Monday, June 23, 2008


Before I start on the vacation blogs, I want to rant about the election a little. Not the national election, that's a wrap for the moment; the recent state and local elections in California, and Alameda County, and the city of Oakland. These were actually quite important elections: this was the primary for every partisan office except the presidency; and both the state legislative seats and about half the Oakland City Council were all up for re-election. Both the legislative seats were open contests, too, because the seat holders were termed out.

I frequently read or hear the complaint that people don't vote because their vote "doesn't count." From the Alameda County Election Results site, I have some numbers about that:

  • Total Alameda County voter registration for the June 3 election was 725,098.
  • Total votes cast at the polling place? 78,753.
  • Total absentee ballots cast? 138,338.

That's right - out of 725,098 registered voters, only 217,091 bothered to vote: just under 1 in 3. (
The county site doesn't show the percentage of registered voters who voted in each individual contest, just for the main election.)

When you turn out and vote in a contest like that, you're a bigger frog, in a smaller pond, than you realize. A "majority of the vote" in this case could be as little as 15% of the electorate (51% of 29.94%). And those are the people who determine who will be running the joint for the next term.

So, does your vote count?? You bet it counts! And just remember - if you don't vote, and you don't like the way things go, I don't want to hear one peep out of you. You forfeit your right to complain if you don't vote.

So - next election, get your lower dorsal elevation down there and VOTE!


  1. The unfortunate fact is that our political system has become seriously compromised. The American middle and lower classes really had Big Money on the run for about 50 years, following the Stock Market Crash and the bank failures beginning in 1929. But big money got smart, got organized, and took over our government in earnest in the 1970's, and they're not going to let go. America is run for the benefit of corporations, mostly multi-national corporations (with the globalization of capital). The diversion of our labor, natural resources and leveraged capital into the hands of a few is nearly total. Voters know this. They know that politicians on both sides of the aisles are compromised by contributions and pressure from capital. They aren't going to rock the boat.

    Is American democracy in trouble? You bet. Would electing Obama instead of McCain make much difference? Sure it would, but in the end, we know what the ultimate outcome will be. No one wants nuclear, but big energy will get it. No one wants usury by the banks and credit card companies, but usury is what we'll get. No one wants more foreign wars, but wars are what we'll be doing.

    The petroleum industry has us literally "over a barrel" but don't expect our legislators and leaders to do anything about it. They're working for them, not us.

    At the local level, it works the same way. The boards of supervisors kowtow to developers and garbage companies in the same way that Congressmen do to drug and jet plane lobbyists.

    Is political apathy the cause of these defections from the public interest? No, they're a predictable reaction to it. Those who do vote are, as often as not, either uninformed or misinformed about the effect and meaning of their votes.

    The Founding Fathers could see all this coming. But they didn't think of a way to avoid it. The voting booth has become a tool of capital.

    Without sacrificing my daily life to political organizing and grass roots activism, I can hardly pretend that my vote has any meaning on the scale of potential outcomes. The name of the game is Futility.

  2. Anonymous6:44 PM

    Some quite valid points, Curtis, but the other side of the coin is that when voters learn about and stand behind candidates who would do the right thing, it is possible to turn this ship of state around. And it is at the local level that one can see this most directly. The biggest problem I see is how easily voters can be manipulated, and what an incredible wasteland the fourth estate has become.

    You are correct about the reasons, I think, but big business goes to the lengths it does because they fear only one thing - voters who don't vote the way they want them to. And they rationalize their goal of electoral full spectrum dominance with that old saying, What's good for General Motors is good for America, a saying they interpret in its most superficial, self-serving way.

    Be prepared for Obama to make some serious stabs at a new direction, but don't look for the general public to stand behind him in any insightful way because there is no meaningfully worthy fourth estate to help them know and understand, and the majority have neither the time or the inclination to dig.

    Since I am a Floridian, I argue rather vigorously that votes do count, but the problem in Florida in 2000 was that the Supreme Court would not allow them to be counted accurately. Once that did occur, at the behest of newspapers in the state who for a moment acted like the fourth estate, it was established that Gore won Florida, which would have put him in the White House had the Supreme Court not blocked the door.

    The vote is still the most powerful weapon citizens possess - it all depends on whether we will or will not learn what we are doing, and whether we will or will not use that weapon wisely and well.

    I repeat - corporations are scared shitless of the power of the vote.

    Anonymous David

  3. Most politicians are bought BEFORE the elections. Corporations give money to BOTH sides. The reason it costs so much to run for office now is that there's so much more capital flowing in from special interests than ever before. It's not like the "people" were demanding this free-for-all spending binge--it's foisted off on them. Since there is, as Ralph Nader has pointed out again and again, little or no difference between the major parties, and the gist of what they actually DO when in office, it doesn't make sense to try to convince ourselves that "choosing" one over the other will have real consequences. Neither party will seriously confront the causes of most of our economic, environmental and political problems--the "Third Rail" is really "the People" in America--their interest and benefit. No national politician can "afford" to be seen as advocating population control, a balanced tax system, responsible environmental legislation, rational medical practice and coverage, and so on.

    The Washington power grid is strictly dominated by special interests. The heads of all the major committees are bought and paid for. No one who rises to a position at that level has any remaining vestige of loyalty to their original constituency, or to the interests of the people at large whom they are supposedly elected to represent. The occasional junior member may get up on his hind legs and bark during his first term; but by his second, he's been "trained" and rolls over on command.

    With the new automation of the electoral system, the potential for abuse now extends into major contests at the state and national level. Florida, and, later, Ohio, clearly had manipulated results. But no one talks about this. Will the 2008 election be manipulated? Quite likely. Even 15 or 20 years ago, would anyone have seriously believed that this kind of fraud would be possible? To be sure, election fraud has occurred before: Jack Kennedy "won" Illinois because Daley's Chicago machine "counted" the votes. But computerized voting counts are fertile ground for manipulation.

    Is big capital "afraid" of the voters? Not any more. It's more a matter of degree. If Obama gets in, they know there won't be a national health plan; there may be some fine-tuning, but.... If McCain gets in, they'll be much happier, but they're not worried. Obama's shown he's a "politician"--i.e., he knows whose interests to honor.

    All this is in no way intended to be an argument "against" hedera's advocacy of the vote. But in my view, the problems we face aren't being addressed through the electoral process. It's been compromised. This explains, at least in part, why there is so much apathy. We elect politicians on a "platform" but once they're elected, the platform gets thrown away and pragmatic capitulation replaces real position-taking.

    Bush ought not to have been elected in the first place, or in the second! But once in office, his offenses were egregious enough to warrant impeachment. Certainly they rose to a higher standard than poor Bill Clinton's waggling p*n*s, which got the Republicans all stirred up. Does anyone need reminding how trivial our national political life has become than this? But Pelosi says "we have important business to attend to, and can't be 'distracted' by an impeachment trial." Thanks, Nancy.

    Obama has not shown that he would significantly challenge any of the Bush policies now in place. We'll stay in Iraq and Afganistan, and big business can rest easy. No matter who is elected.

  4. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Much truth in what you say, Curtis, but the ways in which the Republicans and Democrats are different are more important than Ralph Nader realizes. He is justly disgusted by the power of big money over a government that is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. But anything a Democrat can't change no president can change.

    But the vote is still the one thing that could upset the entire corporate fascist oligarchic applecart, and they know it. That's why they have such an expensive, full bore war room for the Republican machine. And the media consider the Republicans the government, even when they are in the minority. That is why the media have such a love affair going with John McCain.

    I think you have to catalogue, senator by senator, representative by representative, and president by president, before you can draw compelling generalizations regarding either party.

    The biggest problem is that voters will not stand behind reformers or honest, insightful political figures in any substantial way, especially not presidents. We have the mechanism, the binding vote, but we have neither the electorate nor secure enough electoral mechanisms for the vote to accomplish what you rightly envision.

    I have two tracks going in my head: one that fights for the best choice in every political contest, and that is overwhelmingly Democrat, or in local elections Green; the other that is beyond appalled by what has been done to the civil body politic and innocent victims in the third world by the oligarchs.

    Anonymous David

  5. I've been thinking about this thread, and Curtis' posts, all week.

    Curtis, you once said that you don't really walk around with a sandwich board reading "The End Is Near" - but on this blog, you sure do. You seem to post on politics only to point out how hopeless the situation is, and how little we can do about it.

    Well, I don't buy it. I post my comments on politics to encourage people to think, to learn the truth, to vote, to act. I myself try to act when possible and as I can. One of the ways I try to act is to post comments on this blog. And there you come, behind me, telling everybody - Don't bother, it's no use, the system is hopelessly corrupt, we can't possibly fight the Big Dogs, Nothing Will Ever Change.

    I was raised to believe that, in this system, we can make a difference if we all act together, and I still think that. As Nellie Forbush sang, "I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called Hope And I can't get it out of my heart!" I'm just another Cockeyed Optimist; and I'm going to STAY a cockeyed optimist.

    David, you fear that voters won't stand behind a reforming president. I think they will, if the president gives them a carefully reasoned, persuasive argument for the reforms. The Bush administration never bothers to try to persuade (partly because their actions are indefensible).

    You're unfortunately right about the oligarchs and the damage they've done; but that's not an argument for us individuals to give up and stop trying. If we do that, then Curtis' dire predictions will come true, and Nothing Will Ever Change.