Random Thoughts: August 15, 2012

Can I Be A GOP Shill?
(or Why I Support Good 3rd Party Speakers)
by Jasmine Sailing

Late last year, during the early throes of OWS, I went through about my 50,000,000th round (possibly a slight exaggeration) of being a GOP shill, Republican, liar, starter of wars, etc etc, because I mentioned voting for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore in 2000. And, naturally, as the accusations flooded in I also mentioned voting for him the next two times as well.

Yes, yes, it’s all my fault that Bush, Bush, and... Obama... were elected. I personally invaded Iraq. I know the drill.

The almost funny thing is that it happened because someone mentioned being called a GOP shill for expressing the opinion that Obama doesn’t belong in Occupy Wall Street (considering he belongs to Wall Street itself). I replied, with passing sympathy, “You get used to it, I’ve been a GOP shill since I voted for Nader instead of Gore”. Which immediately prompted the obligatory flood of “thank you for Bush”, plus the obligatory blaming me for all the ails of the world. And, naturally, being called a GOP shill and even queried on when I was going to ask about Obama’s birth certificate again (which I had never done in the first place, much like I never personally invaded Iraq).

I provided the url for a fun “make your own birth certificate” site that jokingly included Obama’s information. It was originally sent to me by my step-Dad, a dedicated Democrat with a sense of humour.

By the end of it, I started thinking “You know, it’s too bad this isn’t true. It’s too bad I’m not being paid for saying nice things about Nader, and about 3rd party candidates I respect”. Then I could gain something more tangible than a “fUCK yOU” out of writing about things I care about. Don’t blame me for that wording, I’m copy & paste quoting a response I received while debating rationally. Using the word “Nader” in a positive fashion, rather than an insulting one, has an interesting effect of causing caps lock and profane gibberish malfunctions in people.

So here’s my appeal. If some rich GOP wants to pay me to write about 3rd party candidates I respect, please go ahead and hire me. You’ll get my criticisms of Democrats as a bonus, because that’s another thing I’m fond of writing about. What you must accept is that I will also make fun of Republicans, and even of 3rd party candidates, when I feel they deserve it. These are all things I do on a regular basis, and I sure could use some money.

I’d been hoping that after people elected Obama and discovered he’s just another lying bought out politician chirping whatever scripted thoughts might get him elected (something I often tried to point out while he was running, but the masses desperately wanted to eat up his propaganda), people would notice that electing a Democrat hasn’t saved the world. I managed to hope this, I suppose, because my focus is heavily environmental and not many self-respecting environmentalists aren’t justifiably pissed off at the Obama administration.

Next tack on Obama’s refusal to consider medicinal marijuana as a valid option (unless it’s for the profit of big money pharmaceutical companies), failing to fight Wall Street, allowing mass crackdowns on protesting, signing NDAA without protecting US citizens from indefinite detention, plus his escalations of war and use of drones for assassinations. Amongst so ridiculously many other failures and outrages on his part.

Hoping people would finally see the lack of validity in a lesser evil was a bit of a pipe dream, especially from someone like me who has always found it difficult to have faith in people. I should know better. I do know better. I’m simply one of those bleeding heart idiots who loves hoping people can notice simple things that seem painfully clear to me. But, no, so far that only seems to mean I’m a bit radical and my head is stuck in the clouds.

To all 3 or so of you who haven’t sputtered off thinking “fUCK yOU” and are actually willing to read my point of view (whether or not you agree with it, I’ve always been interested in different points of view), or to Republicans who want to see the freak show of a lefty saying mean things about Democrats, or whatever, let me try to explain some of where I’m coming from.

In my teens I was a vegetarian, environmentalist, punk activist type who loved grassroots protests and thought the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) was terribly cool. (“Awesome”, as teens like saying.) I was also a Reagan-era youth. Two terms of Reagan, followed by a term of Bush, Sr. From the moment I turned 18 onward I never missed voting, because I believe in tackling problems from all angles. Buy the right things, consume less, have a compost pit, get out there on the streets to protest, engage in civil disobedience, write letters, sign petitions, do everything you can. Be subversive through the arts, I both produced and indulged in a lot of that as well.

But, as with many people who voted for Obama, I had my moment of regret over a Presidential vote. For me, it was Clinton. 12 years of the Reagan regime (counting Bush, Sr.) with a constant rise in religious fundamentalism, “family values”, Zero Tolerance, and blowing off the spread of AIDS, made it easy to believe that things could get so much better with a Clinton Presidency. I voted for him, I thought I was relieved that he won.

We all have moments that “sum it all up” for us. The Democrat one for me was when Clinton was elected... and promptly had missiles fired at Iraq for, as I generally described it at the time, such a dramatic reason as Saddam being a big meanie and calling George Bush Sr. bad names. I was sitting out on the porch and had already seen the news. My friend Paul (a peacenik anarchist who was okay with voting) came downstairs with a newspaper, looked forlorny at me, and asked “Can I take back my vote?”. I sadly replied “No, sorry, we’re stuck with this one”. 8 years of that long sigh.

In the end, what scared me the most during the Clinton years was the way people seemed to be going to sleep... lulled by the concept of a Democrat in office after the Reagan and Bush years, distracted by his charisma and his ability to get interns to give him blow jobs and wondering how Hillary really felt about those blow jobs... The brain candy factor was remarkable. Levels of activism dwindled. To me, seeing people not fighting for the things that matter to them appeared a far worse nightmare than the Bush Jr. years after it.

Was everything perfect under Clinton? Absolutely not! His environmental record was abysmal, he invaded Haiti for the heck of it (good to keep the troops in shape, you know), we were threatened with incarceration for daring to speak harshly about the President in public, and he played a strong role in crafting the economic decline. Need I say more? There’s more, believe me, his sex life wasn’t the only thing happening in the US even if it was the only thing people wanted to talk about.

Unfortunately my guilt factor got even worse, and I feel for the many people who are going to suffer the same way when they grudgingly vote to re-elect Obama.

Many people who voted for Ralph Nader, rather than Al Gore, in 2000 and especially people who vocally supported him (Michael Moore springs easily to mind), regretted their choice when Gore lost and became Nader-apologists. Or, worse, they became rabid born-again Democrats who believe that doing anything other than supporting Democrats will destroy the country.

I do not regret voting for Nader that year, or for vocally supporting him, going to a rally, donating money, having a yard sign (which was, btw, smashed to pieces), and being at the returns party for him in Denver (unfortunately that otherwise wonderful venue appeared on the Nader-apologist list and I found myself afraid to mention there that I was voting for him again in 2004... but, even so, it is a local independent venue that I have a great deal of respect for). I’ve never regretted a second of it. I took my then young son to a Nader rally and he remains impacted by it.

My regret is a very different one. It’s that in 1996 I was deeply tempted to vote for Ralph Nader instead of Bill Clinton. That was the first time Nader ran as a Green Party candidate, though it wasn’t the first time he ran (in fact, mentions of the first attempts to draft him appeared in my birth year: 1971!). In the end, I was afraid. Despite feeling disgruntled with Clinton, I voted for him because I felt more afraid of the possibility of a Republican winning.

It wasn’t a complete loss. We split the household vote, I voted for Clinton and Bruce voted for Nader. Clinton won by a healthy margin, and my vote was wasted on someone I couldn’t even respect. I felt embarrassed and cowardly.

It was the last time I made that mistake on a Presidential vote. I wish I could say it was the last time I made that mistake, period, but unfortunately that’s not the case. If you didn’t give me time to think and demanded an automatic answer on who I’ve despised the most in Obama’s cabinet I would likely say “Ken Salazar”. Watching him sell out one thing after another that I care about environmentally, to corporate interests, and being so detrimental that it has been said he’s bent over far harder for oil than Bush’s administration did, was deeply painful... Especially considering I voted for him when he ran for Senate here in Colorado.

Why did I do that? Did I think I liked him? No, not at all. The truth is, he was running against a member of the Coors family. Since my teens the Coors family has had that magic effect of making my knee jerk violently. And so I voted against Coors, rather than for Salazar. And I got to remember that every time I saw him spit on our country’s natural resources and remaining natural beauty.

Am I completely anti-Democrat? No. There’s not much sense in basing all opinions on one label. I have voted for some Democrats without feeling like a complete putz about it. Often they are types whom I suspect would fit in better with the Green Party, but are running as Democrats so they can actually be elected. Instead of looking at labels I prefer looking at track records for issues that are important to me – like the environment and civil rights.

I have also not voted for Democrats I approved of, because I knew they would win and it was better to support 3rd party candidate who were running against them. I strongly want 3rd parties to get enough support to be noticed. Monopolies are never a good thing, and that’s unfortunately what we have right now (believe it or not). I also love supporting good speakers who won’t win but who will, in the process of not winning, do an excellent job of drawing attention to important issues.

During Obama’s initial campaign I found it disturbing to watch adults egg on young voters about how great Obama would be. Over and over I attempted to point out that he was trying to be elected and it’s impractical to think he actually believed in or would be capable of doing most of the things they hoped he would. Seeing adults, who should know better, behaving so irresponsibly was disturbing because it was too obvious that it would lead to a lot of disillusioned young voters. Many of whom would become apathetic and not vote at all. Hopefully some would follow the path I ultimately did, and at least support good speakers.

Winning isn’t everything! Challenging the status quo and changing mass media discussions are important as well.

But people seriously believed in Obama... best worst obvious example of all being his Nobel Peace Prize after he won the Presidency. I loved the Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me joke about that: “Obama has launched more cruise missiles than all other Nobel Peace Prize winners combined”.

Predictably, people became disillusioned when their high expectations were dashed to smithereens. Well, not everyone. There’s still a majority out there who will tell themselves anything they need to so they can believe they are doing the right thing by voting for the lesser of 2 Evils. My favourite line to quote from The Simpsons: “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos!”. (If you didn’t see that Treehouse of Terrors, I think it may have been in 2000, it was the 2-party choice between one slave-driving human-eating alien or another.)

I won’t claim to be a Capitalist. I’m moreso an ex-Welfare Mom who worked independently and under-priced everything, to my own detriment, because I know the feeling all too well of living hand-to-mouth. I eventually had the luck of marrying into health insurance, and without that I would’ve been dead a long time ago. We probably look like we’re living a decent life, yet in reality we’re in quite the debt hole and it’s a terribly insecure state of being. I can understand why many people are so disenfranchised with this system that they won’t vote. That, of course, is a personal choice.

My personal choice is to find someone I can respect as a speaker, someone I want to see getting major media coverage, and throw my support to them. Last year I picked Jill Stein as my 2012 candidate of choice for those reasons. I already had some familiarity with her before she decided to run for President. While she was still the Green-Rainbow candidate vying for being the official Green Party candidate (as she is now) she started a petition against police brutality and, right there on her Presidential campaign website, a Photoshop of the UC Davis pepper spray incident was included.

Yes, that’s someone I can consider supporting. My stance last year was “I’m voting for Jill Stein, unless something happens to change my mind”. So, what has happened since then? She became the 1st Green Party candidate to qualify for matching funds, and the 1st 3rd party candidate aside from Ross Perot to qualify (do we seriously need to count him when he was rich enough to buy his way into the debates?). That’s nice, but let’s take a look at the speaking and action parts.

Jill attended protests that she knew she could be arrested at, including being out in the middle of the night during an Occupy Boston eviction. She was the Keynote Speaker at Boulder’s 4/20 rally, quite possibly the largest 4/20 rally in the country. She said she would pardon Bradley Manning. She picked a formerly homeless Vice Presidential candidate, who strongly advocates for needy families. She’s a dedicated speaker on the anti-war, health care, environmental, and civil liberties fronts.

Her response to the Sikh Temple shooting was that an investigation of white supremacist violence, encouragement, and infiltration into our government is needed. It’s not the Muslims who are sneaking in (Sikhs are Hindu, by the way, and if you think Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims are one big happy family you can take a look at how many Muslims have been slaughtered by Buddhists in Myanmar), it’s the Religious Right who snuck in a long time ago and are more out in the open about it by the year. You may have noticed some of them telling you to hate Muslims and consider shooting Mexicans at the border.

Most recently both Jill and her running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested for “defiant trespassing”, while protesting and attempting negotiation in support of two families who were victims of predatory lenders. They spent nearly 24 hours in jail, in normal crowded and uncomfy jail cells, sleeping on the floor, like so many other protestors, while awaiting their bond hearing.

Has anything happened to change my mind about supporting and voting for Jill Stein? Gosh, no. It’s more like my standards have changed – now I feel like good candidates should get arrested at protests and experience jail! I would love to see her views and stories receive considerably more mainstream news coverage than they are.

That’s what it’s about for me. She can win or lose, as long as she’s out there speaking and drawing attention to issues. Giving us an alternative to a couple of robots reading from lobbyist’s scripts and doing amazing juggling acts of trying to sound like they’re speaking for the people at the same time.

If you look at example Romney and Obama ads... it’s a lot like when Obama managed to insinuate fracking, oil, and nuclear energy as “clean energy” to massive rounds of applause during his State of the Union. Pay careful attention to the ads, you might notice a lot of skirting around actually taking a stance. It’s easy to harshly say “My opponent bla bla bla”, and then hastily change the subject without claiming you would do anything differently.

Romney can claim he’ll create jobs with the Keystone Pipeline (a fallacy, we’re mostly talking a lot of very short-term jobs that aren’t worth all of the damage) and then Obama, who has been chronically brow-beaten by environmental masses into waffling over the Pipeline he also badly wants to create, can say he’ll create lots of jobs... by okaying the Keystone Pipeline, right? Well, he’s hardly going to come right out and say that at the same time as Romney is.

I could go on, but quite honestly I don’t want to waste my energy on those two. They aren’t worth it. I can only wish more people would realise that and refrain from voting for them. Who you vote for is a personal choice, we all need to individually weigh out what we can live with having on our conscience. I would forgive someone for voting for the 2 Evils, even though I do wish they would vote for any 3rd party candidate instead.

Recently I heard a radio interview (on 1190, a non-commercial station in Colorado) wherein Jill Stein provided the analogy that you can choose between being shot in the head (Republicans) or slowly strangled to death (Democrats). I was nearly strangled to death when I was 19. Let me tell ya, it’s no fun. So, sure, I’ll risk the quicker death of being shot in the head. Especially if it means any chance that, rather than winding up dead, we’ll slow down or stop this rapid drift further and further into the US being a God-fearing white supremacist nation with no qualms about exercising brute force over the rest of the world and indefinitely detaining any citizens who have a problem with it.

Final note: Nader did not “steal my vote”. Without him, I still would have had (and used) the options of voting for another 3rd party candidate (I have “thrown my vote away” to quite a range of them in a variety of offices) or not voting. How did Al Gore deserve my vote? He was a born-again Environmentalist, because he was bent on distancing himself from Clinton as much as possible (and, yes, he inhaled too... it was in Rolling Stone... dude). Odds are he would’ve won if he had accepted more help from the charismatic Clintons. Consider faulting his choices, and consider the possibility that he (and the Democrat candidates who followed him) didn’t strike everyone as worth voting for.

Jill Stein isn’t “stealing my vote” either. There is, quite frankly, no chance in hell I would vote for Obama. She has my gratitude for giving me someone I am actually willing to vote for.

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