The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fellow Ohioans DO Have a Choice on the Ballot This Year!

Midterm elections are quickly approaching and the mainstream press is quickly latching on to the latest polls showing that GOP voters are more “fired up” and enthusiastic than Democratic voters.

Anyone who has been paying attention the past two years should already know this, as its no surprise once-upon-a-time Obama supporters have been let down again and again on a variety of issues. From healthcare to the wars, from LGBT rights to the Employee Free Choice Act, the Obama administration has let its base down again and again.

Unemployment is still high as ever, workers are being laid off left and right, teachers are getting sacked, billions of dollars are still being funneled into killing people overseas, and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments have grown. Meanwhile, wealth disparity in the United States has shot up, and the only wage increases have gone to those in the very highest wealth bracket.

We could learn a lot from the percussive lyrics of a recent song called Obama Nation by the British rapper Lowkey:

It’s over people, wake up from the dream now / Nobel peace prize, Jay Z on speed-dial / It’s the substance within, not the colour of your skin / Are you the puppeteer or the puppet on the string? / So many believed it was instantly gonna’ change / There was still Dennis Ross, Brzezinski and Robert Gates…/ I have the heart to say what all the other rappers aren’t / Words like Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan / The wars on, and you morons were all wrong / I call Obama “your bomba” cause those are your bombs…

None of this should shock us. There were many of us on the left who warned that Obama’s rhetoric about hope and change was little more than hot air. He has simply stepped in as imperialist-in-chief and anything of significance he has attempted has been watered-down and beaten around by right-wingers, with approval by Obama on “pragmatic” grounds, leaving a worthless, crippled mess in its wake. The rest of the Democrats have fallen in line behind him, with little opposition to the left within the party.

And now, surprise, surprise, they want us to vote for them, claiming that a Republican victory this November would be disastrous. Those of us on the left should not fall into this line of voting for the “lesser evil,” no matter how clever the rhetoric peddlers are who spout this idea. Do not allow them to scare you into voting with someone do not agree with simply because you disagree with the other candidate even more. A Republican victory will be disastrous for working people, for poor people, for any historically marginalized group. But so will a Democratic victory. Indeed, if the past two years has not yet convinced us of this fact, we are in trouble.

People in the United States have struggled long and hard for the right to vote. The problem is we often do not have anyone to vote for. Our votes are so commonly funneled into what Noam Chomsky refers to as the “two factions of the business party,” the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats are the “second most enthusiastic capitalist party,” and we will do well to remember that.

The socialist and labor leader, and many time presidential candidate (who garnered nearly a million votes from prison cell, which he was in for his opposition to World War I), Eugene Debs once said, "It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want and get it!" I am here to argue that position to those you planning (or not planning) to vote in Ohio November 2nd.

Dan La Botz, Socialist Candidate for Senate
For the first time in awhile, we have some real choices on the ballot. I’m talking, first and foremost, about Dan La Botz, the socialist candidate for senate, and Dennis Spisak, the Green candidate for governor. I urge you to vote for both, but my focus here will be on Dan La Botz.

If you live in Ohio you are probably aware that the mainstream candidates for Senate are Rob Portman, a former Bush administration official and Cincinnati congressman, of the Republican Party and Lee Fisher, the business friendly Lt. Governor of Ohio, of the Democratic Party. They, of course, are the only ones represented in the mainstream media. Aside from a few local papers, the debates have been closed to the third party candidates, and instead we have gotten the normal, narrow, limited debates that are so common in our “democracy.” Alternate voices, like those of La Botz and Spisak, were, as predicted, left out. 

Undoubtedly, right-wingers have and will gain from this whole debacle, from the failure of the Democrats to deliver on their promise of change. On the flip side, however, I've spoken to many people who are far more open to ideas about socialism than ever before. Numerous polls reinforce this idea, and socialism, despite the varied and multi-definitional understanding of the word, is gaining ground, especially among young people. I've even convinced some died-in-the-wool Democrats, including my nearly seventy year old grandmother, to switch their votes from the Democratic Party. People are frustrated, and they are getting fed up with being let down, especially in the midst of such an economic crisis.

Let me be absolutely lucid before continuing. I am not in any way arguing that voting is the essence of democracy, or that going to the booth every two years (or sending in your absentee ballot) is the zenith of civic participation. On the contrary, we should listen when Sherry Wolf explains that genuine change comes from “the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours a year activists spend organizing protests, rallies, speak outs, fundraisers, meetings, speeches and the like,” as they are the “most crucial political acts a person can undertake.” She is absolutely correct, and no amount of vacuous voting can replace the genuine activism that she advocates.

Still, we here in Ohio ought to cast our vote November 2nd, not because if we do not we are “un-American,” apathetic, or cynical. No, we ought to vote because for the first time we have some choices on the ballot who are not beholden to corporate interests, who are not afraid to stand on principles against the budget cuts, the austerity measures, and an economic system which places profit before people. I urge everyone in Ohio to read the socialist platform for 2010, you will not be disappointed.

Let me be absolutely clear. Electing Dan La Botz as senator will not change the system. We will still live in a cut-throat, profit-driven society that dehumanizes and alienates working people and the poor. But that is the thing, he has no illusion that his victory will create fundamental change, and don’t take my word for it:

“I want my Senate race to be a campaign for justice…As a Socialist in Congress, I will use the office of Senator to organize and mobilize the American people. I would as Senator support and call for mobilizations of Ohio’s people and the people of the country to stop the wars, to create jobs, to win health care for all, and to stop the destruction of the environment.”

And, if you are not yet convinced, take ten minutes and watch the short clip here:

There you have it. The end goal is not to get La Botz elected, despite how wonderful that would be, but to mobilize and organize for real change, not the kind promised by Obama. We should remember Obama’s campaign during the primaries, when he so eloquently explained that change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington. The reality of his statements, ironically, have been far to obvious for most of his administration. Dan La Botz understands that reality, and that is why a vote for Dan La Botz on November 2nd is a vote for real, fundamental change.

Do not pass up the chance to vote for a real alternative. Vote Dan La Botz on November 2nd, and in the process help build the social movement that can bring about fundamental change.
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Derek Ide 2011


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