The Disenfranchised

September 21, 2004

by Bill Foster

The very fact that so much time and energy is spent exhorting people to vote should put us on our guard.

After all, it wouldn't be necessary to cajole, threaten or bribe people if voting really made a difference in their lives. People would eagerly vote if they felt that it would cut their taxes, or prevent their sons and daughters from going to war or guarantee their retirement income or health coverage. Humans, by nature, need to and want to effect their social environment. But the plain fact is that the vast majority of Americans cannot effect anything by voting. We are disenfranchised.

And I do not just mean the tens of millions who are, de jure, denied the right to vote - the millions of immigrants, the millions of black Americans who have been convicted of felonies because of their skin color and are barred from voting, or the 16 and 17 year olds. These facts alone are enough to prove that, under the present system, voting is not a human right and that the people are not the sovereign power.

But the problem is much more than this. For example, as the last Presidential election demonstrated so vividly, the capitalists count the votes anyway they wish. Since the government has lied to us, robbed us, repressed us, etc. for so long, it would make no sense to believe a word it says.

In fact, the capitalists have rigged the electoral system in a way to completely deny the vast majority of Americans, any choice, any say-so. They have rigged the system by guarantying that the Democratic and Republican parties have a monopoly over the selection and nomination of candidates. And since both of these parties are bought-and-paid-for by the big corporations, the capitalists are guaranteed to win the elections while the working people are guaranteed to lose.

And this point must be insisted upon. Since the people are denied a role in the nomination and selection of candidates, they really are denied any right to vote - to elect representatives of their choosing. We are only given a "choice" between Lucifer, the Republican, and the Devil, the Democrat.

What after all are Kerry and Bush "debating?" They are debating the best way to wage the war in Iraq and the "war against terrorism." The tens and hundreds of millions of Americans who want peace are written out of the "debate" altogether. Bush and Kerry are "debating" the best way to strengthen the FBI, the CIA and the government's apparatus of repression, arguing over just what steps should be taken to undermine the people's democratic rights. The people are not a party to this debate; on the contrary our rights will be attacked by whoever wins. Kerry and Bush are debating just how much to cut taxes for big business and how to best help the capitalists rob the public treasury. Those of us who are not rich capitalists are left out of this debate as well.

The fact is that the vast majority of Americans are disenfranchised.

In the current elections, there is no space for those who are opposed to war and imperialism, to racism and repression, to poverty and exploitation.

The demand of the times and the real challenge of the elections is precisely to help organize the independent political movement which gives expression to the aspirations and interests of the tens of millions - no, the hundreds of millions of Americans - who are locked out of the current system.