The Election This Time

I was fortunate this year to be a candidate for vice-president under the fledgling Justice Party. Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson appeared in a number of media outlets, including Democracy Now!, Huffington Post Live, Al Jazeera, and Russia Today, among others. A third party debate at Chicago’s Hilton Hotel in late-October, moderated by Larry King, was seen online by more than a million people—Rocky did a great job articulating the issues. I also traveled on my own to help get the Justice Party’s message known. I did this while promoting my new book (“It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing”), bringing awareness to the Salvadoran gang peace that I’ve been involved with as a member of the Transnational Advisory Group in Support of the Peace Process in El Salvador (TAGSPPES), and promoting Tia Chucha’s book and film that I co-produced this year (“Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts are Transforming a Community”). Since July, I spoke throughout the Los Angeles area as well as Port Townsend/Seattle, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington DC area, Albuquerque, Boulder/Denver, upstate New York, Chicago, Seattle (again), and Phoenix—not to mention spending seven days in El Salvador. I tried to piggyback media events to add my voice to the public debate. The Justice Party had no money for major ads or for a tour. There was no corporate funding. Despite this we were on the ballot in around fifteen states and as official write-ins in another twenty states. Although our numbers on Election Day were little more than 36,000, third parties totals that day—including the much bigger Libertarians and the Green Party—broke the two million mark. There is a growing vacuum among those disenchanted with the two party system, the DuoCracy that Rocky speaks about, in which regardless of diverse interests pertaining to the economy, class, race, or gender we’re supposed to be represented by only two political parties, two heads of the same beast, both owned and run by massive corporate interests. America deserves better. This so-called democracy is mostly closed to the majority of Americans, in particular the working class and its poor. I’m outraged that more than $2 billion was spent in the presidential campaign—mostly greased by Super Pacs made up of big money that is neither seen nor accounted for. Yes, President Obama won. He won the majority of the “battleground” states. His electoral college numbers were 332 to Romney’s 206. Young voters, women, African Americans, Latinos, and progressive whites carried the day. Still there were 94 million eligible voters who did not turn in a ballot. And even though the President took the popular vote, it was largely evenly split (50.6 percent of the voters went for Obama; 47.8 percent for Romney). This country is severely divided. I’ve read and heard many arguments about why Romney lost and why the Democrats held on to the presidency and maintained their lead in the Senate… as well as harangues and even vitriol from right-wing pundits, analysts, and lay people. Some of the nuttier rants from right-wingers included statements like “America Died” and “Evil won.” Anne Coulter cried. Ted Nugent blew a casket. Karl Rove had nothing but excuses. One social media voice called Obama the “N” word and stated the president should be assassinated (she claimed she was not racist or threatening, only “stating her opinion”—when will people like her be real). I read also that residents in more than thirty states have filed “secession” papers (in Texas, as of this writing, some 80,000 people filed a petition to secede). The crazies in the Republican proved what we always knew—they are too out of it to be part of any decent public discourse. For them, it’s not about what’s right and what’s wrong—or even about reality. It’s about “I’m right… and the rest of you are the devil’s spawn.” The Republicans are a complete joke, and it’s their fault. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow expressed, they are simply wrong on the issues. Wrong on same sex marriage. Wrong on women’s choice in abortion. Wrong on immigration rights (Romney cut his own throat when he said the U.S. should make life so miserable for immigrants that they would “self deport”). Wrong about climate change. Wrong on not taxing the rich more than the rest of us. Wrong on cutting back the social net. Wrong on full health coverage for all people. They’re wrong about capitalism and the power of greed and money to do society any good. And as for right-wing Christians, they are wholly wrong on their most fundamental belief—which is that God is on their side. Really? Why even acts of God helped Obama win (Super Storm Sandy was one of Rove’s excuses when he said it stopped Romney’s momentum). Now how about the Democrats? Many progressives in the black, brown, Asian, and white communities went all out for Obama—even when voter suppression was used against poor and working class communities (in one of the more outrageous examples, an Ohio ballot box was removed after it was discovered that people who voted for Obama ended up inadvertently voting for Romney). But I contend these weren’t votes for the Democrats. They were votes against Romney, against the powerful and rich, against lies, against the racists (there were many subtle and not-so subtle racist statements and expressions against Obama, including more than one effigy of Obama lynched on people’s yards). While it’s true the Democrats had better electoral strategies to get out the votes, better way to track numbers and voting patterns, remember: both parties had more money than ever before. Republicans didn’t do too shabby. The point is regardless of what Republicans did to manipulate their way throughout this campaign, people aren’t buying. They knew the current crisis was a direct result of one of the largest corporate thefts of homes, finances, stocks, and loans in history—which Republicans are directly responsible for and the Democrats pretty much went along. And despite Obama’s win, most people understand—the Democrats cannot pull us out of the crisis. The system, however, only gives us two choices. We can’t be precise, cogent, or able to vote our true interests—they are being hijacked at all levels. If one party doesn’t have the right personality, funds, or the numbers, there’s always the other one... Right. America deserves better. The Democrats have failed on the economy (of the new jobs that supposedly dropped the unemployment rate during the campaign, more than 60 percent were low-paid and unorganized non-permanent positions); the national health plan is a convoluted mess with insurance companies’ hands all over it; more people were deported under President Obama than any previous president; and people’s homes are still on the line, the modification plans enacted by the administration just not able to assist the vast majority of needy homeowners. Poverty is worse and wars continue. It’s great that the electorate pushed back and a few states got same-sex marriage and even marijuana reform. Change is real and powerful. And I’m all for it. But America deserves more. The point is—we can’t stop now. We must want more and we must organize for more. We need to push forward the permanent and true interests of the poor and working class—the only social class that will free up the economy, politics, and our culture. This means not letting President Obama off the hook: Pressure, pressure and more pressure. He shouldn’t be allowed to acquiesce anymore to the big banks, big corporations, big capital interests. I also contend we must break up the big parties. People don’t need to secede from the union (although I welcome this for any state that can get a majority to agree). The Republicans can’t contain their motley crew of Tea Party extremists, right-wing Christians, moderates, libertarians, and even Gay members under one umbrella—too many interests that don’t see eye to eye. And the Democrats are made up of even more varied groups, people, colors, and flavors. Great… that’s America. But isn’t America also about many voices, many concerns, many needs. What if we had more clearly defined political parties vying for the vast American electorate, truly engaging them, pushing the majority to actually care enough to vote? What a concept? Isn’t this what the United States pushes to emerging democratic states around the world—more parties, more voices, each party given equal time? You betcha. Yet, we still think the two party system is God-given and insoluble. There are so-called third world countries known for greater corruption and control, yet with five or six political parties in their national assemblies. I, for one, plan to continue building a movement to free up the democratic process. I will do this with the Justice Party if possible. We have a long way to go, but the Justice Party is on the map and I believe it has room to build and to impact. The Green Party did well in 2012—time to build, not just for elections, but also as a movement. More voices, more imaginations, more ways to go. Yet at the same time to struggle in a rational and common sense manner (based on deeper understandings and knowledge) for the unity-in-diversity needed to keep our country equitable, expansive, and just. America deserves this and more. c/s

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