More Election Day Propaganda

A friend forwarded this email to me.  It was sent to him by a friend of his, as a way of urging him to vote.

Dear E—,
Today is Election Day. The Tea Partiers and the cynics are hoping we all decide not to do anything and stay home.
Today Common Dreams published the transcript of a speech Bill Moyers gave this past Saturday night as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series at Boston University.
It’s rather long but we encourage you to read the whole speech.
Here’s the final paragraph:

But let’s be clear: Even with most Americans on our side, the odds are long. Money fights hard, and it fights dirty. Think Rove. The Chamber. The Kochs. We may lose. It all may be impossible. But it’s OK if it’s impossible. You heard me right. I’ve learned something about this from the former farmworker and labor organizer Baldemar Velasquez. The members of his Farm Labor Organizing Committee are a long way from the world of K Street lobbyists. But they took on the Campbell Soup Company – and won. They took on North Carolina growers – and won, using transnational organizing tactics that helped win Velasquez a “genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation. And now they’re taking on no less than R. J. Reynolds Tobacco and one of its principle financial sponsors, JPMorgan-Chase. Some people question the wisdom of taking on such powerful interests, but here’s what Velasquez says: “It’s OK if it’s impossible; it’s OK! Now I’m going to speak to you as organizers. Listen carefully. The object is not to win. That’s not the objective. The object is to do the right and good thing. If you decide not to do anything, because it’s too hard or too impossible, then nothing will be done, and when you’re on your death bed, you’re gonna say, ‘I wish I had done something.’ But if you go and do the right thing NOW, and you do it long enough good things will happen-something’s gonna happen. Shades of Howard Zinn!”

I hope you will join all of us in the Common Dreams community in defying the polls and the cynics by going to vote. We can’t give up “because it’s too hard or too impossible”.
And no matter the results of today’s elections, Common Dreams will be here for you going forward, bringing you the breaking news and views from the best progressive voices of our time.
“Do the right thing NOW” and go vote. Good things will happen,
Craig Brown
for the whole Common Dreams team

First of all, here we have the typically lame progressive stratagem of attempting to motivate their base of voters by conjuring up the dread twin specter of the Tea Partier and the cynic.  You see, because the enemy isn’t a bankrupt political system, it’s a (largely) media-created and driven non-movement and their apparent allies, those dastardly malcontents who are tactless enough to notice the steaming turd on the carpet that everyone else is desperately trying to ignore.

Secondly, I’m not sure what the passage by Bill Moyers quoted above has to do with voting.  He’s talking about a labor organizer who won concessions from some big businesses by “using transnational organizing tactics”—not by dutifully plodding into the voting booth and hoping that one of the two available corporate-sponsored candidates would actually do something to help his cause.

(I didn’t read the Moyers piece, so I’m not sure if he’s actually endorsing voting; it seems, from a brief skim, that he’s just talking about “organizing.”  Although it wouldn’t be entirely out of character for him to go on and on about the corruption of the system and then turn around and extol the virtues of “democracy.”  Moyers strikes me as a well-meaning and serious guy, but ultimately a true believer in the US government and its institutions.)

But nevermind, just get out and vote.  Good things will happen, says the guy from Common Dreams.  He got the “Dreams” part right, anyway.

And for additional reading enjoyment, check out this compendium of progressive voting scolds.

The Tyranny of Something or Other

You may argue that “society” collectively decides what to permit and not to permit, based on some vision of the “common good.” But remember those high school civics texts with the stuff about government exercising only powers delegated by the governed, government’s function being to protect the rights of the individual, and all that? Well, you can’t delegate a power you don’t have. And government can’t protect a right, on your behalf, that you don’t possess as an individual.

So you can’t delegate to government the power to tell other people what foods or drugs to ingest, or who to have sex with, unless you, as an individual, already have the right to boss other people around. You as an individual, or in acting together with any number of other individuals, cannot delegate to government the power to boss people around against their will in regard to peaceful and consensual actions, unless you own them. “Society” has a right to criminalize peaceful, voluntary behavior only if each individual is the property of society as a whole.

Kevin Carson

This reminded me of something I heard the other day on NPR (or it might have been the BBC World News; I can’t find the story on either website) about the tedious legal “wrangling” over the California court’s overturning of Prop 8 (the ban on gay marriage).  Some proponent of the ban—a politician, I think—was arguing that the reversal was somehow a violation of the Constitution and that the voters were getting screwed (or maybe it was a violation of the Constitution because the voters were getting screwed).

 Two things:

1) I love when politicians who (pretty much all of them) generally couldn’t be bothered to wipe their asses with the Constitution suddenly discover the sacred scrap of parchment when it suits their purposes.

2) I love when politicians who (pretty much all of them) generally couldn’t give two shits what “the voters” want suddenly discover the value of democracy during an election year.

For what it’s worth, I’m skeptical of both majoritarian rule and Constitution fetishism.  I’m with Carson in that I place individual rights above the will of the majority, regardless of what the Constitution has to say (or not say) about the matter.  Not that I expect anyone in power to care.

Manning the Gate

Matt Yglesias on why it’s bad that Kentucky voters nominated a “lunatic” like Rand Paul to run for the Senate, even though it helps the Dems’ chances of winning the election:

My view of how politics works is that there are very strong forces at work in the two party system driving it toward long-term equilibrium. Ideological extremism, tactical blundering, bad luck, etc. can hurt a party and reduce its odds of gaining power. But ultimately the odds don’t ever stray all that far from 50-50. So it matters a lot what’s going on. I’m sure David Axelrod is hoping Sarah Palin gets the Presidential nomination in 2012 since she’ll be somewhat easier to beat than the alternatives. I’m hoping the GOP nominates someone who stands some chance of doing a decent job if he or she wins.

First off, of course he doesn’t bother elaborating on just what exactly makes Rand Paul a “lunatic”; this is supposed to be self-evident, I guess.  (In fairness, I don’t read Yggie very often, so he may well have gone into this before.  Also, I’ll admit I don’t know much about Paul either—I’ve seen a video of one of his campaign ads, which was peddling the usual conservative mix of jingoism and xenophobia—so Yglesias’ assessment may well be correct.)  However, my suspicion, based in part on the passage quoted above, is that what makes Paul a nutjob is that his views fall outside of the pathetically narrow confines of “acceptable opinion,” which, when you get down to it, is the line of shit that people like Yglesias are peddling—“long term equilibrium,” “odds [that] don’t ever stray all that far from 50-50”—in other words, a mushy, middle-of-the-road, vanilla-flavored centrism that eschews any even slightly controversial position for fear of being viewed as some kind of “extremist.”  This is the way things are, and the way things ought to be.  Opposition to imperial wars and the national security state?  How about idiotic drug laws that imprison thousands of people for a victimless crime?  Nah, those are positions that only a nutbar would take.  Back to the center folks, between the painted lines.  I mean, why not dispense with the charade altogether and just come out and say it: What we need is a one-party system—of an enlightened, “progressive” variety, of course.