Democratic Underground  
Why I'm Voting, While I Still Can
October 16, 2002
By TahitiNut

There has been much heat and a little light, within the Democratic Underground forum, in our nation, and in our world. In my opinion, today's "issues" (as defined by others often for their own convenience) are less about war, peace, left, right, crime, regulation, stock markets, jobs, or terrorism than about democracy itself. We live at a time when our founding first principles are under assault, and we are on the front line whether we yet realize this or not. It is not terrorists engaging in this assault; it is the force of our own fears, ignorance, and mutual animosities that threaten us, and threaten our democratic principles as a nation.

"As most of the evils which have taken place in private life, and among individuals, have been occasioned by the desire of private interest overcoming the public affections, so most of the evils which have taken place among bodies of men have been occasioned by the desire of their own interest overcoming the principle of universal benevolence and leading them to attack one another's territories, to encroach on one another's rights, and to endeavour to build their own advancement on the degradation of all within the reach of their power." Richard Price, A Discourse on the Love of our Country (1789)

The inherent virtues and vices of a democratic system of governance are neither more nor less than the virtues and vices of the People themselves. (The same cannot be said of any other principle of governance, in any respect.) This was articulated far more completely and deeply than I could ever repeat by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, and by Jefferson, Paine, and others.

From their labors and the sacrifices of many, we inherited a precariously balanced system of governance that sought to inhibit both a tyranny of any majority and a tyranny of any minority; that sought to protect the rights and liberties of all, while placing that very protection under our own authority where it rightfully belongs in justice and equity. Who can more rightfully claim the fruits, whether sweet or sour, of their political labors than the People themselves?

Within our system of governance, there is one and only one mechanism that's democratic: an election, wherein the sovereign authority of the People is voiced in our vote, which must be heard, fully, completely, and accurately. When it comes to democratic self-governance, this is the leash; all else is the beast.

In this, we must not compromise or retreat. Yet I've seen exactly that. Overtly and hypocritically, I have seen the voice of the People stifled, distorted, muffled, and ignored like never before in our history. I have seen the informed will of the People thrown into disarray by a plague of misdirection, falsehoods, deception, secrecy, predatory exploitation of public media, and extensive corruption at the apex of corporate, religious, and governmental institutions. Yet I still see many of us neurotically seeking "leaders" rather than custodians, parents rather than partners, bosses rather than coworkers, demagogues rather than teachers, and entertainers rather than educators.

Rather than hearing the clear voice and informed will of the People, we are told what we think, what we want, what we know, and how ignorant and uneducated we are. After we witness an atrocity in our neighborhood, we're told to go shopping. Like repressed children, the self-proclaimed sovereign adults of governance instruct us to be seen and not heard. Then like disturbed children, we throw the tantrums of "Billy did it first!" and "My daddy can beat up your daddy!"

We proclaim "In God We Trust" and deludedly accept the exhortation of "Trust Me" from our public servants while, in collusion with one another and corrupt corporate carpetbaggers, they steal food from our neighbors' gardens, sleep in our softest beds, deny medicines to our elderly, mortgage our children's futures, engage in vigilantism, pass over our weakest cousins, and pillage our savings. Is it any wonder that our neighbors are losing their respect for us?

When an (arguably) elected President, ethically answerable to the People, unilaterally chooses to throw off the agreed-to restraints of International Law and Constitutional doctrine and pursues the conquest of a foreign nation, under the presumptive rationale that their political processes are undemocratic and their head of state is illegitimate and a threat to others; and when he then orchestrates a media parade of imagined horribles, I'm reminded of the bogeymen misguided parents employ to cow incompliant children, employing coercion not reason and honesty, dominated by fear rather than mutual love and respect.

I'm also reminded of the psychology of projection and that we were once asked "why behold thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

It is not Congress to whom a President must report in promotion of a causus belli, it is the People. So also is it the People to whom the Congress must answer in exercising their delegated authority under the Constitution to engage our nation in a war or not not their political party and not the President. Just as corrupt Executives have been facilitated in their predation by compliant Boards of Directors ignoring their fiduciary duties, the seductions of partisan allegiance in lieu of democratic duty corrupts our body politic.

It is also not Congress, even in collusion with an (arguably) elected President, that's legitimately empowered to trample the Bill of Rights when, neither informed nor seeking consent, they enact the cynically marketed "Patriot Act". Such an odious act, in presuming to ignore the very human rights and civil liberties under which any and all legitimacy of the Congress is formed, is an atrocity against democracy an atrocity only the People can legitimately commit themselves.

I will vote for the People and for democracy itself. I can, in good conscience, vote for no other and none other. In a Maslow-like hierarchy of political needs, all else has become (sadly) secondary. I will raise my solo voice through the vote, through interactions with others, through communication with my elected representatives, through protests and dissents, and through any other avenue not yet denied me. If my solo voice becomes part of a chorus of democracy singing the lyrics of liberty, I will be glad. But no matter what, I will not be silenced and will not retreat as long as there's breath in my lungs and blood in my heart. I cannot, with any self-respect, do less.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." Declaration of Independence (Adopted in Congress 4 July 1776)

The destruction of our democracy would not be the end merely another beginning. While, like the cycle of birth and death, it may certainly be painful and agonizing, it would be inevitable. It is inevitable since, as history has shown, tyrannies cannot survive. Whatever it's lesser structural accoutrements may be, democracy will prevail. We may not see it again in this nation in our lifetimes, but the will of People who aspire to justice, freedom, equity, and polity will prevail. Of this, I am certain. And the last shall be first.

Printer-friendly version
Tell a friend about this article Tell a friend about this article
Discuss this article
Democratic Underground Homepage