Democracy’s Last Stand: The Rule of the Non-Voting Majority and Where It Has Led Us

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by Stephen Wing

Not voting because the system is corrupt? I’m afraid you have it backward. The system is corrupt because of people not voting. Non-voters are the majority. They decide every election. Not voting is a vote for the way things are. The rich, white and powerful are targeting your right to vote because they know your vote counts, whether you believe it or not. 

Not voting because you don’t like the candidates? Politics is a game of strategy, not a morality contest. Vote for the candidate who can be most useful to your strategic goals, which means one who can realistically win. Churchgoing fundamentalists gleefully vote for the most immoral candidate in U.S. history to advance their agenda. 

Not voting because the issues in campaign ads don’t affect you? Those are not the real issues. The Republicans carefully hide their true agenda – to roll back every law and regulation that limits their wealth and power. Your vote is all that stands in the way of their dream of a democracy-free America.

Not voting because Netflix and iTunes and ESPN take up all your time? Life is not a spectator sport. We’ve all grown up taking for granted Social Security, unemployment, food stamps, worker safety, consumer protection, public schools, minimum wage, environmental regulations, and so much more. But these were all victories won by voting, and every one of them can be taken away. 

Not voting because one vote won’t make much difference either way? Democracy starts long before Election Day. Join a campaign – any campaign – and amplify your voice by persuading others to vote your way. If you can’t support any of the candidates, join one of the progressive organizations campaigning just to get out the vote. (See links below.)

Not voting because the candidates you vote for disappoint you when they win? Democracy doesn’t end after Election Day. The right-wing extremists never let up the pressure on the people they elect. Vote to elect strategically useful candidates – then keep up the pressure through letters and phone calls, marches and demonstrations.

Not voting because you refuse to take sides in a power struggle between Tweedledum and Tweedledee? In 2020, not voting is a vote for a one-party authoritarian state. Obviously we can’t rely on corporate Democrats to push through a Green New Deal or Medicare for All, cut the military budget, end police impunity or dark money PACs. But if the Republicans win, all of these possibilities are off the table, probably for good, and we’ll be fighting to save what little freedom we have left. 

Not voting? Donald Trump appreciates your support!

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Despite their moral shortcomings, for the most part the Democrats have played the game called “democracy.” But the Republicans are playing a completely different game, with no rules at all except to win at any cost. Their entire strategy consists of lies, gerrymandering, voter suppression, intimidation, and more lies. False allegations of cheating by Democrats are the key to the Republican plan to win by cheating. 

These allegations will rise to a crescendo on Election Night because of uncounted absentee ballots. I am a Bernie supporter, but have no problem settling for Joe Biden when the alternative is Donald Trump. Only a landslide Biden victory on Nov. 3 can head off post-election mayhem in the streets and in the courts. This is why voting early, whether in person (prudently masked) or absentee, is the most strategic choice. 

Even more important than defeating Trump is to flip the six seats the Democrats need to take back the Senate. If Biden wins, we’ll need a progressive majority in Congress to keep up the pressure. And if Trump wins, taking away his majority in the Senate is a must. The next time he’s impeached, he could face an actual trial. President Pence would not be much of an improvement, but he would enter the Oval Office knowing that he too will be held accountable to the rule of law.  

Georgia has not one but two incumbent Republican Senators on the ballot. Sen. David Perdue faces Jon Ossoff, who won the Democratic primary. Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces 21 candidates of various parties in a special election for Johnny Isakson’s old seat. The strategic choice is Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of M.L.K.’s old church, Ebenezer Baptist, and a staunch progressive. 

Other Senate candidates that need your support are Mark Kelly in Arizona, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, Barbara Bollier in Kansas, Amy McGrath in Kentucky (facing Mitch McConnell), Sara Gideon in Maine (facing Susan Collins), Steve Bullock in Montana, Cal Cunningham in N.C., and Jaime Harrison in S.C. (facing Lindsay Graham). You don’t have to live in their state to volunteer with their campaigns or make a donation.

Two of the five seats on Georgia‘s Public Service Commission are also up for grabs. Charged with regulating our utilities, the Republican-dominated P.S.C. has instead rubber-stamped the unneeded nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle, along with the extra 10% Georgia Power has added to your bill to pay for them. The project is five years behind schedule and 100% over budget, but Georgia Power’s profits are hitting record highs. Your vote for Democrats Bobby Bryant and Daniel Blackman could help to upset this corrupt extortion scheme.

Though I call politics a game, it is a deadly serious one. Its casualties include 215,000 lives lost to COVID-19 and countless victims of racist police violence. The moral stakes are high: not just our country’s future, but the future of the entire planet. Ask the families who have lost their homes to wildfires in California and hurricanes in Louisiana, or the refugees fleeing drought in Central America. 

The Republicans have known for decades that they would eventually become a minority. Their long-term game plan for minority rule depends on winning this election, and they will do whatever it takes. If they succeed, they will do whatever it takes to permanently lock in their victory. If you think racist violence, economic inequality and planetary ecocide are bad now, trust me, you do not want to see a country under permanent Republican “law and order.” Trump’s threats to lock up his political opponents could become a grim reality.

True, under Democrats and Republicans alike, we have long been ruled by a white, male minority – the “One Percent.” Conservative billionaires, neoliberal neocons, and multinational corporations have invested heavily in both parties for years. We owe moral allegiance to neither party. But from a strategic standpoint they are not identical. 

Today’s Republicans are a coalition of extremists. The fundamentalist fanatics who lust for their own version of Sharia Law. The fossil-fuel profiteers who are addicted to burning carbon. The gun-toting whites who cling to our racist past. The ultrawealthy who resent paying any taxes at all to support public infrastructure, schools, the disabled, the elderly. Their right-wing extremist goals are unpopular, so their campaign ads focus on misrepresenting their opponents as left-wing extremists.

This gives the Democrats no choice but to appeal to the rest of us, with a little push from Bernie. That means embracing diversity, protecting the middle class, expanding affordable health care, welcoming immigrants, keeping abortion legal, purging racist cops, defending the right to vote, and most importantly, cutting the feedback loops that feed climate change. These goals are not extreme, as Trump wants his devotees to believe. They represent the vital needs of the vast majority – the 99 Percent.

The One Percent has more dollars to promote its agenda than we do. But we have more votes. The one thing the 99 Percent has never tried is 100 percent voter turnout. In 2020, the alternatives are so stark and the stakes so high that even the non-voting majority might turn out to vote. And if they keep turning out in every election to come, things might start to change. We won’t know if we don’t try.

Voting Democrats into power isn’t the solution, only a strategy. Democrats gave us the New Deal, the Voting Rights Act, legalized abortion and gay marriage, but it was Richard Nixon who gave us the E.P.A. In every case it was not the politicians who made it happen but people voting, boycotting, marching, filing lawsuits. 

Whether the corporate Democrats keep their promises after Election Day is up to us. Instead of settling back on the couch expecting Presiden Biden to magically turn into Bernie, we need to turn up the pressure. This is a strategic opportunity to take over the Democratic Party for the working and middle classes, just as right-wing extremists have taken over the G.O.P. for the One Percent. 

If the Republicans have their way, we are now in the final round of the game. The trophy they are salivating over is a chance to roll back all the gains democracy has made since the New Deal of the 1930s – maybe all the way back to 1868 and the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection under the law. This is the legal basis for all civil rights legislation. If we don’t vote massively and decisively for democracy in 2020, we may not get another chance. 

The only way we can protect the freedom we still have is to step into the game. All of us. Now. There is no neutral place to stand on the sidelines and watch. Nor is there any guarantee that we can win – but the only alternative is to concede defeat. By not voting, for example. Or by casting a nobly symbolic vote for the Greens. It’s democracy’s last stand in the U.S.A. If we choose not to participate, fascism American-style wins without a fight. Checkmate! 

Thanks for doing whatever you can do. 

Further Reading

Link #1: How Trump plans to use Election Night uncertainty to claim victory, Barton Gellman in The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/

Link #2: How Trump can lose both the popular and electoral votes and still Constitutionally win re-election, Thom Hartmann at Buzzflash:

https://buzzflash.com/articles/worst-fear-trump-constitutionally-could-remain-president-even-if-he-loses-popular-and-electoral-vote-thom-hartmann-explains

Link #3: How a right-wing coup could legally establish minority rule in the United States, Matthew Yglesias at Vox:

https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/65295-focus-minority-rule-in-america

Link #4: How Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination signals the intent to overrule democracy in 2020 and beyond, an interview with Lisa Graves by Bill Moyers:

https://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/65596-will-amy-coney-barrett-stand-by-her-man-hes-betting-a-second-term-on-it

Progressive organizations campaigning for maximum voter turnout: 

MoveOn:  https://act.moveon.org/survey/mobilizetowin?source=dailykos

Sierra Club:  https://www.sierraclubindependentaction.org/

Daily Kos:  https://www.dailykos.com/gotv?pm_source=DSK_House_1&pm_medium=web&pm_campaign=ad-gotv-540×324-B1

Swing Left:  https://swingleft.org/take-action?s=u

Turnout2020:  https://turnout2020.org/

Another one focused on stopping voter suppression:  https://protectthevote.net

And another recruiting poll workers for election day:  https://www.powerthepolls.org

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