The Occupied Chicago Tribune is not endorsing a presidential candidate in this election… not as a publication, anyway. We don’t tend to endorse candidates, although there are exceptions. But with less than 24 hours left until Voting Day 2012, we use our last opportunity to wade into the electoral fray to ask a few of our contributors to share their thoughts on whether they plan to vote and, if so, for whom, and why – not just for president, but also judges and propositions.
Nick Burt: Jill Stein
When it comes to elections, my thoughts tend to follow Howard Zinn’s advice: “What matters is not who’s sitting in the White House. What matters is who’s sitting in.”
In few places was this more strongly demonstrated than here in Chicago, where a vibrant strike by public school teachers confronted a Democratic mayor and raised the expectations of working people across the United States. Should others build on this—and strikes at the nation’s largest employer, Wal-Mart, have enormous potential—then realistically, the workers themselves are going to win gains greater than anything that would have been passed to them by sympathetic politicians.
A strong vote in support of an elected school board, while non-binding and not even on the ballot in some wards, will provide activists some PR ammunition in their campaign for more democracy in education policy. On the other side, Prop 49, the constitutional amendment that makes it more difficult for state legislators to raise public employee pensions, pretty much scripts the apology for austerity-pushing Democratic Party politicians: “We really, really wanted to help, but the Republican minority just wouldn’t let us do it!”
As far as national elections go, I’ll pull the lever for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. I wish there were more of a movement behind her run—Stein’s campaign isn’t Eugene Debs’s in 1920, or even Ralph Nader’s in 2000—and she’ll probably earn just a fraction of a percent of the vote. But she’ll earn it as a candidate who walked the picket lines with the CTU—something that certainly can’t be said of our sitting president.
Daniel Edward Massoglia: Barack Obama
President Obama codified in law and in practice the security-surveillance state, embracing and expanding the policies once so reviled by Democrats under Bush. He copped out on a public option, took a 3-year pass on marriage equality, and effectively remained silent on widespread attempts at the state level to restrict women’s reproductive choice. Honest to goodness assassination campaign? Check. Including American teenagers? Check. Free pass to the parasitic financiers who wrecked the world economy? Double Check–in fact, have some cabinet appointments! Broken promises, bloodlust, and bullshit. A disappointment in almost every way conceivable.
Still, another term for President Obama means tens of millions of otherwise uninsured Americans, including yours truly, retain some measure of healthcare benefits, insufficient as they are. It means worker-friendly appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, a crucially important and notoriously fickle body whose predisposition to reversing its positions on partisan grounds is matched only by the degree of importance those positions have on virtually every element of day-to-day union organizing. It means a 6-3 (at least) pro-choice Supreme Court. I endorse Obama for these reasons.
Despite my star turn in this video from the somewhat-satirical mostly-anarchist group Revolutionaries 4 Romney, I don’t think a Romney win will significantly bolster radical movements in this country. The most significant protest movements of Obama’s term, Wisconsin and Occupy, topped out numbers wise, generously guesstimated, in the low hundreds of thousands. Scott Walker is still in office, Jamie Dimon is still a free man, and most anti-capitalist marches now draw hundreds if they’re lucky. And honestly, I’m just not that excited about 4-8 years of organizing with ready-to-bail liberal allies insistent on opposing the party in the White House rather than the policies themselves. In fact, I’d rather get punched in the stomach than suffer through such a pitiful exercise in hypocrisy.
From a “can you live with yourself?” standpoint, I am okay with voting for Obama in North Carolina. Because my options are “warmonger corporate stooge,” “corporate warmonger stooge,” and “can’t win,” and because there is literally no vote I can make that doesn’t result in some combination of “corporate,” “warmonger,” and “stooge,” ending up in the White House, I’m fine with voting for the one who won’t set women’s liberation back decades. It’s a compromise, yes, but I don’t feel compromised. I can’t stand Obama, but personally, I can vote despite that. If you can’t, I understand.
Rosa Trakhtensky: Jill Stein
Every day thousands of people funnel their way through criminal court rooms all over the country. In Chicago, the overwhelming majority suffer from mental illness, mostly untreated. Seventy percent of people in Cook County Jail are there for non-violent crimes. More than 5,000 people languish behind bars only because they can’t afford the bond to be released until their next hearing.
Why am I voting? Because often the decision as to whether these thousands of people end up in jail comes down to a handful of individuals: judges. Their position is only put to a vote every six years – and they need a 60 percent vote in their favor to stay on the bench.
Judge Christopher Donnelly “goes out of his way to demean people unnecessarily,” the Council of Lawyers has said. Gloria Chevere issues unnecessary warrants for people who don’t appear in court, making the system more punitive for low-income people.
Just because the majority of the judges are uncontested doesn’t mean they are qualified. In fact, they are just the latest institutional arm that is there to punish and demean people without money, people without access to mental health facilities, people who have gone through underfunded CPS schools to low-paying jobs (if any) in a city that cuts their basic services year after year and gives the money instead to companies like Sears.
Go do your civic duty and vote against the judges whose daily work is to fill already over-crowded jail cells.
And the presidential race? I’ll be voting for the one candidate that acknowledged poverty and segregation even exists: Jill Stein.
Don Washington: Jill Stein
My grandmother told a story about a brick thrown through her window. Half of the words on the note tied to it were misspelled, but one wasn’t: nigger.
Good to know that even then conservative “activists” were displaying the depth of hardcore ignorance that has come to define say the Tea Party. After all, one of their core values is tradition. The rock wasn’t meant for my grandmother – it was meant for an activist neighbor – but then again… of course it was. As she said: “It didn’t matter to asses that threw it which one of us got this message. Hatred’s blind, boy… don’t let them take anything from you. Fight them, vote.”
Fight them, vote. I hear those words every election. Fight them, vote: My grandmother did every chance she got and I do every chance I get. Now, she did not expect her vote to change the world. She was wise like a lot of people whose lives have been constrained by deep racism and base hypocrisy.
But there are thousands of variations on the phrase, “if voting mattered they’d make it illegal,” or that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, they are all the same. I am just like my grandmother: Your cynical, childish bullshit is on my last good nerve. My grandmother said: “If voting didn’t matter then they wouldn’t be so willing to kill us and keep us from voting. It’s a first step. Take the damn step, Fight them, vote.”
She said: “If all you do is vote then you don’t know a damn thing about being a citizen. You don’t got control of the bear then it’s gonna eat you.” She understood that everything good that has ever happened in this country came from the point where civil disobedience and unrest in the streets met organization. The movement’s blood and confrontation drags the elite into the only reality there is: ours, the lives of all of us who cook, clean, build, raise children, educate, love, learn and make the country possible… so fight them, vote.
Your vote is a pledge for the values that you fight for. But if it is all you do, then you are empowering a bear to eat you. Voting is the “easy” part and, damn it, people died so that you could disdainfully piss it away. Respect the bodies piled in graves all across this country by our short-sighted and evil elites. Respect the Wobblies, Suffragettes and Freedom Riders and get to the polls on your way to getting to the streets and to the tables where the powerful make decisions.
Vote, fight them so that men like Mitt Romney can’t turn us on each other while they rob us blind and call it the American Way. Vote, fight them so that President Barack Obama can’t just talk like he gives a damn about us while being in the service of evils of Creative Destruction, American Exceptionalism, Meritocracy, Market Forces, the Invisible Hand, the American Dream and endless other allusions to and about a Shining City on the Hill.
I voted for Jill Stein because I live here in Illinois and I will be in the streets and at those tables fighting the values that animate Mitt Romney and control President Barack Obama. I am in this fight “vote first” because we live in a country where warrantless wiretapping, judicially sanctioned torture, corporate greed, militarized police forces, illegal occupations and extrajudicial killings on a massive scale are the order of the day and it angers me.
If all it took to change all of this was voting then the world would be a better place already, but if you opt out of the system let me assure you that it has not “opted out” of the evil it will do to you. So vote, fight them… see you tomorrow at the polls and everyday somewhere engaged in democracy – the battle that never ends. Like the good woman said: fight them, vote.
Joe Macaré: N/A (Jill Stein)
As a permanent resident alien rather than a U.S. citizen, I’m unable to vote in either federal elections or most local ones (which is why I plan to get citizenship in time for 2015, just to get the chance to vote against Rahm).
Were I voting, however, I’d be voting for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. In a “safe” state like Illinois, this would be an easy decision, despite scaremongering to the contrary about the importance of the popular vote. In a swing state, it would require a little more soul-searching, although at this point it seems clearer than ever that Barack Obama is headed for a victory. (Bear in mind that it’s in the interests of the media and both parties to deny all available evidence and have us believe it will be a close race right until the last minute.)
But as the East Coast reels from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, any voter who acknowledges the importance of climate change as an issue – that is to say, any even moderately well-informed and rational voter – is faced with a very distinct choice. Will you vote for a candidate who spent the energy portion of the presidential debates extolling the virtues of oil, coal and pipelines, or the candidate who, having been arrested once for trying to attend a debate from which they were excluded, was arrested again while delivering supplies to the KXL tar sands pipeline blockaders in Winnsboro, Texas, some of the bravest and most necessary activists in the country? The candidate who names the war on drugs as “a failed, racist policy” and “the New Jim Crow” and calls for its end, or the candidate who laughs it off and perpetuates it? And this is all before we even mention the clear moral choice presented in the realm of foreign policy…
“I like Jill Stein in theory, but I’m a realist,” you say. Okay. Let’s say you believe that the American government and electoral system has some use and legitimacy, as opposed to being a shell game on a massive scale perpetrated by robber barons and hucksters. American presidents can serve a maximum of two terms. That means if you vote a candidate in as president, the election in which he or she runs as an incumbent is your one and only chance to give him or her a performance review.
By any clear-eyed, actually progressive set of criteria that take into account a full range of policy impacts rather than marketing slogans and talking points, Obama has failed dismally to live up to the promises of his campaign (let alone the much loftier, leftier hopes that were projected onto him). Plans to vote him in and then hold his feet to the fire during a second term are admirable in principle but – somewhat ironically, as this is what third party voters are always accused – idealistic to the point of naivety.
What motivation does Obama have to respond to this kind of pressure in his second term? The goodness of his heart, perhaps – fantasies about the president’s personality, that he is a Good Dude, a man who shares progressive values deep down despite all his explicit statements to the contrary – these illusions still linger, astonishingly.
A cold, hard look at reality should tell those progressives clinging to faith in Obama that November 6 is time to let him know he’s let them down, and that not voting for him is a way to do so. Of course, it’s not the only way: direct action is actually even more important, and direct action will be essential whoever wins.
It might well be necessary even if one day this country sees a Green Party president: the last election in the country of which I am a citizen clearly illustrates that, in a top-down system where power has ample opportunity to corrupt, voting for a third party is not enough. But it’s a start.
Sarah Jane Rhee: Vermin Supreme