Saturday, February 05, 2005

Who Got Glitched?

I'm not sure if any of the handful of people who read this blog actually live near enough to be interested, but I promised one of my co-vigilers that I'd do what I could to promote an event of which she is an organizer. It is called "Who Got Glitched? A Teach-in on Election Reform." The speakers include Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, reporter Bob Fitrakis of the Columbus Free Press, and Butch Wing of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Jesse Jackson's organization. It will be on Sunday, February 27th from approximately 6 to 10 pm at a Los Angeles-based venue to be named later. It costs $20 if you want to attend a light dinner with Harris and $10 for students or if you want to skip the dinner. You can get more info or order tickets by emailing here.

That having been said, I'm not sure exactly how I, personally, would characterize the political context of this event. I'm personally dubious about tales of high-tech shenanigans to steal the presidency. The Republicans won because of increasingly consolidated right-wing control of elite institutions, because of the powerful radical right (mostly Christian) populist movement in the United States, because of the skillful mobilization by the Republicans of homophobia and racism and the systemic (hetero)sexism and racism that permeate North American society, and because of the organizational and popular weakness of liberalism and the utter marginality of the left. Tinkering with the bits and pieces of the electoral process on its own won't make anything better; only larger, more organized and more radical social movements will make real progress.

On the other hand, from what I've seen there does seem to have been voter suppression efforts that particularly targeted African American communities, and however limited the ability of the vote on its own to constrain oppressive power, that sort of disenfranchisement is not to be taken lightly. And even by the rather limited standards of the liberal-democratic tradition there are some serious problems with the U.S. system -- technological approaches to voting that are less than ideal and not standardized, partisan control over election mechanics, the racist and anti-democratic mechanisms of the electoral college and felony disenfranchisement, and numerous other things. My sense is that electoral reform will be a good issue to push in order to mobilize people and get them passionate. I think it qualifies as a non-reformist reform, which is an incremental change that increases the chances of winning future improvements (a concept I first encountered in stuff written by Michael Albert of ZNet and which I think he nicked from an old socialist named Andre Gorz). This issue can be a part of creating the necessary social movements and making the necessary progress.

But it is also a direction which, if we are not careful, can lead into the fruitless and energy-sapping pursuit of elite conspiracies rather than real, grassroots politics. And it can also reinforce our society's narrow fixation on voting as the essence of democracy, and thereby obscure the fact that voting in our current context is what we do to win small victories in a system stacked against equity and liberation. We can't fail to critique liberal democracy even as we strive to make it function a bit more fairly.

Anyway, if you're interested, please check it out.

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