Posts Tagged ‘Elections’


The 2016 presidential election is fast approaching, and to provide a few moments of respite from the nauseating spectacle — election workers would be well advised to hand out barf bags along with ballots — here are a few definitions you might find humorous.

The first definition is from Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism, and all of the others, plus the graphics, are from our new American Heretic’s Dictionary. We hope you enjoy them.

Democracy, n. 1) The bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people.

Democratic Party, n. 1) The “good cop” in the biennial good cop/bad cop mugging of the American public; 2) A political party which has persevered and prospered for over two centuries without, curiously, ever having had any principles to betray.

"Hell" graphic by J.R. Swanson from "The Devil's Dictionaries"

Hell, n. A place of everlasting torment, much like the United States during an election year.

Lesser of Two Evils, phr. The perennial and inspiring reason to vote for the Democratic Party’s courageous, incorruptible candidates.

Majority Rule, phr. The governing principle of the United States. The revered concept that it is every bit as right and just that two million individuals impose their will upon one million, under threat of force, as it is that two individuals impose their will upon one, under similar threat.

Municipal Election graphic by J.R. Swanson

Municipal Election, n. A refreshing dip in an open sewer.

President of the United States, n. 1) A pathological liar suffering delusions of grandeur; 2) An office which confers upon its holder vast coercive power as well as the means to commit mass murder—an opportunity of which all recent U.S. presidents have taken advantage. Because of this, some observers have concluded that only the worst type of individuals seek the office of president. This unkind assessment is, however, incorrect. It is more realistic to conclude that only the worst type of individuals are elected to the office.

Republican, adj. Having an affinity for gold, in both bullion and shower form.

Republican Party, n. Once described as “America’s largest hate group,” the Republican Party is often scurrilously portrayed as consisting entirely of racists, but this is not so. Many Republican leaders are not racists themselves, but are merely content to pander to them.

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American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


H.L. Mencken

“[G]overnment is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

–H.L. Mencken, A Carnival of Buncombe


Anarchist Cookbook front cover(from The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, Introduction by Chris Hedges, scheduled for October 2015)

 

Politicians, the corporate media, and the miseducation system routinely present voting as the only legitimate route to political and social change.

But is it? Because of if its very nature, voting cannot lead to fundamental change. No matter who you elect, no matter if you elect “better people,” there will still be some giving orders and others forced to take them, because of the threat, and often the application, of institutionalized violence (police, prisons, the military). When you vote, all you’re doing is choosing who’s in charge of the inherently repressive state apparatus. If your goal is a noncoercive, free and equal society, you cannot get from here to there; you cannot get there through voting.

A brief glance at the Western democracies confirms this. No one in his or her right mind would contend that centuries of electoral politics have brought anything approaching full freedom and equality to the US or the UK. The best that voting seems capable of producing is the social-democratic systems of the Scandinavian countries. But even there, you still have government (organized coercion) and capitalism–an ecocidal system of economic inequality, with some giving orders and others forced to take them–overlaid by a veneer of social welfare measures.

Of course, this veneer matters. It reduces–but doesn’t come close to eliminating–the economic inequality inherent to capitalism. Publicly funded healthcare, education, childcare, food assistance, public transit, unemployment benefits, and retirement benefits all make the day-to-day lives of poor and working people in capitalist countries much more bearable than they would otherwise be. But at the same time, such social welfare measures are almost certainly at the outer limit of what electoral politics can deliver. Centuries of cumulative experience in dozens of electoral democracies strongly suggest this is so.

If you’re content with that, fine. But don’t pretend that that’s freedom and equality. Even in the best social-democratic system, you’ll still have a relatively small number of politicians, bureaucrats, and capitalists giving orders and the vast majority of people forced to take them. In other words, you’ll still have ruling elites.

Given this, is voting a useless or worse-than-useless activity? No. It’s silly to pretend that it is. The social welfare programs mentioned above are worthwhile, and were achieved in good part through the electoral process. As well, initiatives and referendums–for example, on marijuana legalization–can clearly be of public benefit. One might also ask, if voting is useless, why are theofascist Republicans so intent on denying black people, latinos, the poor, and young people the right to vote?

At the same time, belief that voting is the sole legitimate means of social change is harmful. It induces many idealistic young people to waste huge amounts of time on political campaigns. A great many, probably most, eventually recognize the ultimate futility of electoral politics and burn out. Believing that there are no other means to social change, they lapse into cynicism and inactivity. This cycle repeats decade after decade after decade.

But that’s not to say voting is entirely useless. It can produce limited reforms. Recognizing its marginal utility, Howard Zinn once remarked that voting takes five minutes, so why not?

Just don’t waste much time on it, and don’t expect it to fundamentally change anything.


DEMOCRATIC PARTY, n. 1) The “good cop” in the biennial good cop/bad cop mugging of the American public; 2) A political party which has persevered and prospered for over two centuries without ever having had any principles to betray.

REPUBLICAN PARTY, n. The Republican Party is often scurrilously portrayed as consisting entirely of racists, but this is not true. Many Republicans leaders are not racists, but are merely content to pander to them.

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary


Benjamin Tucker“What is the ballot? It is neither more nor less than a paper representative of the bayonet, the billy [club], and the bullet. It is a labor-saving device for ascertaining on which side force lies and bowing to the inevitable. The voice of the majority saves bloodshed, but it is no less the arbitrament of force than is the decree of the most absolute of despots backed by the most powerful of armies.”

–Benjamin Tucker, Instead of a Book


Rudolf Rocker“He who declares the common will to be the absolute sovereign and yields to it unlimited power over all members of the community, sees in freedom nothing more than the duty to obey the law and to submit to the common will. For him the thought of dictatorship has lost its terror.”

–Rudolf Rocker, Nationalism and Culture


VICIOUS, adj. Popular, electable, having a reputation for moral rectitude.

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary