U.S. elections for the Congress, Senate and presidency that require millions of dollars to be considered a serious candidate are undemocratic. To inform the public, U.S. elections require coverage in the mainstream corporate media. The corporate media refuses to cover candidates that do not support U.S. empire and capitalism. Thus, the public is uninformed of the great issues of the day and our system is undemocratic to the core.
When citizens participate in this undemocratic system by voting, they send the message that they approve of the system. They may alleviate their conscience by saying they are trying to change the system from within, but that is impossible. No candidate will be vetted and given the center stage in U.S. elections that does not support the continuation of U.S. empire and capitalism.
That leaves voting for third party and write-in candidates that by definition have no chance of winning. But the voter who votes for them is in effect saying that the system is okay, because he is allowed to register his objection to the system by voting for someone ignored by the media, completely unknown to the majority of U.S. voters and who has zero chance of winning.
Voting for unfunded candidates ignored by the media and believing that this is an exercise in democracy is analogous to equating a citizen’s individual free speech rights to say whatever you think on a street corner with the power of the corporate media to completely ignore your views and those of anyone challenging U.S. empire and capitalism.
A thought came to me some time back that revealed the depth of the problem. I have never seen a criticism of U.S. capitalism in our mainstream corporate media. I have also never seen a criticism of U.S. empire, either. Lack of a criticism of U.S. empire is partially attributable to the fact that we as a nation do not admit to being an empire. But we are certainly proud of our capitalism.
The current global economic cataclysm is not an anomaly. It is the 11th major financial disaster visited on the poor and working class by U.S. capitalism: Panic of 1785–1788, Panic of 1792, Panic of 1819–1822, Panic of 1837–1843, Panic of 1857–1861, Great Depression or Panic of 1873–1878, Panic of 1893–1897, Panic of 1907, Great Depression 1929–1941, Recession of the mid 1970s and now the Neoliberal Depression of 2008-? On average every 21 years U.S. capitalism provides the people with the gift of personal and financial disaster for many and severe hardship for many more.
One would think that in a functioning democracy, the economic system responsible for such regular disasters would come into question. Not in the U.S. and that, of course. begs the question: can the U.S. be a functioning democracy, if criticism of the country’s core values is allowed only insignificantly on the street corner and not in the mainstream corporate media, where it can be seen and examined by all?
A dilemma is a situation in which one is forced to choose between equally reprehensible alternatives. U.S. elections are such a dilemma for people of conscience. I choose to confront the dilemma with a rejection of an illegal, immoral system. Rejection and non-participation in such a system does not mean that I drop out and do nothing. On the contrary, I participate in weekly public protests, other scheduled protests, write letters to the editor and guest columns (more than 100 published in five years), write articles for online sites and support actual participatory democracy at the Indiana University Northwest Social Justice Club’s Annual Participatory Democracy Conference (April 22 & 23, 2011).
I don’t find fault with others for confronting the dilemma by voting. I voted in every federal election for more than four decades, until I finally decided to stop in 2010. I look forward to comments from those who can show how voting in a rigged system will stop the crimes of U.S. empire and U.S. capitalism.
I look forward to a future with actual democratic elections in the U.S. and will be the first in line at the polls when this happens.
Nick Egnatz is a Vietnam veteran. He has been actively protesting our government’s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named “Citizen of the Year” for Northwest Indiana in 2006 for his peace activism by the National Association of Social Workers. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.