Power does not come from the vote

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by Carlos Pedraza

Another election and another vote for the soul of the country ends in a practical tie between Democrats and Republicans that hardly feels like a victory. In 2020, I canvassed for Bernie Sanders and was a believer in ‘voting blue no matter who.’ I was an election believer; I wanted to remove Trump and Republicans from power to stop the gutting of the EPA and welfare programs. But now I don’t see the point.

While media pundits and people in my classes tell me of the dangers of Republican fascism and oppression, the question I want to ask people is, “What do you want?” 

What I want is better welfare programs, but Democrats won’t pass those. Build Back Better was stopped by two Democratic senators, who went rogue by voting with Republicans. I want the working class to control its own fate. When the ruling rich raise rent and the cost of living while keeping wages low and conditions bad, the workers could challenge them through voting if a party spoke for them. But the Democrats are not and have never been a working class party. 

Workers need to remember that our power comes not from a vote but in our numbers, words, and ability to strike. We got social security, minimum wage, and medicare not from virtuous moral politicians but from a militant working class movement organized through the parties and unions. 

Our numbers will always be greater than the rich as capital is consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. We can demand power whenever we choose; we only need organization. In 2011 the Occupy movement was the first time in decades that wealth inequality became a political issue, but the energy died out without an organization to sustain it. Without a charismatic leader like Sanders or an economic crisis, working class issues are ignored. The only way to keep them in the political conversation is to have our own organization independent of the Democrats and Republicans.

Anything you think you get from a Democratic government was won by a party that does not exist anymore. The party today is passive and only wants stability so capital can continue to profit; how they profit does not matter to Democrats. Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Schumer always advocate for compromise and moderation when we all know it is time for radical change. Just look at the cost of living; rent is high, food and gas prices are soaring. Why would voting for them again change anything? 

This is why I can’t vote for Democrats anymore. Nothing changes, life gets harder and they don’t care. I had a lot of emotional energy invested in the Sanders campaign, and how that election played out was a big hit to my faith. I have heard people say to get back into the fight again, but I think elections are a dead end. 

What about propositions? The way that they are written is meant to confuse the general public. How is a normal person supposed to know how to vote? I can’t spend hours reading 40 articles on props and tracking their supporters and funders. Our political system was made for rich landowners who did not have to work, and I think modern props reflect this. They were introduced as a progressive reform for direct democratic participation, but are now so confusing that they alienate working class voters.

Politics does not have to begin and end at the ballot box. Participate in a union drive, join an organization independent of the two parties, most importantly develop a class consciousness. Class consciousness arises from experiences of working to pay off loans or rent. Think about how your boss and landlord profit from your labor, and who keeps the vast majority of the money you make. Talk to your co-workers and see how your interests align.

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