independence for the working class, the huge majority of Americans. Although the Labor Party did not run its own candidate for president, it represents a positive step away from the parties of the ruling rich.
Choosing Which of the Bosses Will Crush Us
The American electoral system is what V.I. Lenin, the architect of the Russian Revolution, called “bourgeois parliamentarism.” It’s a system which merely offers the chance “to decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament…” (State and Revolution).
The candidates of corporate America don’t know us and can’t represent us. That’s why they take polls to find out what we think. Their personal wealth, their lifetime of material advantage, and their unshakable loyalty to the bosses who buy them, forever separates the politicians from the people.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the Industrial Workers of the World stated the fundamental truth about American politics: “The working class and the employer class have nothing in common.”
In Electoral Farce 2000 the pundits and politicians have less insight than the comedians. The “Tonight Show’s” Jay Leno received enthusiastic applause when he said, “See, neither of these guys is electable. We’ve been saying that since the beginning…”
Leno also said: “This election has proved one thing: Your vote counts — and it counts over and over, and then they count it again.”
In years to come, after the next president is somehow selected, the election of 2000 will be cited repeatedly as proof positive that “every vote counts.” But the comics are right — they count our vote the way they want to because, until we have a party of our own, our vote hardly counts at all.