We Do Not Have the Right to Vote

October 3, 2006

by Bill Foster

Recently, a friend expressed shock when he heard that I wasn't planning to "vote."

I answered him by saying neither he, nor any of the working people, were going to vote either. The people in our country are denied the right to vote; we have no say-so whatsoever in choosing our representatives much less in deciding the policies of the government. We must face up to these facts in order to decide on the best ways to advance our interests in the political arena.

Even setting aside the fact that the Republicans and Democrats steal elections by miscounting votes, the people have no right to vote because the Republican and Democratic parties have a virtual monopoly on the nomination of candidates. These parties are guaranteed ballot status across the country while independent candidates and other political parties are generally unable to get on the ballot due to legal restrictions. On top of this, of course, the Republicans and Democrats, both financed by the capitalists, monopolize the media and have huge financial resources at their disposal. Other candidates or parties, even if they are able to get on the ballot, are systematically denied access to the media and the electorate.

Thus, since the people cannot choose the candidates, they cannot choose the representatives. The elections boil down to a referendum on which particular representatives of the capitalist class will hold office for the next few years; the working people can "choose" which master will crack the whip over them.

But this is not all. The entire electoral system is rigged to insure the monopoly of the Republicans and Democrats. For example, the election boards are controlled by the Republicans and Democrats and voting districts are blatantly manipulated. Most voting districts are absolutely dominated by just one party; in any given election, only a few seats across the country can possibly change from Republican to Democratic or vice versa. The city of Chicago is guaranteed to elect Democrats while certain downstate Illinois districts are guaranteed to elect Republicans. What is more, the Byzantine structure of government - with varying terms for Governors, Congressional representatives, Senators, President, etc. - makes it impossible for the government as a whole (and its policies) to be changed in one election, even if an overwhelming majority of people vote one way.

The capitalist class uses the current electoral system to create the illusion that people are participating and giving their consent to the government. But the reality is that under the present system all the power is ceded to the politicians. The people's role is reduced to voting once every 2 or 4 years for one or another candidate handpicked by the rich. Once the polls close, the "elected" officials are free to rule as they choose and there is no way for the people to hold the politicians accountable. In fact, capitalist politicians are perhaps best known as liars whose campaign promises mean nothing.

No, the fact is that we do not have the right to vote.

II.

The capitalist elections are not only a fraud and an illusion. They are a real attack on the working people.

Not only the monopoly-controlled media, but also union officials, the "leaders" of various anti-war coalitions, women's organizations, minority rights groups, etc. bombard workers and activists with the need to vote.

The entire charade aims at de-politicizing people. Instead of holding political parties accountable for their deeds, instead of looking into the intensity and causes of the problems facing us, instead of discussing real solutions, people are fed the pabulum of "good guys" versus "bad guys." Instead of sticking by their convictions, people are told to surrender to the "lesser evil." Instead of building their own organizations, people are told to devote time and money to building up the organizations of the capitalists. Instead of developing our mass struggles to advance our interests, people are diverted to the ballot box.

Few things make me madder, than hearing the riot act read to people: "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain or participate."

In response, I call upon people to use the election period to do something positive - to discuss the issues, to stand up for peace, for the rights of the people, for an end to poverty and exploitation, to denounce the capitalist politicians, to reach out to others and join the ongoing struggles and to build up the independent political party of the workers and people.