Author Topic: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box  (Read 9289 times)

Toedancer

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Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« on: October 16, 2008, 12:19:52 PM »
This is going to bore most of you, but I'm getting pissed at all the blame-the-electorate stuff I'm seeing on the blogs and newspapers etc. So I'm just going to get some thoughts out. I wish I could write, I wish I had taken political science, because for those of you who can/did, this will be a hash-up.

Based on our capitalist society, democracy is mostly an illusion to secure public consent to minority rule. Our representative democracy is based on politicians who don't perform can be voted out, which sounds reasonable on the face of it. Apparently though we're not allowed to vote on a different social system, only for and now against candidates with different views on how to run the capitalist system. Over the last decade it has been plainly illustrated that the day-to-day operation of capitalism is run by executives and bureaucrats who are never elected. No matter how many rotten poli's are replaced life doesn't really change. The capitalist class controls production of all the things the working class makes/builds. Whoever controls the production basically controls society. To keep the corporate class in power the electoral process is managed like a racehorse.

If the leading horse loses its usefulness (Dion right now) for being too honest, too dishonest, too ahead of his/her time, too corrupted, whatever, s/he gets kicked out of the race. A new horse is then presented as better or different or more reliable and competent, then that person is placed on the same track to run in the same direction. By the time people 'feel' totally screwed, we're told to wait for the next race. But people can only take so much betrayal and lose all hope of any real change, and that only increases the power of the ruling class. So as long as democracy is equated with elections, the ruling class feel secure.

There are huge gaps between what people want and what the leaders actually deliver. We want a fully funded, functioning health care system, yet the politicians refuse to provide it. And I don't believe a complete change of the government you want will bring it forward. Instead they harp on terrorism, taxes, crime etc., and we never get it. Defenders of the present system blame the electorate for the state of things, as in that old worn-out line 'people get the gov't they deserve', which is total crap.

If we had real representative democracy we would be able to hold them to account, but it's a sham because mostly they pretty much do what they want anyway, without our input. They don't consult with us. They say gov't is open, and they want our participation, but the obstacles are overwhelming, even with identifying language one must use to even get the door opened.

Partly we can blame it on our class society, because it violates what happens to us eg. executive decisions to lay off thousands of workers and then those executives are protected from the consequences of their decisions. Now jobless, or kicked out of the economy, suddenly one no longer has the democratic right to decide on personal matters. And speaking of personal matters, I just read the U.S. Election thread, which also mirrors some of our own. Genuine democracy would treat individual behaviour as strictly personal matters (I'm not talking about criminals etc.) Yet people in power (elected or not) feel it is their right to impose their views on matters of sexuality, reproduction rights, personal beliefs and the list goes on. We are violated of our personal right to decide so often now, we see citizens actually caught up in the debates in how to the state should control our behaviour, when the right of the state to dictate such matters is not even questioned! So the paternalism continues.

The majority actually think they are part of that decision making. Blame the sheople who didn't come out to vote? I've actually seen that spoken to on blogger sites and it is infuriating. No one seems to be talking about the conflicting class interests are the real reason ordinary people are denied the right to decide how their Health care should be managed to Labour giving workers rights away (Magna and CAW, giving workers right to strike away). Disenfranchised voters (I.D. Bill C-31), was that to protect the integrity of the electoral process or to protect the integrity of the capitalist class?
PR, when and if it comes, you think that's going to fix it?

Blah blah, I'm sure others can take up this conversation better than me. But the bottom line is Reform or Revolution.
"Democracy is not the law of the majority, it's the protection of the minority." -Albert Camus 1913-1960

Debra

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2008, 12:27:35 PM »
Well said TD  :applause:
ā€œDamaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.ā€ ā€”  Josephine Hart

skdadl

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2008, 12:37:12 PM »
Thinking about democracy never bores me, Toe. I try to shout aloud as often as I can that democracy does NOT equal voting -- voting is a necessary but not a sufficient condition, and our task is to teach people (among them many of our politicians) the other conditions that are required.

But I have never accepted the position that they're all the same -- they aren't. I've been hearing that argument over too many decades, during which I have seen major advances arrive and then major destruction of good things, so I'm sure they're not all the same.

I also walked up to the question of violent revolution decades ago and decided that I did not want to live in one, and it was therefore intellectually dishonest of me to foment one all on my own (ie: impose it on others). I know that some people end up in situations where they literally have no alternative, and I wish those people well with all my heart, but it is not a good route for anyone. It always means deaths of innocents, as war always means that.

I also think it is wrong to believe that you can only be interested in one thing at a time. You can find lots of people who argue well about how disastrous capitalism is, and good for them. But if that's all they're doing, they lose touch with facts on the ground, with the material situation, and Marx would tell you that that is a fatal error.

Building democracy has taken centuries so far, and we're not there yet. I believe it is important both to immerse in the moment and to work on slower and deeper change that has little to do with current elections, although if we make the deeper changes, elections will be better.

Toedancer

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2008, 12:46:03 PM »
But always present is the social class system. We are so accustomed to it, that even if there was a democratic classnessless (is that a word?) you can be absolutely sure the capitalist class, which will do anything to remain in control, would invent some new proxy class they can shoot down. I'm not saying capitalism in of itself is a horror, of course not, but the power is not with the people, as it should be, it is most definitely with them. eta - we are in a class war.
"Democracy is not the law of the majority, it's the protection of the minority." -Albert Camus 1913-1960

skdadl

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2008, 12:48:06 PM »
Capitalism is a horror, though. It is.

My point is that it is not going to be gone tomorrow. Hence, neither will the class system. Yes, we work to change that however we can, but I wouldn't expect to see it gone in my lifetime.

Toedancer

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2008, 01:22:15 PM »
I'm not a total Socialist skdadl  :mrgreen:  but these days, the gov't is going to OWN everything, not just people's homes. But look at this article in the Ottawa Citizen:

Democracy the loser as election turnout hits record low

Before we blame the usual culprits for our societal apathy, let's not let the 40 per cent who couldn't be bothered to cast a ballot off the hook.

"We shouldn't begin by saying there are great societal factors -- I mean, there are -- but let's start at the very essence, that this is a responsibility," says Tom Axworthy, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University.


Axworthy says let's not talk about the real reasons, let's move on and blame the electorate (especially young people and teh schools) and tell them what their responsibility is. Then the article gives another man, of course a political scientist prof, his way, more blaming.

Finally they give a woman's voice, who is clearly a bit closer to the truth, but still....

Voters are more apt to go to the polls when they can effect a change in government, or there's an issue that drives them to the ballot box.

- snip
"What came out at the end was: Why did we call this election?" asked Andrew. "It changed almost nothing. And it cost a lot of money."

Last word goes to Axworthy who calls the sheople - Perhaps, as Axworthy puts it, it's not an either-or debate.

"Ignorance breeds indolence."
 (I am assuming cuz of the quotation marks, Axworthy actually said that?)

So we are stupid and lazy. Nice touch that. And it completely disgusts me that that is what counts as the reasons why there is voter apathy amongst the populace.
"Democracy is not the law of the majority, it's the protection of the minority." -Albert Camus 1913-1960

Bacchus

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2008, 02:17:32 AM »
Whats the voter turnout in Australia (hint its damn near 100%)

Now class, demonstarte how Australia's system works so much better than ours, with that extra 40% taking part.

Anyone?  Name of PM Howard ring a bell?

And even democracy (proportional or otherwise) wouldnt be perfection or a majority of racists and/or indifferent people would not have kept the Abos of Australia down for so long (and continues to do so)

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Alison

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2008, 05:01:20 AM »
Voting in Australia is compulsory, a civic duty rather than a civil right, and subject to a fine for abstaining so I'm not sure it's reasonable to compare voter turnout in Oz to Canada.
I'm afraid I'm with the blamers here, Toe.
Democracy is a very fragile experiment in allowing stakeholders to have some of the rights previously only enjoyed by shareholders. If stakeholders cannot be bothered to defend these somewhat modest gains, then all bets are off.

Catchfire

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2008, 07:43:17 AM »
Wow, I just blogged (feebly, it's been awhile) on this exact subject and I sure wish I had read this thread first. Great post, TD. As for the question of mandatory elections, what would a voter turnout of 100% changed? Do you really think we would have returned a different result? All it would have done is mask the widespread and troubling voter malaise. It is a dreadful mistake to think that casting a vote is the end result of democracy, or even the most important part. We make the mistake that we can participate in democracy once every four years and get away with it at our peril.

jrootham

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2008, 07:56:11 AM »
I am of two minds on this issue.

I do think that electoral politics is important.  I am impatient with voter apathy.

OTOH I know that voter turnout is sensitive to how corrupt the system is.  In particular, I know that the turnout in the Jim Crow south was very low and did recover during the Civil Rights era.

So the question here is whether low turnout is apathy or revulsion.

Alison

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2008, 08:13:18 AM »
Quote
It is a dreadful mistake to think that casting a vote is the end result of democracy, or even the most important part. We make the mistake that we can participate in democracy once every four years and get away with it at our peril.

Apart from people who refuse to vote on principle, I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Voting is just a small part of democracy. However what Toe is objecting to is the bashing of the electorate for not even doing that much and I think they do have a bash coming for that, regardless of whether it's based on apathy or revulsion.

kuri

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2008, 09:20:51 AM »
But the question is that why does revulsion (in an never-ending, highly corrupt Con gov't here in AB) for example motivate some people to vote, yes, but also work for opposition campaigns and do whatever they can and take heart in even a 10% increase in the popular vote but for other people results in total cynicism and disengagement?

I can't help but think that it has a lot to with education, and a very specific kind of education (I'm thinking of a few philosophy grad students at the U of A who can't be arsed to vote or even pay attention). It's easy to say that all the pols are the same if you don't bother to listen to any of them. And in the FPTP, winner-take-all system, it's hard to see the value of a 10% gain in popular vote when it doesn't win anything immediately. I with high school social studies classes taught a bit more of the nuts and bolts of political campaigning, but I didn't even realize the value in that kind of gain and organization until I came to Edmonton and started working seriously on campaigns, but it can be very meaningful.

skdadl

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2008, 09:54:27 AM »
Quote from: kuri
It's easy to say that all the pols are the same if you don't bother to listen to any of them. And in the FPTP, winner-take-all system, it's hard to see the value of a 10% gain in popular vote when it doesn't win anything immediately. I with high school social studies classes taught a bit more of the nuts and bolts of political campaigning, but I didn't even realize the value in that kind of gain and organization until I came to Edmonton and started working seriously on campaigns, but it can be very meaningful.

I agree with this very much. Mind you, kuri, Edmonton Strathcona is a riding that should always have been to the left of at least the Cons, and there's a factor too.

I'm opposed to coercive voting. Academic analyses of why people aren't exercising one or another of their civil rights are important, but a civil right is not to be questioned in the sense of its being challenged. No one should be grilled on why she didn't vote, any more than a woman should be grilled about whether or not and why she had an abortion. That's why we call 'em rights and put 'em in the Charter. Let's hear it for the Charter!

And then let's let people know why the Charter and constitution are so important, which makes the courts so important, which also should get people thinking about guys like Harper, who hate the courts.

skdadl

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2008, 09:56:45 AM »
PS: Congratulations, by the way, for that win! Really well deserved.

kuri

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Re: Democracy Doesn't Fit Into the Ballot Box
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2008, 10:25:22 AM »
Thanks, skdadl. But E-S has always been to the left of the Cons, Jaffer won in previous times because of the Liberal/NDP split and because there are bits of rural/suburban polls tacked onto E-S. There's parts of the riding that are really more Strathcona county as far a where the community is centred, but were put onto E-S.

Well, I wish more people who don't vote would consent to being grilled by academics (at least) nevertheless! (Unfortunately, the not-voting demographic seems to be uninterested in participating in academic research as well.......)

 

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