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News: Anarchist to Vote!

This morning I awoke before dawn. I had been dreaming politics. The sky was pink and red in the east, and an owl was hooting—a great horned, but young, with a high pitched voice. I had been dreaming politics—action committees, meetings, proposals. I too have succumbed to the Great Hope.

I remember the last time there was Great Hope. Let me tell you about 1968. I was in prison, in Texas. It seemed like a lot of people were in prison that year—not by today’s standards, of course—not by a long shot. The bull market in prisons was still in the future.

A black saxophonist from Las Vegas came and sat on my bunk and started talking about Robert Kennedy. I muttered something about George McGovern, the “peace candidate.” Rocky just scoffed, and carried on and on about Robert Kennedy. It was the same with the Chicanos. They were the majority party and they were for Robert Kennedy to a man. The young Black revolutionaries were also for Robert Kennedy. There was great hope—that “we” could win and end the war and stand united for social justice. Then the impossible happened. Robert Kennedy won the California primary and then he was dead. Martin Luther King had been assassinated two months before at the age of thirty-eight.

At the Democratic convention in Chicago the party bosses chose Hubert Humphrey—not a “bad” man, just one who had not won a single primary. The police staged a riot. We watched the televised pictures of the beatings and the bloodied faces from our cells. And we got Nixon.

Would history have been different with Robert Kennedy in the White House instead of Richard Nixon? Duh, yes. Would it have been different in Jakarta and in Chile? Yes.

The last two presidential elections in the United States were stolen. As Larry Beinhart shows in Fog Facts, using any of the six proposed methods of recounting the votes in Florida, Al Gore would have been the winner. Would recent history have been different, if Al Gore had entered the Oval Office instead of George W. Bush? Yes.

Unless someone can explain to me why the exit polls in 2004 agreed with the tallied votes in states using paper ballots, but differed by huge margins in states using electronic machines—the overwhelming evidence is that John Kerry won the election. Despite himself. Would history have been different—perhaps a little kinder, with a little less bloodshed, with a little more responsibility? Yes.

After stealing the elections the thieves moved into the treasury and looted that. When such things occur in South America, in Africa, or in Eastern Europe, we are appalled but not surprised. But it is hard for us to accept that it could happen in the United States of America—even when it happens right in front of us.

So I have succumbed to the Great Hope—that the dark ages can end. The bills are coming due. The third notice from the credit card company is in the mail and the thieves are packing their bulging bags. And I think of Jimmy Carter—another honest man—who became president when the bills from the war in Vietnam had to be paid and how everyone turned against him.

This is not Spain. It is not 1936. We don’t have a CNT or organized unions or collectives ready to take control of the country. Right wing calls for less government exempt the military and the police and the prisons and the judges who would even more callously defend big capital and an orthodoxy of superstition. At this point in history we have government and we must not ignore the choice. It is true that anarchism is an easier sell in dark times than in hopeful, but that is not enough reason not to vote for hope. A moderately progressive president will not solve the problems embedded in a global system based, at its corporate center, on greed and individualistic accumulation. Sullen opposition is less demanding than active politicking, but cynicism doesn’t help us. Obama is our best chance to stop being the pariah of the rest of the world community.

Having had our hopes dashed and trampled so often, we—my generation anyway—approach it warily. But it is time to again accept a share of the responsibility for the United States of America—even if it is only to get to the polls on November 4 and to vote for Barack Obama and the new generation. It does make a difference—even if the machines (again) are stacked against us

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