It’s back-to-basics time, folks. Here I’ll present my reasoning for the following thesis, and then you’re invited to comment on an advertising idea I’ve been playing with.
For the ordinary American, under ordinary conditions, there is almost NEVER ANY reason to register or vote with one of the “major” (Dem or Rep) parties. (I personally recommend Green registration if it’s available in your state.)
Let’s spell this out for the noobs, just starting with the first election that I remember paying much attention to:
1968: Gene McCarthy, with a somewhat critical position on LBJ’s policy of escalation, was able to mobilize a considerable number of feet on the street to threaten Johnson’s nomination, prompting the POTUS to withdraw from the election. This impressive “people power” campaign was quickly eclipsed by the star power and money behind RFK.
RFK’s assassination might have been the boilerplate “lone nut” official story, or there might have been powerful people behind it. We’ll never know. If RFK had taken office, his foreign policy might or might not have been noticeably different from Nixon’s. We’ll never know.
But one thing we know for sure:
A somewhat genuine grassroots campaign was easily overshadowed by established power. This is the usual story in the big parties. It’s played out in different ways, but the result is always the same. No matter who takes office, the permanent government’s policies change little. When they do change a bit for the better, a “popular” uprising against such changes is usually orchestrated by the corporate media, so that it all swings back pretty soon.
When real change happens, it’s due to a social movement quite outside elections. Rulers make major changes only when a country threatens to become ungovernable. Elections might eventually reflect that social movement, but it’s the last stage of the process.
Playing along with their script in the electoral system only proves how cooperative we are. To the degree to which the rulers care what we think at all, they will notice only one thing in our voting behavior: how much we refuse to cooperate in the system. That means voting for “third” parties and the occasional “independent”.
My own choice has been the Green Party. I have considerable respect for the positions of the Peace & Freedom party on the issues, but P&F exists only in California, as far as I know, hence only the GP seems to have a chance of ever building something nationwide.
Now, let’s take registration and voting one at a time…
I can think of several reasons to register with a particular party:
(1) You want to vote in that party’s primary, and you don’t
happen to live in a state with “open” primaries.
(2) You want to add one to the numbers on your side
when politicos look at the relative registration numbers
(3) You want to receive robocalls and other charming
communications aimed at members of that party.
(4) You’re something of a political activist, and that party
seems to have to coolest people to hang with.
(5) You’re running for office, and want to use that party’s
(6) You’re running for office, and want to solicit support from
members of that party.
The last two are a special situation, of course. Notice that my thesis is about ordinary people, i.e., those who do not run for office with any hope of winning.
So let’s take the others:
(1) Voting in the Primary — You registered Dem and voted for Kucinich. See how much that did for you? What? Two presidential primaries in succession? Did you expect a different result the second time? Did they even let him into any debates the last time around? Not even having a hot young wife could get him any play in the media. Media blackout — almost as thorough as for “third” parties.
If a candidate knows that he’s going to be ignored and lose badly, which Kucinich certainly did (He’s not stupid.) why not be ignored and lose badly without the Dem Party baggage? Kucinich himself stays a Dem to keep his congessional seat, of course. That does NOT apply to you, the voter. If you’re going to vote for a loser, vote for an honest loser.
(2) Adding to the Numbers — There’s one thing that your voter registration does for you all the time, not just at election time. It’s a constant, ongoing public opinion poll. Politicos are always looking at registration numbers. Such numbers are probably nearly as influential on policy as actual votes. If you want to be counted in this poll, register with a party that MEANS something. Got it?
(3) Being Contacted — If you want to contact a party or campaign, I’m sure everyone reading this knows how to do so. No real need to have them initiate contact with you. Being registered Dem or Rep, however, means that you fit into the usual pattern that politicos are used to working with. They know which box to put you in, and will send you robocalls and junk mail accordingly. Recently, there’s even a pattern of one party sending numerous obnoxious false-flag robocalls to the other party’s voters, hoping to alienate them from their party.
As a registered Green, you don’t fit so neatly into a box. They’re more likely to ignore you. The GP itself has little money for such things as mailings, and I like to think we have a little too much class for robocalls.
(4) Cool People — I’m the Kitchen Curmudgeon, remember. It takes a lot to get me to “like” anyone. But I’ll match Green cool against Dem or Rep cool any time. I’ll make it easy for you. Which would you rather spend a lot of time with?
Ok, let’s run through the reasons for voting a particular way:
(1) You honestly believe that candidate is the best one on the ballot (or available as a write-in), and would like your preference registered in the opinion poll called an “election”. For this purpose, there is no doubt that most people reading this would vote for the Green candidate, if there is one, if only for the symbolic value of the party.
(2) You think there’s actually a chance that your one vote could decide the election, so you’re gaming it, according to whatever godawful election system is involved, to get the less-bad result. The archetype of this would be living in a swing state and believing that the Dem is less bad than the Rep, though you would prefer the Green.
There are many other situations possible, of course, depending on which office you’re voting on and the election laws that apply to that office. But I’m talking about partisan elections here, which in California are from the state legislature on up. Your local laws may vary.
For all the partisan offices on the ballot in California, it’s likely that you could go your whole life without voting in an election where the victory margin is less than 10,000 votes. That includes primary elections. The Dems and Reps have made it that way with gerrymandering. In a way, you should feel this as a liberating thing whenever there’s a “third” party on the ballot, knowing that your vote will have no chance at all of deciding the election. Why more people don’t see it that way is beyond me.
Then there’s the question of whether there’s any real difference between the Dem and the Rep. Individual cases can vary, but the result in public policy is driven more by social movements than by who is in office.
So that’s my reasoning. You’re welcome to comment.
Now, the project
I mentioned media blackout earlier. This is a major obstacle to getting anything started when there are established interests against it. But a new medium has arisen in recent years.
Ok, I’m retired. I have more free time than most people, and I spend a certain amount of that surfing the web. There are times when it beats hell out of “500 channels and nothing on”, right? Not being the most socially skilled person in the world, it gives me a little window into what people are thinking out there without having to get too close to them. It’s also a haven for many others who are a bit short on social skills. That phrase “short on social skills” probably describes a good 90% of the population since the advent of tv and video games. But I digress….
Let’s travel chronologically through the ways that someone with something to say got it said in the past, with no money to speak of:
– Spoke it to whomever
– Composed a song or poem about it and performed it in the town square, hoping it would catch on.
– Wrote letters by hand, hoping that some publication might print them.
– Typed letters, like the above. A little faster.
– Phoned in to radio programs.
– Made mimeographs or cheap photocopies and passed them out.
The potential audience to be reached by all the methods above are dwarfed by the number of people who have seen “I Can Haz Cheezburger?“, right?
Yes, the lowly viral image — source of some of the crudest, dumbest jokes. But as Frank Zappa once said:
“It’s not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you.“
More than half the households in the U.S. now have the hardware and software to produce a “viral image”. All that’s needed is some graphics software, usually standard on a recent computer, and an idea. The idea is usually inspired by the picture. The picture might be produced by the author or stolen off the web.
In any case, all it takes is an idea that people find hilarious for a moment to get them to post it on fora, blogs, and email lists everywhere.
Now, people are very familiar with the main connotation of “green”, and it’s exploited much by the advertising world. But outside northern California, “Green Party” probably has the saliency in the American psyche that Vernor’s ginger ale has outside the Detroit area. A viral image could do a lot to raise Green registration just by making people aware of our existence. Said viral image is the Holy Grail. I have not found it. Below are a few poor attempts of my own working toward it. Please comment. Please send me your own viral images.