Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Be Cynical: Vote

Happy Meh-term Day, everybody! I trust that all of you will be doing your civic duty and casting your votes today. I know, I know.... voting in the Age of Citizens United is like casting your line into the muddy waters and hoping you'll snag a piece of old plastic instead of a rotting animal carcass.

But take it from one who knows: despite what President Obama says ("Don't be cynical! Vote!") it is indeed possible to be both a cynic and a voter. All you have to take with you to the polls (besides an ID card if you are voting in a red state while brown or black) is your tongue, held firmly against your cheek. You might also offer up a silent prayer of thanksgiving that today is the last day you'll have to endure what have to be the worst and nastiest political TV ads ever dreamed up by a data-driven pea-brain with a billion-dollar budget. (unless, of course, you have the misfortune to reside in one of those runoff states.)

I have to confess that the New York ballot had me a bit confused. It seems that there are four guys named Andrew Cuomo running for governor this year. There's a Democratic Andrew Cuomo, a Working Families Party Andrew Cuomo, a Women's Equality Party Andrew Cuomo, and an Independence Party Andrew Cuomo. Why there is not a Republican Andrew Cuomo is anybody's guess, since he is a Goldwater Republican. This is the guy who only last week called public schools a "monopoly" he wants to bust up in order to make room for Wall Street investors' charter schools. Way, way down the ballot was Green Party co-founder Howie Hawkins, who is not surprisingly polling at ten percent (compared to his previous one percent tally.) The Green Party is actually going mainstream. The Democratic Party has gone that far to the right under Cuomo. So stifle the cynicism for a second. Anti-Cuomoism is becoming a political force in its own right.

The whole back-story of that Women's Equality Party is really a textbook case of political cynicism. The WEP did not even exist until very recently, and it's not even a political party. It's a front organization whose board consists of nine men and two women. It was manufactured out of thin air in order to "punish" the Working Families Party, which had grudgingly endorsed Cuomo this summer after mildly criticizing him for being a sell-out to Wall Street. Don't you just love it when a sell-out like the WFP gets sold out by an even bigger sell-out? It really keeps one's cynical enthusiasm alive.

Anyway, Cuomo hopes that if enough people are confused enough to think that he actually stands for women's rights instead of for his plutocratic cronies, they will bypass the WFP ballot line and relegate it to oblivion.  So, the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party is making the election all about the viability of the sell-out Working Families Party instead of about such issues as record poverty and political corruption. That other co-opted sellout -- MoveOn. Org -- has gotten in on the action by actually urging progressives to vote for Cuomo to keep WFP alive. Here's their actual email (links deliberately disabled by me):
Dear New York MoveOn member,
Let's get this out of the way: The election for Governor of New York on Tuesday won't be a nail-biter.
Governor Cuomo is far ahead in the polls and appears certain to win. But one thing is still up in the air—and it could very well decide the entire progressive agenda in Albany for the next four years.
That's the fate of the Working Families Party, one of New York's most effective progressive political groups.
The WFP will vanish unless 50,000 voters cast their votes on the Working Families Party ballot line for Gov. Cuomo—and MoveOn members can be the ones to push it over the top.
Will you join me in voting on the Working Families Party ballot line in order to make sure that Governor Cuomo is forced to compromise with progressives, instead of just with Republicans?
For the past four years, the Working Families Party has been able to pull the often conservative-leaning Gov. Cuomo to sometimes act like a progressive. In his first year in office, the WFP successfully pressured Gov. Cuomo to abandon billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich.
This summer, in exchange for the WFP endorsement, Gov. Cuomo agreed to break off his alliance with the State Senate Republicans, and start supporting Democrats. Along with that, he pledged to support a raft of progressive priorities, including a big minimum wage increase, public financing of elections, and the Women's Equality Act.
And how does Gov. Cuomo thank the WFP? By trying to destroy it.
This summer, Gov. Cuomo founded a new party, just one letter off from the WFP—the WEP. It stands for the Women's Equality Party, and you might have seen its TV commercials by now. But it's not a party at all—it's just a cynical attempt to knock out a huge piece of the progressive infrastructure by stealing votes away from the WFP. 
The attack on the WFP is coming because Gov. Cuomo doesn't want WFP forcing his hand anymore. That's all the proof I need that the WFP is an effective, and necessary, part of New York politics.
Click here to see an image of the ballot and pledge to vote on the Working Families Party ballot line.
Earlier this year, the Working Families Party recruited Zephyr Teachout to challenge Governor Cuomo, but after his concessions to the party, the WFP wound up endorsing Gov. Cuomo.
Some progressives celebrated the concessions from Gov. Cuomo. Others were upset the party didn't back Zephyr Teachout. But that's in the past. What's clear today is that for progressive voters, the best vote is for the WFP.
Let's get real: Gov. Cuomo isn't a reliable progressive. But he can be moved, like any politician, with enough grassroots pressure. And it's the Working Families Party that has been able to apply that pressure. And because of that, Gov. Cuomo seems to want to see the party vanish.
We can't let that happen. WFP has been at the forefront of many of the biggest progressive wins in New York, from the Millionaires Tax to the election of the Progressive Caucus in the New York City Council to paid sick days and much more.
It is virtually certain that Gov. Cuomo will be re-elected. The practical question that we face is this: Do we want to have a strong progressive movement around to keep the pressure on Gov. Cuomo, or do we want to let Gov. Cuomo destroy a key piece of it?
If the choice is between those two futures, it should be a clear one. That's why I hope you'll join me and MoveOn members across New York State in voting for Gov. Cuomo on the WFP ballot line on Tuesday.
Click here to pledge your vote for the Working Families Party.
Thanks for all you do.
Ilya, Brian, Stephen, Aiyi'nah, and the rest of the team
I think MoveOn should change its name to the Pretzel Party, because its twisted logic just makes you want to forget the cynical tongue in your cheek and resort to grinding your teeth in despair before you choke on your own bile.

The rest of the ballot was pretty easy..... Write-in, Green, Green, Green, Write-In, Democrat, Democrat (assemblyman and Family Court judge, because she wrote me personally and is not likely to take bribes from hedge fund guys running private for profit juvenile detention centers in need of clientele.)  For State Senator, I again voted for Candidate Blank over State Senator John Bonacic, again running unopposed on several different ballot lines. If this were a true democracy, Senator Blank would have been the incumbent. New Yorkers have historically voted for Senator Blank over Senator Bonacic. New Yorkers are a lovable, cynical bunch.

Memo to Andrew Cuomo: next time around you might think of running on the Chauncey Gardiner Party, since in one of your cynical TV commercials, you describe your sole paternal function as  "Being There."

Cynical movie buffs will remember Gardiner, played by Peter Sellers, as the intellectually-challenged man who rose to national political prominence purely on the basis of his simplistic and reassuring utterances to the rich and powerful.


annenigma said...

Ralph Nader and others have a good idea for a binding item on the ballot called NOTA - None Of The Above. Nevada has had a non-binding form of NOTA since 1976.

"A binding NOTA would work this way: candidates would have to be concerned about both their opponents (if there are any at all, or if there are any who are competitive) and the NOTA line. For if NOTA obtains either a plurality or a majority of the votes cast, the election for that post would be cancelled or invalidated, along with the dismissal of the candidates, and a new election would be called."

There's more description and aspects to consider at

Cirze said...

I'm going to vote now for Kay Hagen in NC.

Keep your eye on NC's Senate race.

Denis Neville said...

The nation’s media whores will be putting Kansas in the spotlight tonight.

I voted several weeks ago. One can indeed be both a cynic and a voter.

When Kansas Senator Pat Roberts voted against ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty two years ago, he entered my shit list.

Excerpts from my letter to Senator Roberts:

“More than 43 years ago, Kansas Senator Bob Dole delivered his first speech on disability rights. The United States has exhibited global leadership in the promotion of the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. The United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled was inspired by American laws passed to help the disabled.

As the father of a disabled child, who benefited from the Americans with Disabilities Act that Senator Dole championed, I believe that people with disabilities in all countries should have these same rights in order to live full, satisfying and productive lives.

During my travels outside the United States, I have paid particular attention to the attitudes toward disability and levels of accessibility, which vary greatly from country to country. This treaty would have created greater access for disabled Americans serving, working, traveling, and studying abroad.

I saw former Senator Dole, in support of this treaty extending the rights of the disabled around the world, sitting in his wheelchair on the Senate floor during the debate.

I am extremely disappointed in your “no” vote.

Kansas Senators voting against the rights of disabled people was disgraceful. One can only imagine how former Senator Dole must have felt leaving the floor after the vote, nearing the end of his life and personally witnessing the reality of what his Republican party has become. Pure right wing fear-mongering at its most evil and flat out disgusting!

No United Nations treaty can ever supersede the laws of the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution specifically forbids it.”

Never received a response from Senator Roberts to my letter, but I have recently been bombarded with robo calls by him.

And last week there was Dole is campaigning for Pat Roberts!!! JHC!!!

Dole declined to comment on Roberts' position on the U.N. convention, and an aide said the former senator "would prefer not to broach that subject at this point."

My vote (sigh) for the Independent Orman [the No Labels, private equity guy] was against Roberts. A spokesman for Orman said Orman would have voted for the treaty.

As Thomas Frank said last Sunday, “We will elect a whole platoon of empty, defeated men to the Senate on Tuesday, and then, two years from now, we will search out another company of hollow heroes to champion our righteous rage—and do it again and again, slowly sinking into our impotent fury.”

Will said...

Why I Won't Vote by W.E.B. Dubois, The Nation, 20 October 1956:


Denis Neville said...

@ Will – thanks for the link

“I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no "two evils" exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party.” - W.E.B. Dubois

All the turds that were dumped in the punch bowl last night! Try to polish those turds!!!

Let the public pension Wall Street feeding frenzy begin! “From Illinois to Massachusetts, voters effectively placed more than $100 billion worth of public pension investments under the control of executives-turned-politicians whose firms profit by managing state pension money.” - David Sirota,

One of the largest turds was the re-election of Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. In Brownbackistan everything is and will continue to be awesome!!! Despite Brownback gutting Kansas and Kansans knowing it, they voted for more crumbling schools and dwindling public services???

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter:

"I don't believe that constitutional government as we know it in the United States can ultimately survive in that atmosphere of pervasive civic ignorance and majority dissociation from the basic process of American government. But certainly not now in this age of ideological polarization of increased political spending by interest groups and by corporations at a time when, for example, one of the manifestations of the health of American democracy is the increasing trend of its military into a mercenary force. I do not believe American democracy can survive in this state of civic ignorance and disengagement. An ignorant people can never remain a free people. Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance.”

Conservatives and neo-liberals are the beneficiaries of this managed ignorance and the public is indifferent. The term Orwellian has little meaning to a people who have never known anything different, who have scant knowledge of history, civics, or public affairs, and who have never heard of George Orwell.

“Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln, and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let's vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.” - W.E.B. Dubois, “Why I Won't Vote,” 20 October 1956

annenigma said...

Congratulations to Obama! As Right-hand henchman for the Kleptocrats, he's bumped off the Democratic Party in his usual bang-up fashion. With every failure to defend D/democratic principles when they were attacked, he put another nail in the coffin. And just to be certain no life was left in that obviously ailing body, he suffocated it with his recent words: "Make no mistake. My policies are on the ballot".

That wasn't ad lib either - it was a prepared speech. That tired old "make no mistake" phrase had to have been written by him though. Just like the old-fashioned word "shellacking" he used in 2010, he's a throw-back to the Reagan area in many ways. The same kind of 'transformative' actor, and that's putting it charitably.

Our consolation prize is that now Congress could actually IMPEACH him and the country would get on board. After all, it's not just the Democratic Party he has destroyed. It's our Democracy itself that he is actively destroying. There is no lack of evidence to support that claim either. I don't think I need to list it all here.

Perhaps that's his goal - rather than go down in history as a failure as President, he can claim fame in victimhood. He's certainly been capitalizing on that theme instead of actually fighting for and defending D/democratic principles.

Pearl said...

Musings from Pearl:

Annenigma: Obama could not have gotten away with all his malfeasance without the support and ignorance of people who should know better. The inability of the so called liberals of the Democratic party to separate truth from fiction regarding the true objectives of this president are the reasons why we have a true Republican Congress slipping through although some are making noises about repairing some of the cracks in the Ship of State. Obama is now exposed and hopefully democrats who recognized this by not voting or voting correctly will begin to rethink and become active in pushing for change finally. The fact that young voters stayed away is significant one hopes.
Much has to happen in the coming years to wake up the citizenry but the comments of important leaders behind the curtain will grow louder. Wonderful quotes from Denis about these greater minds who lament the loss of democracy and endless wars destroying the country and its people.
All we can do is read and write the truth and not be afraid to speak and discuss it with others.
Now that the Republicans have no excuses to neglect the people, reaction will hopefully begin to set in.
The country is divided as evidenced by the closely run fights in several states (as in Florida for governor)which is an important signpost for the future. And maybe another good thing is Hillary may not have a clear path to the White House.
So, as Karen reminded us, fasten your seatbelts. Interesting things are on the horizon, so hold on.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Will: I'll second the thanks from @Denis for the W.E.B. Dubois link.
And @Denis, thanks for the David Souter quote.
Here's a link, for anyone who wants it:
(Perhaps as interesting as the quote itself is its minimal dissemination, revealed when, to find it, I did a google search on a phrase from it).

Okay, so what now?

This week, not six months or a year from now, is the time to start building a new political party, one that — unlike the plutocratic neocon Republican and co-conspiring neoliberal Democratic existing ones — is actually concerned with social and economic justice, national infrastructure, restoration of and respect for civil liberties, and genuine representative government.

And if we are to tout representative government, then those of a progressive bent really must do more to educate the "average", "middle-of-the-road" citizen, who, after more than three decades of rightward indoctrination and political movement, doesn't even think about, let alone care or aspire to, issues of the public good.

My guess is that 90% of the American public has no knowledge whatsoever about 90% of the people referenced at the following link (let alone what they stood for and did):


And both of those 90% figures might even underestimate the reality.

@(All): Anticipating the election outcome (which was even worse in Arizona than nationally), I put up a short new post at my blog a couple of days ago, about the deceit of modern electioneering and the state of the American voter. Comments welcome.


Fred Drumlevitch said...

Oh, and for some other, reader-selected additions to the Nation list:


We can debate who should (or shouldn't) be on the list, but that doesn't alter my basic point, that most Americans wouldn't know much, if anything, about most candidates for a progressive "honor roll".

Denis Neville said...

@ Fred Drumlevitch

Any breach in the grip of the Democratic and Republican Parties on the American body politic in order to get a wider public hearing would be welcome. Like the hole in the dike that the Dutch boy tried to plug, the purpose of a strong third party is to make that gap even wider and harder to plug.

Polls show that a majority of Americans say that both the Republicans and Democrats are doing such a poor job that a new, third party is needed.

No easy task, given the false divide-and-conquer drama created by the powers that be to keep the American people divided and distracted. The Founding Fathers warned us about the threat from a two party system.


“Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. If the forces of democracy take decisive, terroristic action against the reaction from the very beginning, the reactionary influence in the election will already have been destroyed.” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League London, March 1850

annenigma said...

Marianne Williamson does a great takedown of the Democratic Party in her piece titled 'The Democratic Party Needs Its Soul Back'


I wish I could find the You Tube video that Eva, one of Karen's readers, pointed out several years ago that shows Obama speaking to young poli sci students in D.C. shortly after taking office. He warns them of the hazards of having principles when you're in politics - 'You will only be disappointed'. If anyone knows where that can be found, please share it with us.

Pearl said...

The article in the NYTimes, Election 2014: The President is not a Happy Warrior" had a lot of interesting comments in the Readers' picks section. Why didn't we hear from them sooner?

Fred Drumlevitch said...


Thanks for the Marx quote. I don't really consider myself a Marxist, but that bit of political analysis from him seems very relevant to the current situation.

@annenigma (and @all):

Yes, interesting article by Marianne Williamson at your provided link --- but I think she's displaying way too much hope that the Democratic Party corporatists will relinquish control. (And do, at this point, read @Denis' Marx quote).

Williamson writes "The new era begins today, as the Democratic corporatists start lining up for the presidential nomination in 2016. What can we do? Make it clear -- make it really, really clear -- that hell no, we will not support a corporatist nominee."

The problem is, hell no, they (the corporatists) won't go (away).

And that's important to understand, because if Democratic progressives just keep wishing and hoping that they will, or even think that "mak[ing] it really, really clear" will be enough, then the next few years will just be a replay of the past. That is, after each election season, the Democratic leadership, whether they have won or lost, becomes ever more right wing --- but progressive Democratic rank-and-file party members and other voters, ever hopeful, fail to build any of the absolutely-necessary pressure structures outside the party, from where they can apply strong pressure and not be co-opted.

We can debate what form those external pressure structures should take, but I myself am increasingly of the opinion that nothing less than a new political party will do.


About critical commenters, "Why didn't we hear from them sooner?"

Too much political "hope" afoot in the land, perhaps?