“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ~ Mark Twain
When it’s all said and done, I’ll blame my Presidential vote on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa being such a horrible party host. When I tuned into the DNC’s big convention party, I was rudely reminded that it was a party about a game. That should have been fine. I’ve been tailgating before. I’ve cheered crushing blows and cringed at horrific injuries while inhaling beer and chips, but until this point I considered the game I was participating in to be much more cerebral. “This is chess not checkers” as Denzel Washington so famously said in Training Day. There I was, with my beer with chips and salsa, politely smiling and making small talk about how great a party it was. I was ready to move my pawn anywhere necessary to win this game, when Mayor Villaraigosa introduced the former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to make this addition to the Democratic Party Platform:
“This summer, I was proud to serve this party as the platform drafting committee chair. As the chair, I come before you today to discuss two important matters related to our party’s national platform. As an ordained United Methodist minister, I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values we’ve expressed in our party’s platform. In addition, President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and our party’s platform should, as well. Mr. Chairman, I have submitted my amendment in writing, and I believe it is being projected on the screen for the delegates to see. I move adoption of the amendment as submitted and shown to the delegates.”
Cool. Whatever. Sometimes in political chess, you have to let the Bishop do what it’s going to do to make sure you win. I would’ve voted (in the words of the late great Whitney Houston) “Hell to the Naw!” on both parts of that platform amendment. But I was prepared to lose those pieces off the board in order to win the game. Then, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s (turning from party host to game referee) let this painful moment happened:
“A motion has been made. Is there a second? Is there any further discussion? Hearing none, the matter requires a two-thirds vote in the affirmative. All those delegates in favor, say “aye.”…”
He was the party host, acting like he didn’t see the cock-roach still kicking in the salsa. You can lie to yourself if you want to (about the “aye’s” having a 2/3 majority on any of those three attempts) just don’t lie to me about it. What hurts is, I was ready to play the game. I hated this “Sean Hannity” addition to the platform, and was peeved that we have a President willing to acquiesce to a group of voters who would never vote for him, but I was willing to let that go. I was proud of the 50% of the arena who voiced their displeasure with the addendum, and I was comfortable with the 50% who either believed in that God and Israel stuff or were willing to play the game. But the decision by Mayor Villaraigosa was blatantly unethical, and I made me realize something crucial:
I should be afraid of a democratic institution that does not feel the need to even appear democratic.
Our choices are so slim, our fate is so inextricably tied to the success of the Democratic Party, that they can ignore our wishes in front of the world, and we will take it. A few pundits would mention it the next day and laugh, but in the end Mayor Villaraigosa was the face of the Democratic Party saying “You will recognize the God of Abraham in your party platform, whether you vote for it or not.” Are we so afraid of Republicans that we’d rather be dictated to by Democrats? It’s time to pause and reflect.
The concept “The lesser of two evils”, has a history. In the post World War II era, it’s how the Superpowers decided which murderous dictator to back. Now it’s the lingo many of us use to willingly elect our President. I refuse to believe that a U.S. citizen should be forced to choose between evils. That’s as anti-democratic as possible. A U.S. citizen should be free to chose good, and subsequently lose, but evil should not be his only option. There are some compromises not worth making, and war is always one of them. We are currently executing three unethical wars.
I am against the “War on Drugs”. This war is smoke fighting, not fire fighting, and has successfully made P.O.W.’s out of dealers and collateral damage out of addicts. It should be ended, and non-violent P.O.W.’s should be freed, immediately. Companies living off the Prison Industrial Complex invest in U.S. politics on a monumental and criminal scale and should be stopped, immediately. Obama, and every major Democrat and Republican laughs off questions about ending this decades long war. It has killed men, women and children in North America, South America, and shoot; everywhere you can grow narcotics, especially Afghanistan. Our current reasoning behind drug policy equates to a Minority Report style pre-crime. Every crime a drug dealer or user will commit is illegal whether drugs are involved or not. It’s a hard, principled stance, to allow people to make personal choices. It’s a hard, principled stance to wait until a drug addict commits a crime to arrest them. But your pastor and parents always told you that standing on principle is tough and necessary. We have allowed our fears to make us sacrifice our principles.
I am against the “War on Terror”. Those of my ilk have explained the insanity of declaring war on a noun and an emotion since day one. Terrorist and terror (in its literal sense) know no religion, but when we say “War on Terror”, we know exactly we are talking about our conflict with radical Islam. Between the hell fire from the sky of drone strikes, to the Obama administration continuing the Patriot Act, we have let bin Laden win posthumously. Once again fear wins over principle.
I am against the War on Palestine. This is probably the most sinister compromise I was playing in this game. A vote for a Democratic or Republican President is allowing the State of Israel to institute a modern form of apartheid on the Palestinian people. This is the main false hood of the bible placed in action, causing pain and death on a massive scale. Governor Strickland announced his role as a minister in the same amendment to the platform as he declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel. That was more than a dog whistle to the religious fanatics waiting for Armageddon, it was a big slab of bacon. I remained mum on this topic to advance other personal goals and societal institutions that the Democratic party champions. I can do that no longer. I believe in the separation of church and state, and if that really existed we have little reasoning behind blindly and unconditionally backing the state of Israel when it comes to the treatment of the Palestinian people.
Now I stand here at the party, with my warm beer and stale chips, having always known I was a pawn in a game that everyone knows is crooked. In this game, I’m just lucky not to be one of the other pawns; the 20,000 murdered in the Mexican drug war last year, the modern apartheid in Palestine, the Arab men 18 and older who our government counts as enemy combatants if they happen to be where a drone strike lands. Now I realize I have principles that cannot be bought with health care. Fixing my teeth, getting my allergy medicine, and having a new pair of glasses, isn’t worth the lives lost to the ill conceived and executed wars on “Terror”, “Drugs” and Palestine. No party has plans on ending any of these wars anytime soon; so voting for either is an unethical compromise.
Some will say I’m turning my back on the first black President. That’s fine. He’s already done everything I’ve asked him to do; be an example of what black men are capable of to the students I teach and mentor. But politically, he’s just a pawn who became king. Congrats. Real revolutionaries shake up the board. Until he’s willing to find ways to end the wars on “Terror”, “Drugs” and Palestine I can’t follow him. According to both parties peace is not an option.
A vote for a losing 3rd Party Presidential candidate does not have to be a wasted one; it can be strategic. We need to stop thinking short term with our votes. I’m determined to give my sons’ more options than evil vs. evil when they vote in 2024. I do know this about the game, unless a 3rd party gets at first 5%, then 15%, then 30% of the vote, the major media will never let a 3rd party have a chance at the election. It has to start slow and small, and then grow. It might mean letting the assholes win for a while. I’m okay with that. In the documentary about the great historian John Henrik Clarke called A Great and Mighty Walk, he says, “We must start projects our grandchildren will finish”. I’ve tried to live that quote, and that quote is what my presidential vote this year will represent.
I haven’t declared openly for whom yet, but I’m voting for a third party. No they won’t win. Will Romney win? Probably not. If he does, am I worse off? Yes. But my people survived slavery, Romney ain’t nuthin’. I’ve had all these issues with the Democratic Party for years, but I was at the party and I was playing the game. Mayor Villaraigosa unethical vote call should not really be my come to Jesus moment. I was being an accessory to this long before that infamous platform vote. Unfortunately though, in the end, it’s not a game or a party. There are lives at stake. I would love to have health care. I’m afraid of losing the social safety nets for the elderly, children, sick and poor. I vigorously defend a woman’s right to chose, and to be paid and promoted the same as a man. When it comes to war, however, I cannot compromise, no matter how great a party, or how cerebral a game.