I’ll be watching the debates. Not on CNN or ABC, but online at Occupy the Debates or at Democracy Now or Free Speech TV, where the third party candidates and others have a chance to answer questions and comment in real time.
I can’t say I’m not mad at anybody. If being ripped off and lied to, and having murders committed in your name around the world don’t make you mad, there’s something wrong with you, and whatever is wrong with me, it’s not that. I’ll be watching tonight’s presidential debates, but like most people, I already know what I’ll do on November 6.
I won’t vote Republican, because among other things, the GOP is the permanent party of white supremacy. Republicans are also the permanent party of Wall Street, the party of Big Agriculture, the party of Big Insurance, Big Oil, Big Real Estate, Big Pharma, of more nukes Republicans are the party of privatizers, jailers, charter schools and military contractors. Republicans started the 40 years war on drugs, and of course they remain the party of Empire and Permanent War. Republicans hate brown people and threaten to jail and deport as many as they possibly can.
Democrats on the other hand, are the permanent party of Wall Street. Democrats are the party of Big Agriculture, Big Insurance, Big Oil, Big Real Estate, Big Pharma and more nukes, more jails and continuing the 40 years war on drugs. Democrats are the party of more privatizations — Corey Booker is trying to privatize the water in Newark New Jersey for instance.
Democrats are the party of military contractors and charter schools as well. When Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ran the school system in Chicago he gave several high schools and even a middle school to the US military to run as their own charter schools. Obama’s Race To The Top program bludgeons school districts around the country into closing public schools, firing teachers and replacing them with charters, and is lauded by Democrat big city mayors in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Unlike Republicans, Democrats often say they like brown people, and they get the lion’s share of the Latino vote. But President Obama’s words don’t match his actions. Obama has deported more brown people in 3 years than the last three Republicans put together.
On the good side, this Democratic president, and many other Democrats even support gay marriage and the right to access birth control and abortions. And although Democratic congressional leaders, when they controlled the House during and after Katrina, refused to hold hearings on the disaster because they were afraid of looking too pro-black, Democrats are emphatically NOT the party of white supremacy. In fact all the black elected officials elected with majorities of actual black votes are Democrats.
So there are differences. But down here on the ground where people actually live, those differences don’t amount to much. Both are war parties, parties of the rich, parties that want to privatize roads, water, public schools (that’s what charters are about — privatization!) parties that will continue the war on drugs and policies that feed our American prison state.
I grew up believing my vote meant something, that it was my voice. The people I called my teachers taught me to raise my voice against unjust wars and economic oppression, the same way I’d raise it against racism. Exchanging a few white faces in city halls, legislatures and the White House for black and brown ones isn’t really such a big deal.
What passes for black political power nowadays isn’t such a big deal to me because poverty rates are as high now as when a bygone Democratic president declared a war on poverty — a project that failed because he spent all the money in a colonial war that killed millions in Vietnam, and climbing still higher. Prolonging the careers of black Democrats like Atlanta’s Kasim Reed, Newark’s Corey Booker, Philly’s Mike Nutter or even of congressmen John Lewis and Jim Clyburn as they front for gentrifiers, charter schools, and power companies that build new nukes in the middle of poor black towns being poisoned by old ones is just not anything I want to do with my voice.
I can see why all the big preachers want black folks to vote Democratic. Most of them are part of, or aspiring parts of the black political class, the black misleadership class themselves. Many depend on so-called “faith based” funding to keep their ministries alive. The black church has been captured, and is a kind of “state religion” of the black political class, divorced from the lives of the class of black people who provide over 40% of the nation’s prisoners.
I’m an old guy now, past sixty but not yet senior enough for Medicare, and I’ve been in the movement a long time. Younger people sometimes ask me what to do. After telling them not to respect their elders all that much — we didn’t respect them that much 45 years ago either — the main thing I tell them is that movement leaders and participants back in the day had visions and horizons longer than the next election cycle or the one after that. They were prepared to fight whether they had allies in city hall, the legislature or the courts or not. Unlike today’s NAACP and NAN, they developed agendas without the guidance of corporate funders and their recommended professionals.
We’ve proved we can elect as many Democrats as we want, all the way up the food chain without changing much here at the bottom. I know this well. I gave more than 20 years of my own life to electing better Democrats, helping Democrats run better campaigns, and registering more Democrat voters. I met Barack Obama 20 years ago on one of those gigs in Project VOTE Illinois, where he was state director and I was one of three field organizers who signed up 130,000 new voters and flogged them out to the polls that year. We elected Harold Washington, and a lot of state legislators and a few Congressional reps. The Democratic party will still let you work for it, but once in office, big money calls the shots. It’s time to leave that house and build a new one.
It’s an uncomfortable truth: the present US political system is largely people-proof and democracy-proof. The time and treasure we’ve sunk into supporting Democrats the last seventy years is gone. It’s a horse we raised and watered and fed that somebody else has ridden off and it won’t be back.
I still believe my voice and my vote mean something. Kwame Toure used to say the thing to do is find an organization you’re in substantial agreement with and join it, or if it does not exist, start one and recruit your neighbors.
So I’ve joined the Georgia Green Party, and I’m recruiting those of my neighbors who still believes that unemployment and mass incarceration have to be addressed, that illegal wars and deportations must be stopped, that Wall Street must be reined in, and that gentrification and privatization have to be stopped. Most voters who call themselves Democrats, in fact millions of those voting for President Obama believe exactly these things already, but are substantially disinformed about what their elected officials actually DO.
I was at a demonstration in support of Chicago teachers Saturday, and some participants seemed to assume that the president was on their side, that maybe they could enlist figures like Rev. Al Sharpton to aid their struggle to mobilize people against the inroads of school privatizaters. It fell to me to tell them the bad news — that Sharpton took a half million dollar bribe years ago to jump on the charter school bandwagon, that he toured the country with Newt Gingrich and Arne Duncan beating the bushes for high stakes testing and charters, and the administration is actually the enemy on this one.
Eventually they and many like them, if they want a party that stands up for what they believe, will have to become Greens. It’s my job to make sure that happens.
So I’ll watch the debates, sure. The crooks who run them won’t let Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate on the same stage with the corporate candidates. So I’ll watch Democracy Now’scoverage, in which Jill Stein and another candidate in real time answer the same questions as they do. My colleague Glen Ford will be a guest at Occupy The Debates in Baltimore as well.
So yes, I’ll watch. And I’ll vote. But not for a Republican and not for a Democrat, not again. I’ll vote like my voice means something. I won’t be coerced into voting for a 100% evil Democrat just because the Republicans are 120% evil. I’m voting Green this year, and helping build a Green Party, right here in Georgia where I live.
This article originally appeared on Black Agenda Report.