Principles of Democracy
Although one would be correct in naming the Greek lawmaker Cleisthenes, “the father of democracy,” modern democracy was truly revolutionized and defined by John Locke in his 1690 work, ‘Two Treatises on Civil Government.’
In this work, Locke writes, “The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it.”1
We find this ideal, which states that it is man’s right to live under society as administered by consent of the governed, at the core of nearly every argument for and principle of democracy. Consent of the governed, popular sovereignty, self-ownership, and so forth, are all evidence of this foundational ideal. So, we can consider the general, ‘Principles of Democracy,’ to be any concept which relates to and upholds the center-most ideals of democracy; namely, consent of the governed or popular sovereignty.
And in protection of such principles, the definition of democracy was born. So as not to waste time squabbling over the semantics of what democracy is, I will provide the most simple and inoffensive definition of democracy for our uses. It could be, “a form or method of governing in which the people of a society at large hold control over that society, usually through some form of either direct or indirect voting.” I find this description to fall well within the bounds of any given definition of democracy.
Introduction to Active Voting
The following is a product primarily, if not entirely, of my own creation. In my studies and research of our world, both as it currently exists and as it did in the past, I have found the Dialectical Materialist outlook to produce far and away the most accurate historical and socio-political (as well as economic) picture. The internal contradictions of every system and society, every manifestation of material interaction, undoubtedly have direct effects on the various other contradictions and interactions they’re associated with. This seemingly endless series of interacting contradictions shapes the world and society around us in its entirety. And so, in hoping to resolve one particular contradiction (and thereby progress society in some way), I have attempted to deeply analyze democracy and its components. Active Voting, as a system of my creation, is the product of these attempts.
Casting ballots, votes, and decisions as a citizen of a democratic society is, at first glance, a manifestation of the previously discussed principles of democracy; those being consent of the governed and popular sovereignty. The former because submitting a vote for representation or legislation is the affirmation of one’s consent to the conditions of said democracy and the latter because said vote (especially when casted for legislation directly) is a display of the people’s sovereignty as they supposedly directly impact the result of said vote, which will end by affecting those same people. However, it is my view that, upon deep analysis of the currently existing systems of democracy, there arises a blatant contradiction. Casting your vote as a citizen of a democracy in the way that things currently stand doubles-back on its own logic and ends in a place quite antithetical to the very principles democracy bases itself within. The contradiction, which has negated the supposed freedom of democracy since its inception, relates to the binary and absolute nature of current voting systems. This characteristic, ever-present in all currently existing democracies, grounds itself in representatives and the way they obtain/keep power. Voting exists as a single decision, a point in time where one decides, independently from all prior or future votes, to cast their opinion one way or another on a particular issue (or candidate, in most cases). This single-point, binary decision-making leads not only to issues within the system itself, but also prevents said system from being truly democratic (that is, to uphold the known principles of democracy through consent of the governed, popular sovereignty, and more).
Now that I have explained this contradiction in the briefest possible manner and given adequate logical and historical basis for my work, allow me to analyze the issues in greater detail and present a direct solution to said issues.
A Note on Class Contradiction
It should be duly noted that, prior to any of the following analysis, there is a much deeper and much more prevalent contradiction between the status quo and democracy. Namely, class society is undemocratic and immoral from the outset. Capitalism cannot be reformed to solve its contradictions; class struggle and profit-based planning will always supersede and destroy any supposedly democratic measures implemented under it. ‘Liberal Democracy,’ and, indeed, any form of democracy existing within the pretext of class society, is democracy for the few, for the oppressive class. Lenin perfectly explains this very truth in Chapter V of, “The State and Revolution.”
Quoting directly, “Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich--that is the democracy of capitalist society. If we look more closely into the machinery of capitalist democracy, we see everywhere, in the… details of the suffrage (residential qualifications, exclusion of women, etc.), in the technique of the representative institutions, in the actual obstacles to the right of assembly…, in the purely capitalist organization of the daily press, etc., etc., --we see restriction after restriction upon democracy. These restrictions, exceptions, exclusions, obstacles for the poor seem slight, especially in the eyes of one who has never known want himself and has never been in close contact with the oppressed classes in their mass life (and nine out of 10, if not 99 out of 100, bourgeois publicists and politicians come under this category); but in their sum total these restrictions exclude and squeeze out the poor from politics, from active participation in democracy.”2
Societies built within the pretext of class are subject to the rule of one class and subservience of all others. Each individual class, bodies of individuals with similar and connected material interests, are bound to do whatever possible to gain power and promote the development of society in a way that is favorable to themselves. Thus, under the capitalist system, where, for the better part of 500 years, the namesake ruling class has steadily and exponentially increased its own power and directed all innovation towards the advancement of their goals, it is impossible for real democracy to exist. For the solutions described later in this piece to apply practically, it is imperative and ultimately necessary that you first resolve the deeper contradictions of capitalist society by overthrowing the ruling class and abolishing the status quo in its entirety.
Take mental note then, that the following two sections of analysis exist in the abstract. Henceforth throughout this piece, the framework justification of Liberal Democracy will be presupposed, and all further critiques will be given from within the logic of this presupposition. My aim with this piece is not to deliver an exhaustive and lengthy critique of the capitalist system or it is, ‘democracy,’ but instead to prove that, even within the context of the liberal logic, there still arises deep contradictions between the status quo and the democratic principles previously outlined.
Contradiction Between Binary Voting and Consent of the Governed
To fully grasp the deep contradiction that arises between voting and democracy when said voting is made binary, we must first understand the mechanisms and manifestations that uphold consent of the governed as a principle of democracy. And to do this, we must ask ourselves a further question; what, exactly, does consent of the governed mean when applied to the world itself? As is true with all socio-political and economic theory, consent of the governed is an idea (albeit a general one) which would be rendered entirely pointless without application to reality. Theory for theory’s sake is not theory at all, not substantially. Instead, such abstractions serve as little more than, ‘food for thought,’ or preoccupation for a bored mind. And so, again, we must ask ourselves, “How can consent of the governed be applied to the real world through praxis and legislation?”
We can answer such a question by reviewing an attempt at real world application of the principle and comparing it back to its own base. For the sake of relevance, I will use the United States and its documents for the purpose of this analysis, beginning with the United States Declaration of Independence.
Quoting directly, it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”3
As is clearly stated in this foremost founding document, the principle of consent of the governed is used to uphold certain rights seen to the Founding Fathers of the US as, “unalienable.” These rights, which are present at any mention of the foundations of US democracy, are written as, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Therefore, at least when it comes to US democracy, the practical application of this principle is used as a method to uphold even broader principles. However, this application doesn’t end at the borders of the United States. Rather, this application is found across the planet.
It is well known that the United States and its governmental system stands as a sort-of role model for most of the planet’s nations. Whether aligned with them through geo-politics (as is the case with the infamous Five Eyes Nations and their associates) or through use of force (as is the case with nations such as Libya, who were invaded and had their leaders ousted), most modern democracies stand in the shadow and under the influence of the United States and its principles. One perfect example lies in Japan and their post-war restructure. The Allies (headed in Japan by the United States) occupied Japan after their surrender and re-wrote much (if not all) of their governing texts. This restructure left Japan aligned with the Allies and representative of the same values present in the United States’ governing documents and ethical guide works.
To prove this, quoting from the Council on Foreign Relations, “The 1947 [Japanese] constitution altered the relationship between state and society by introducing popular sovereignty… The Allied powers shared responsibility for post-surrender Japan, but it was [US] General Douglas MacArthur who shaped the rewriting of Japan's constitution.”4
And, if we look to MacArthur’s notes on the revision of Japan’s constitution, we find further proof of this.
Quoting directly, “Japan renounces [war] as an instrumentality for settling its disputes and even for preserving its own security. It relies upon the higher ideals which are now stirring the world for its defense and its protection.”5
It becomes quite apparent, especially with the use of key terms such as, “popular sovereignty,” and, “relies upon,” that the restructuring of Japan’s entire governmental system, while definitively for the better, was focused on bringing the Japanese government and its ideals much closer to the principles of the United States. This same story is true not only for Japan, but for most of the planet’s currently existing democracies.
That being said, a point has been made; what is true for the application of US principles is also true for most (if not all) of the world’s democracies. This point is extremely important in understanding the practical application of consent of the governed as a principle. The scope has been broadened. We aren’t simply reviewing the application as it relates to the United States but quite the contrary; this method of application, through geo-political leverage as well as occupation, applies to all modern democracies and thus, I will no longer refer to these terms distinctly. The application of democratic principles in the US is synonymous with the application of these principles around the world. Henceforth, I will refer to both of these with the interchangeable term, “application.”
Know, however, that this isn’t necessarily always the case. In certain, rare examples, there are likely other applications of democratic principles, ones that aren’t directly influenced by US ideals. The existence of said alternative applications does little, however, to disprove or discredit the unanimity of US-style application. In fact, the existence of such outliers is only further affirmation of the widespread influence of democratic principles as applied by the United States. The fact that one could find and present a clearly distinct application of democratic principles is itself an affirmation of the observation that most democracies are modeled in a similar way to the US because having noticed the difference proves the US application to be the normative application.
To summarize in the briefest possible way what we’ve analyzed and proven thus far; the modern conception of democratic principles, as modeled after the United States’ application of them, are used as a tool to uphold certain rights seen to us as, “unalienable,” or universal. By extension of this idea, we find that, if one were to prove the contradiction of any given system with these democratic principles, it could not only be deemed undemocratic but devoid of these basic, “unalienable,” rights. The following exists for the express intent of doing such a thing when it comes to specifically consent of the governed.
The modern democratic proceeding, while oftentimes varying in exact method (first-past-the-post being most common), remains extremely consistent in its direct violation of the core democratic principles. Whether there are twenty names on the ballot or two, it matters little. What matters is the nature of our current conception of voting itself. When one goes to the voting booth and submits a ballot for a candidate (or candidates), the contradiction does not wait for some later time. The contradiction of our voting systems occurs instantaneously upon the submission of one’s ballot and remains strong through the entire arbitrary term of whatever office one voted for. There is, again as a consequence of our current electoral conception, a single, brief moment between the end of a candidate's term and the submission of a new ballot for a given office where our democratic principles are briefly respected. Leaving this aside for a moment, however, let’s explore the contradiction of our voting system.
To explore the contradiction of our electoral system and the democratic principle known as consent of the governed, I will provide three separate definitions for the term, ‘consent,’ which can be easily compared and synthesized into a usable definition for our purposes. Our first definition comes from the, ‘Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network,’ who can be considered an authority on the subject of consent as any and all sexual activities involve consent in one way or another.
Quoting directly, “While the legal definitions of consent may vary by location and circumstance, the general concept is always the same: Consent is an ongoing process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with… Consent should be clearly and freely communicated… If someone agrees to an activity under pressure of intimidation or threat, that isn’t considered consent because it was not given freely. Unequal power dynamics... also mean that consent cannot be freely given… You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate... that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop.”6
The next definition comes from Sarah O. Parker, writing for the Brooklyn Law Review on a concept known as, “post-penetration rape,”
To quote, “Whether a woman never consents to penetration, or initially consents but later revokes, should be irrelevant. To deny that continued sex after consent is withdrawn is rape affirms the definition of women as property, denies autonomy and bodily integrity to women, and deprives victims of legal recourse in the criminal justice system. First, the refusal to recognize postpenetration rape as ‘real rape’ stems from adherence to the understanding of women as property that underlies rape law generally. In both “ancient societies—and in the more recent American common law tradition— women were considered the legal property of their husbands and fathers”; thus, the rape of a woman was a crime against a man’s property… Second, recognizing postpenetration rape as ‘real rape’ acknowledges women’s freedom to choose and their right to be free from unwanted invasion of their bodies. Rape’s chief harm lies ‘in forcibly depriving a person of her right of bodily integrity,’ and that deprivation exists whether initial penetration is accomplished with or without consent.”7
Our final definition will allow for the seamless fusion of our past ones through a philosophical lens.
Quoting from Encyclopedia Britannica, “Consent, in ethics and political philosophy, [is] an act of permitting something to be done or of recognizing some authority. Granting consent implies relinquishing some authority in a sphere of concern in which one’s sovereignty ought otherwise to be respected… Consent is fundamental to social contract accounts of political legitimacy, arising as early as Plato’s Crito but most prominently in the 17th-century writings of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke… In modern moral and legal thought, actual consent… is of great importance in determining the force of moral obligations and the validity of contracts.”8
Now, having read and understood these distinct definitions of consent, a synthesis of them can be accurately depicted. Such a synthesis will be used as an encompassing definition moving forward whenever referring to the modern conception of consent, especially as it relates to democracy.
This synthesis will be stated as, “Consent is the ongoing, retractable process, whether in relation to matters of physical, political, or philosophical significance, whereby one party or group permits another party or group to act in some particular way or engage in a particular action, especially when the action will personally affect oneself.”
Now, after having synthesized an appropriate definition of consent, the contradiction between single-point electoral systems (which includes all currently existing voting systems) and consent of the governed becomes highlighted. Consent, by it’s very nature, is an ongoing and retractable process. Much in the same way a person engaging in sexual intercourse can retract consent during the act of penetration, so too should anyone be able to retract their consent to a particular action or event at any time, even if they previously had agreed. Apply this, now, to consent of the governed, and our contradiction is finally outed.
If a citizen, whilst living under a modern democracy, submits a vote for official representation (an example being the president or governor) and later changes their mind as to the choice they made, there is no recourse through which their consent can be withdrawn. By all intents and purposes, the individual no longer consents to having voted the way they did, and their democratic principles are being infringed upon. Adding onto this, as we covered earlier, not only does this imply that binary, single-point voting is undemocratic, but also that modern democracies are devoid of the supposedly, “unalienable rights,” which we are so often guaranteed.
Simultaneously, if a citizen, whilst living under a modern democracy, submits a vote for a particular piece of legislation (an example being a law to legalize the use of a substance) and later changes their mind as to the choice they made, there is no recourse through which their consent can be withdrawn. By all intents and purposes, the individual no longer consents to having voted the way they did, and their democratic principles are being infringed upon. In the same way as before, this would also imply the violation of our supposedly, “unalienable,” rights.
Since it is not only possible but likely commonplace for individuals to change their opinions on candidates or legislation based on new information, it’s fair to assume that is common for citizens of modern democracies to have their, “unalienable,” rights infringed upon. Whether or not any given individual has changed their mind since they last voted doesn’t matter, the issue is that it’s possible for someone to change their mind despite there being zero method for revoking one’s consent under our electoral system.
And so after careful analysis of modern democracy in its attempts to uphold consent of the governed, and proper definition of the term consent, the obvious contradiction has shown itself. Binary, single-point voting in which any given vote cannot be later revoked is a direct corruption and violation of the core tenets we know as democracy. Connected through legislation to our conception of, “unalienable,” human rights, the violation of said core tenets is not some minor contradiction. It is a gaping hole in the logical platform upholding modern democracy and the modern democratic government.
This contradiction cannot be solved by simply changing our method of voting. The difference between first-past-the-post voting and instant-runoff voting becomes negligible when one realizes there are greater elements at play, particularly how both of these systems (and, in fact, any currently existing electoral system) will fall prey to the very same contradiction. Sure, instant-runoff voting has more democratic elements than first-past-the-post does, but when both are still binary, single-point electoral systems with no system in place to retract one’s consent, the difference is marginal. There is no reason instant-runoff voting (or any other alternative voting system) couldn’t be implemented alongside changes to the binary nature of modern democracy, however, exchanging one such system for another without addressing the fundamental contradiction they all share would do little at all.
Solving the issues of our current electoral system would involve the deconstruction of our entire democratic system, the analysis of each of its elements, and the restructuring of each of these elements in a way that entirely eliminates their binary, single-point voting nature.
Such is the contradiction of modern democracy and consent of the governed.
Contradiction Between Binary Voting and Popular Sovereignty
To fully grasp the deep contradiction that arises between voting and democracy when said voting is made binary, we must first understand the mechanisms and manifestations that uphold popular sovereignty as a principle of democracy. And to do this, we must ask ourselves a further question; what, exactly, does popular sovereignty mean when applied to the world itself? Much like the previously discussed democratic principle of consent of the governed, popular sovereignty is an idea which would be rendered entirely pointless without application to reality. To repeat myself, theory for theory’s sake is not theory at all. And so, we must ask ourselves, “How can consent of the governed be applied to the real world through praxis and legislation?”
We can answer such a question by properly defining popular sovereignty as a term distinct from consent of the governed and comparing the real-world application of democracy (that we previously discussed so extensively) to it. Despite the colloquial use of popular sovereignty and consent of the governed as synonymous, they can be, in fact, distinctly characterized. To do so, having already defined consent of the governed adequately in the last section, I will analyze and define the term popular sovereignty so that they may be compared. This task can be accomplished by breaking down the definition of each word that composes it and combining them into a coherent synthesis.
The word, ‘popular,’ finds its root with the Latin term, ‘pop-ularis,’ meaning, ‘people.’9 The addition of the Latin suffix, ‘-aris,’ indicates relationship or pertinence to a particular subject (in this case, relationship, or pertinence to the people, in general). Any dictionary worthy of merit would know the word’s Latin origins and, thus, reflect it in their definition. The choice of exactly which dictionary to use is one of little importance. So, for sake of name recognition, I’ll use Merriam-Webster’s dictionary entry, as it is seemingly of equal or greater popularity to any other major dictionary.
Quoting directly, “of or relating to the general public, [or,] suited to the means of the majority.”10
Doing the same for the phrase’s latter half, the word, ‘sovereignty,’ derived from the Old French term, ‘souverain,’ and ultimately rooted in the Latin term, ‘super-anus,’ which means, ‘chief,’ or, ‘principle.’ The term is further derived from the Latin term, ‘super,’ meaning, ‘over.11’ Using Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for the sake of simplicity, we find a related definition.
Quoting, once again, “supreme power especially over a body politic, [or,] controlling influence.”12
Finally, after having defined the terms and their respective roots, a synthesis of the words into a single phrase for our uses will follow. This synthesis (with the additional political context of a principle) could be stated as, “a system or concept for a system through which the general public maintains supreme power over the society.” Henceforth, throughout this document, anytime reference is made to popular sovereignty, this definition will be the intended thought.
As blatantly obvious it may seem, I will put significant emphasis on the characteristic differences between this term and the previously analyzed consent of the governed. The purpose of doing so is simple; as mentioned prior to the definition of popular sovereignty, these terms are often used interchangeably in the common vernacular. For our purposes, however, the two shall be characteristically distinct and independently pertinent to the perceived level of democracy that exists within a system. Such distinction serves the purpose of allowing us to more deeply understand the contradiction of our current democratic system and the principles of democracy itself. The newly discovered nuance of separately analyzing these terms should be apparent in the fact that we are now analyzing two elements of democracy rather than one.
This, of course, is not to say that those who continue using the phrases interchangeably are wrong. It is perfectly acceptable to utilize the most common definition of these terms, especially when referring to democracy or governments in a broader sense, rather than through our strictly analytical lens. To stop random individuals on the street and correct them on their use of the colloquially synonymous terms would be to forget the purpose of our analysis here. This paper does not exist to argue over the definition of democratic principles, it exists to prove that said principles are violated. The exact wording of a given definition matters little as long as all can agree the definitions resemble the principles of democracy as outlined either by Locke or by the modern application. As long as one agrees with this resemblance, then this analysis can be recognized as valid. Only those who wish to argue in bad-faith, who wish to, ‘win,’ some arbitrary, ‘debate,’ would dismiss this analysis on the basis of the exact wording of given definitions.
As we deeply analyzed in the last section, the binary, single-point nature of our modern voting system leads directly to contradiction. The idea that, after having voted for a representative (or, in more rare cases, legislation directly), one may not retroactively revoke their consent, is the root of that particular contradiction. However, as you’ve probably assumed given the title of this section, this contradiction is not the only one arising out of this binary nature. Apply additional nuance, and a distinct contradiction reveals itself. Before this contradiction is analyzed, however, another more obvious one must be addressed. This more obvious contradiction rests in the representative nature of modern democratic application.
In the United States and abroad, the normative application of democracy is known as, ‘representative democracy,’ and this alone stands as a contradiction. In fact, the name itself is proof of such contradiction. How could a system claim to be truly democratic (that is a method of governing in which the people of a society at large hold control over that society) while simultaneously forcing individuals to submit their control over society to certain representatives who are the true legislative and executive powers? This contradiction, however, is a commonly accepted one. Often, in political discourse, this contradiction is seen as a, ‘necessary evil,’ which is to say that many believe this contradiction to be minor enough to warrant completely ignoring it, given the perceived benefits of the representative system. So as not to waste time weighing the benefits and harms of this minor contradiction (which is an entirely separate and equally long-winded issue of discourse), I, too, will allow this contradiction as a sort of, ‘necessary evil,’ (whether or not it truly is). Now that this contradiction has been set aside, what follows will be the main subject of this entire section; the more primary contradiction between our voting system and the democratic principle of popular sovereignty.
When an individual casts a ballot or vote in favor of a candidate or piece of legislation under a modern democratic system, they immediately yield their popular sovereignty on that specific subject, as a result of our binary view. Having given your current (but not necessarily static) input on the matter, you now relinquish your control over the issue you voted for; your input is noted for a single moment, a fleeting action that represents an artificially abstracted moment. When that vote is cast, by the time the individual leaves the voting station, even the booth in which they cast it, the fundamentals of democracy have already been violated. Even if this individual immediately changed their mind, if the slip has escaped their grasp, their prior opinion (that is, the one they held when initially filling out the ballot) is immortalized as an artificial abstraction, a derived snapshot, and an unchangeable representation of an opinion that may or may not still currently exist.
Whether or not one actually does change their mind matters little. Just the existence of the possibility for one to change their mind and for their previously submitted ballot to no longer reflect their opinion on a given matter is enough to prove the violation of the principles of popular sovereignty (and, as mentioned repeatedly in the previous section, by extension of the modern application of democracy, their own personal liberties). The contradiction is that, for the people to truly hold supreme power over society, they would need some system through which to retroactively change the ballot they cast. And this is utterly impossible under the current conception of voting as a binary, single-point submission.
Such is the contradiction of modern democracy and popular sovereignty.
A Note on the Context of Active Voting Solution
Prior to the delivery of any information, a good author will provide the context needed for a full understanding of said information. Nothing exists in a vacuum and every concept is related to others. As a result, every idea will necessarily have context behind it and other ideas at its base. In the interest of being a good author, I will now share one needed piece of context for the following section of my piece.
As previously discussed, none of the solutions I will share in this piece can stand alone. They are but aids to a larger body of solutions that can only be understood through reading on a wider subject. The solutions that follow this note can and will only be implemented in the context of socialist republic, a proletarian state with the aim of developing and establishing global communism. The problems and contradictions of capitalism are deep-running and unavoidable, meaning that no level of active voting reform in the context of capitalism will bring about true democracy. Implementing such reforms would be akin to pulling the knife out of a wounded organ and patching the gash while leaving the organ to bleed internally. You cannot solve intricate contradictions without first solving the primary contradictions.
Thus, given this context, the following section should be read not with intent to build such systems in the status quo but rather with the intent to build such systems only after the status quo has been altered. Not only must active voting take hold exclusively under socialism, but such a voting system will certainly not be the first priority of a developing socialist nation. Beginning with the earliest attempts as socialism and prevailing to this day, the preeminent nations of the world have been openly and violently opposed to the progress of humanity and have brought immense suffering to the peoples of developing socialist nations. These nations, which will continue to face challenges as they grow, should not be judged as undemocratic simply by their lack of the implementation of active voting, much in the same way they should not be judged as ‘police states’ for their rapid militarization and security advances. When faced with immense challenge, it is imperative that these nations prioritize the safety and security of the people and their nation above all else; that includes the implementation of active electoralism.
Keep this context in mind when you read the following section.
Active Voting as a Solution to the Contradiction in the Modern Voting System
Far too often in political discourse, a problem is pointed out and analyzed, but the solution to said problem is left either non-existent or vague to the point of inaction. A system cannot be deconstructed and society cannot move forward without both the analysis of a problem and the proposition of a solution to said problem. And so, in an effort to avoid falling into this trap of political discourse, where ideas are whined about rather than solved, the following will stand as a solution to the previously discussed contradictions between our modern democratic system and the principles of democracy. The following is, then, the entire purpose of this piece, and by far its most crucial aspect.
As previously mentioned repeatedly (likely to the point of redundancy), the source of these democratic contradictions is the binary, single-point nature of our electoral system. The idea of having voted or having not voted, of submitting a single ballot as an independent abstraction of one’s opinion, is the cause of our systems undemocratic nature. And thus, among many other changes which should be done on the front of democracy, government, and economy, one substantial change must be made; our electoral system must be entirely restructured. Before we discuss the specifics of this restructure, one matter must be settled. This matter is of utmost importance when considering the aims of this piece.
Our electoral system is not and will never be the only structural fault of our system. So many other issues, often of even greater importance, are present in our modern society. Solving these issues, which are more fundamental to the socio-political struggle of our time, is no doubt a greater and more pertinent task for our generation. However, I will not mention these issues by name or implication; doing so would spoil the straight-forward and topical nature of this piece so far. This paper exists not to solve every problem in society, it exists to solve but a single problem in society. To divulge all the issues and problems of our society would not only take an immense amount of time but would come at the cost of the watering-down of this piece’s subject.
What then, is the solution to our electoral struggle? The contradictions inherent to our method of voting are now apparent, but how can they be alleviated or resolved? The answer is a system of my own creation; the active voting system (or, alternatively, the active electoral system, or active democracy).
The concept itself is simple, one you’ve probably pondered through the length of this piece, but one that has never yet been realized as a concept (let alone an application). I have yet to hear of any concept matching that of the active voting system and such a concept has never before existed on our planet. To summarize the concept in a way that allows immediate general understanding, it could be stated that active voting is, “a form or method of electoral process in which one’s votes or ballots are not binary or singular but considered as a constant action, as a condition.” To expand, an active voting system can be broadly defined as the redefinition of voting as a constant variable rather than as a single point in time. One would never vote for a candidate or bill one day and see the results the next. Instead, one would constantly be either voting or not voting for a particular candidate or bill, and seeing the results of said constant voting in much the same way; constantly.
Rather than a candidate needing to achieve a single number of votes once and then riding this accomplishment for some arbitrary term, candidate’s under active voting would be required to not only achieve enough initial votes to enter office but also maintain a certain majority of those votes constantly, for falling below the designated, ‘minimum,’ of a given position would deem a candidate ineligible to remain in said position. In much the same way as with candidates, a new bill or law wouldn’t simply achieve the designated number of votes a single time and then be passed as law indefinitely. Instead, any given law would not only need to achieve the initially designated majority but also retain a certain number of active votes to remain law, as falling below a designated minimum would mean the bill or law no longer has the support of the very people who voted it to pass. This is the concept of active voting, voting as a constantly conducted, passive action rather than a single, active action conducted once and remaining indefinitely. An active vote would be subject to reversal and change at any given time, entirely at the discretion of the voter in question.
Of course, under such a system, you threaten to introduce a small level of instability to the electoral system; it is (theoretically) possible for a candidate to achieve the required votes to take office and then immediately have the office revoked or for a law to pass and immediately be abolished. Such an event could occur repeatedly and would gum up the otherwise smoothly operating electoral system. This, however, has an obvious solution which removes this possibility entirely. Simply introducing two distinct minimum voting levels could avoid this possibility by staggering the number of votes required to be elected and the number to remain in office. By reducing the number required to maintain office, a sort of buffer is introduced to the electoral process, the size of which could be adjusted at any moment to the specifics of a given office or law. No longer is it possible for a candidate or law to immediately lose its status as elected or passed, as it would require a significant portion of the voter base to immediately and simultaneously change their mind in the same fashion.
An additional benefit of this staggered minimum concept is the chance for candidates and laws to actually affect change before removal for inadequacy. Oftentimes, in defense of the modern democratic system, it is said that terms exist to allow an elected official time to pass laws and work with others to affect change before re-election rolls around and the merit of their prior promises are judged. However, such a term is always arbitrarily determined and directly violates core democratic principles (as discussed previously). This staggered buffer in an active voting system would eliminate both of these issues; the buffer would not need to be arbitrary, it could be studied and specified for each given position to find a mathematically perfect difference between the minimum to be elected and minimum to maintain, and it avoids infringing on democratic principles (and, thereby, individual liberties) by still allowing each voter the ability to, at any moment, revoke their vote (and consent).
Another developmental, ‘speed-bump,’ in the synthesis of active voting is the issue of practical application. One may be inclined to ask, “how could this system, which requires the ability for any individual to immediately revoke their active voting status for any number of given representatives or laws, be applied to the real world feasibly?” The answer to which is dependent on the technological capabilities and specifics of the society the system is implemented in. Both will be covered, beginning with the application under worse technological capabilities and conditions.
In a society that has poor technological and virtual capabilities but wishes to adopt an electoral system structured in the image of active voting, repurposing old polling/voting stations as active voting stations is one fairly inexpensive method. These structures would act in a similar way to their old function aside from the fact that they would be open every day of every year, preferably twenty-four hours a day as well. Upon entering such a repurposed voting station, one would continue in much the same way they would under our current electoral system. Citizens would check in and verify their identity, proceed to a discreet and private booth, and consider their options for voting. However, the largest difference comes in the number of possible selections and the ability to, of course, change one’s decisions at any time. Ballots in such active booths would likely need to be noticeably lengthier than they are under the modern electoral system due to the much wider array of options available to voters under active electoralism.
One method of presenting the available options that prioritizes time and is highly feasible for such poor technological conditions would be to designate the first page of a polling sheet or packet as an active voting list. Said list would neatly organize the names of all candidates one is currently voting for, as well as basic voting information on each of these candidates (including the current approval rating as recorded at the end of the prior day). Printing such a list (which could include both candidates and legislation or bills, depending on the space requirements and formatting) every time an individual came in to vote would allow for reduction of time needed for most decisions. If one entered a voting facility for the express purpose of retracting their active voting status for a particular candidate, the inclusion of an active voting list would make this a swift and effective process, even something one could stop for just a number of minutes to do. An optional addition that could further increase the speed at which certain tasks can be conducted would be to, in addition to all the candidates one is actively voting for, the list could include, for each of these candidates, an option to immediately switch their vote to the second (or even third) candidate for the office. This would save further time as one wouldn’t be forced to search the entire ballot or ballot packet for the opposition candidate of a particular office, they could make a single mark and submit the ballot, spending virtually zero time in-booth.
Additionally, this method does not necessarily require the use of repurposed voting stations rather than newly-built ones; the utilization of repurposed buildings serves only the function of reducing cost and saving resources in a nation where this would likely be key. The exact implementation of such methods would obviously vary based on the unique specifications and requirements of a given nation's material conditions, and thus, this implementation method is very much so a malleable selection. In this particular regard, the fact that I haven’t mentioned a given system or specific implementation should not immediately dismiss the concept. The people of a nation should decide for themselves how exactly to implement active voting, as nobody could ever be expected to see the future and present all possible implementations. This stipulation also applies to the following implementation, which regards a society with higher technological capabilities.
In such a society, where technological integration with regards to voting is feasible (meaning it is both secure and efficient), the active voting system can be developed in a certainly superior format. Of course, many would argue that the internet and technology in general have not advanced to this point, even in the most developed nations on earth, so such technological integration would likely require a certain level of innovation beforehand. After much thought, there seems to be two distinct possibilities for implementation in a technologically advanced society; one for conditions more similar to today and one for conditions that are, likely, still long in the future.
The prior would be the semi-technological approach, where polling stations (either repurposed or newly built) are constructed with hyper-secure computers within each private booth. One would enter the facility, verify their identity (either with an individual working the station or through an automated process) and proceed to a designated booth where they could edit and modify their active voting list as much as they desire. The main characteristic distinction between this method and the method that could be used in nations with poor technological capabilities lies in the lack of need for costly printing and work-arounds to certain problems. No ballot packets would need to exist as all representative and legislative options can be quickly and easily sorted (through various methods) virtually. Approval percentages and other key voter information could not only be accessed more quickly, but also with far higher accuracy and in real-time. The lack of a physical ballot will also provide the added benefit of destroying the possibility of ballot tampering. Voting computers under this method of application would need to be held to the utmost standard of security and privacy, which would allow immediate and safe transfer of encrypted voting data.
The latter of the technologically advanced applications would require even further security and privacy by nature of it’s core distinction; it requires no physical voting facilities. In the stead of such voting or polling stations, individuals could log into an online voting application which would allow for the most convenient and effective system. Options for representation and legislation as well as key voting information could be sorted in much the same way as they would in the prior application, but rather than existing on dedicated machines on dedicated property, the page could be accessed by any number of authorized devices from any location and at any time. The convenience and effectiveness of such an implementation would be immense; one could just as easily vote from on their lunch break as they could in the bathroom between classes at an educational institution. Voting would, then, become an integral pillar of society. The use of such an implementation would no doubt fundamentally alter the culture and tasks of a given nation or community, introducing the concept of voting at any time and often. One may just as easily excuse their inattention to a particular conversation by replying, ‘I’m voting,’ as they now say, ‘I’m texting.’ This additional factor not only designates this system as the prime and ultimate implementation of active voting systems, but also as a transcendent element of the democratic culture. Democracy would cease to be an abstraction and would solidify itself as an innate cultural factor.
Of course, this ultimate implementation entirely relies upon the ability for a regulatory body to prevent tampering and ensure complete security. Accessing from anywhere introduces a host of possible issues with relevance to not only the individual but the system as a whole, as well. For example, one individual connecting to the voting system from an insecure or compromised network may allow them to tamper with or monitor that individual's active votes as well as giving them a chance at some higher access which may lead to further complications. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that such an implementation takes caution and security extremely seriously. Multi-factor authentication, especially to the third or fourth degree, could be used as a method of increasing security greatly. In addition, a nationalized and universal system of secure internet across a nation (or the planet) would immensely reduce the likelihood that an individual would connect through an unstable or compromised internet connection. The full implementation of this method of active voting, while assuredly the most superior method, would likely take further years of innovation and planning to effectively execute.
Such are the distinctly possible implementations of active voting as a solution to democratic contradictions in the modern world.
The global proletariat is a massive and struggling class. Enforced by its immense size but restrained by the oppression of a higher class, the proletariat struggles every day to maintain its principles as a class. Eighty percent of the world’s population lives on less than ten US dollars every day13 and only a tiny portion of the global population, far less than one percent no doubt, holds any meaningful power in regards to the world around them. Workers are constrained to laboring, eating, sleeping, and repeating without affecting change or making any real impact on the society around them. The proletariat upholds the entirety of our global society but maintains close to zero actual control over it. Even in nations where modern democracy is practiced, it is illusory and contradictory. The guiding principles of a truly democratic society are neglected and infracted through a largely abstract and arbitrary system of governance. Our flawed electoral systems struggle to accomplish anything for the laborer and accomplish much for the tiny class who find it in themselves to sit upon the backs of our working masses.
Active voting, in association with the truly sweeping reform needed to genuinely restructure our society, will help abolish this oppressive power so effectively wielded against our class. Beyond the will of a microscopic minority of capitalists being forced upon the global proletariat - rather than sham and contradictory democratic proceedings upholding the status quo of oppression - there stands a set of principles and systems which can (given immense dedication and effort) destroy the bonds that restrict the people and bring about a truly democratic society.
As I stated with regards to the principles of democracy, theory for theories sake is not theory at all; the application of democratic ideals through active electoralism is a much more pertinent and difficult task than simply laying the groundworks. This piece of theory is no different than any other, it’s theoretical foundation should be used as a general guide (and not a specific list of actions) in applying truly democratic principles in a nation or society. The intent of writing is quite simple when taken in it’s entirety; for me, the highest priority is upholding the working class.
Any action that further enforces the dictatorship of capital and its iron grip on the world is an action against my interests’ wishes. Conversely, any action that degenerates and disrupts capitalist oppression is one I fully endorse, bar none. If steps are being taken to restructure our flawed society, and these steps reflect the interests and needs of the global proletariat, I support them. And when considering electoralism, I observed a void. In almost every aspect of society, there has been analysis of the conditions and contradictions. On all levels, in most every possible way, there has been a great deal of thought put into the material and social interactions of our society. But in just one place, on a single level, I observed a deep cavity of analysis and associated solution. Capitalism and bourgeois democracy have many contradictions, however, never before now have I discovered the analysis of the topic of this piece (namely, the contradictions of binary, single-point electoralism).
It is my view that the laborers as a whole, the class of the proletariat, must uphold themselves. In spite of our massive size, the control we exercise on society currently is infinitesimally small. We cannot rely on the morsels of sustenance so grudgingly tossed at us by the oppressing class. Lest we should fall farther into the oppressive bonds of our class relations, the proletariat must (at all costs) build class consciousness and uphold itself. The capitalists certainly have little to zero interest in doing it for us. They aim to continue and retain their dominion, not to give it up to the masses they’ve held down. Capitalism (and the electoral system that has sprung out of it in many nations) exist to enforce a set of principles which will only continue to destroy and degrade the planet and the people who inhabit it.
Such are the contradictions and my analysis of the modern democratic proceedings in relation to the principles of democracy.
About the Author:
My name is Simon and I am a Marxist-Leninist born on the front range of Colorado. I focus primarily on contemporary international issues with a particular focus on socialist states and their interactions.
The basic logic of democracy is that the people are the final authority in politics. This is the principle of popular sovereignty: that the true sovereign is no high official, no oligarch, no general, no king, but the people. This is of course why we have elections to hold our leaders accountable: before we get to higher-level arguments about representation, responsible governance, or the common good, the first thing that democracy means is that the people are the final authority, who can peacefully overturn their government and put a different one in its place.
Until recently, I had thought that everyone in our society basically bought into this premise, with very few exceptions. Yes, this basic conception of democracy is one of the fundamental tenets of the Enlightenment that is hegemonic in our culture today.[i] And yes, if you ask people in the abstract, people will say they believe in popular sovereignty. But it strikes me how often people get it backwards and invert this relationship of accountability.
I’ve been voting third party in presidential elections for a while now. This is a decision that I have always given much deliberation in each election. The point here is not my reasons for voting third party, but how others respond when I tell them this.
“Voting third party? But why would you throw your vote away like that?”
“I don’t think either major candidate has earned my vote, and I’m voting for a candidate who has.”
After some discussion of the strategic pros and cons of voting third party, which is typically premised on the idea the both of us have the same goals politically, the conversation then frequently devolves into a mild but persistent chiding of me, and an effort to convince me to vote, as a matter of strategy, for the Democrat.
“Well, if you don’t vote for Biden, isn’t that kind of like voting for Trump? Or at least effectively like half a vote for Trump?”
I won’t deal here with arguments about voting for an evil that is lesser than another evil, or about how much the two parties differ, or about voting “against” a candidate instead of “for” a candidate, or any of the usual suspects in an argument about tactical voting. These, after all, are tough questions, and a matter of judgment for any given voter. Here I simply want to point to an assumption that sneaks into these discussions: that I, as a voter, have an obligation to support one of the two major candidates, and if I don’t, I am letting the better candidate down. Some people will go so far as to actively shame nonbinary voters for this.
When that politician loses, as Hillary Clinton did in 2016, it is not her fault for failing to appeal to more voters, as she should have, but the voters’ fault—they failed to vote for her, as they should have. It was not her responsibility to earn your vote, but your responsibility to vote for her, the reasoning goes. This logic became just another device in the service of removing the blame from Clinton and her lackluster campaign.
The opposite party’s voters are not typically chastened like this. I suppose this is because they are perceived to have different political values, goals, and worldviews, whereas I, who “should” be voting Democrat, am presumed to share these things with the Democratic voter I am speaking with. In their minds, I imagine, Republicans don’t deserve this scorn because, even though they are on the opposing team, at least they are playing by the rules and voting for a candidate that won’t “waste” their vote. I, however, am perceived to be on the same team, but I’m sabotaging all their efforts to win the game by not playing it with their optimized strategy. Enemy soldiers may get fired at, but scorn is reserved for deserters.
From the perspective of the loyal Democrat, the problem is that I am not voting as I “should”. So, I should be pressured into doing so. What you might notice here is how voter shaming turns upside-down the basic idea of democracy: it holds voters accountable to politicians rather than the reverse. Instead of expecting politicians to earn our votes, we expect each other (when categorized in the appropriate box) to support our politicians. Instead of politicians owing us policies that will work in our interests, we owe politicians votes that will help them achieve their ambitions.
In some cases, this voter shaming is only a side dish presented alongside a persuasive argument based on policy differences between the candidates, and that can be part of a healthy discussion on how (and whether) we should vote. I am certainly not arguing against interpersonal debates about how to vote. But in many cases the shame is the main course: you should vote for the Democrat because how dare you. Even worse, it is sometimes claimed that exercising your right to freely vote for whom you choose by voting third-party is somehow a privilege that oppressed voters don’t have the luxury of indulging in. This is clearly untrue, but the more important point is that when voting itself is characterized as a privilege, rather than as a right, the antidemocratic nature of this line of argument is undeniable. After all, when something is a privilege and not a right, it is granted from above and can be taken away under certain conditions.
Where does this urge to blame voters rather than candidates come from? Why is there so much voter shaming going on, when we should all be candidate-shaming instead? Maybe social media has set us all up as targets to be critiqued for our politics. Twitter and Facebook have certainly made punching down at least as easy as punching up. It sometimes even seems like the business model of social media is meant to keep us hooked on public shaming and cancellation as a modern ritual of human sacrifice. Or maybe we’ve learned to be fans rather than citizens, and we’ve come to believe that our role is to root for our electoral team to score as many points as it can.
Whatever its sources, we can see this logic not just when it comes to elections, but in higher levels of politics as well. In early January 2021, even the most progressive members of Congress balked at a proposal put forward by commentator Jimmy Dore to withhold their votes for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House unless Pelosi promises them a floor vote on Medicare for All. For instance, despite campaigning on the promise of getting a vote on Medicare for All, and despite her repeated claims that the Democratic party needs new leadership, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (along with everyone else in “the squad”) refused to even threaten to withhold her vote.[ii] AOC argued that she didn’t want to risk getting a Republican elected speaker of the House.
At first blush this seems to be an understandable concern, but notice what’s already happened here. What assumptions have already been made in order to make these arguments? First, AOC has assumed that if the lone Democratic nominee were to lose, then the Republican leader will automatically win. It turns out, however, that a Speaker from the GOP minority was never really a possibility, as any Republican candidate would need the votes of multiple Democrats. The rules for the election of the Speaker of the House don’t recognize the two-party duopoly. In other words, unlike the presidential contests where we are habituated to, this was not a lesser evil election, but a contest to see which candidate—no matter their party—could earn a majority of votes in the House. No Speaker would be elected unless and until someone could get that majority, and it was never likely to be a Republican. Pelosi getting fewer votes does not translate into GOP leader Kevin McCarthy getting closer to a majority of House members.
Second, AOC assumed that Pelosi would say no. This in itself says a lot about Nancy Pelosi and what House progressives think of her. If they deemed Pelosi worth voting for in the first place, wouldn’t it be possible that she would at least entertain the idea of a floor vote on Medicare for All to shore up the support she needs to be elected Speaker again? Conversely if you are confident that should would sacrifice her Speakership just to ensure that Medicare for All did not get a floor vote—as AOC implied in her tweets—how could she possibly be worth supporting? If that is your expectation of Pelosi’s response, then the sensible move is to vote against her, not for her. AOC’s using the fact that Pelosi would never allow a floor vote on Medicare for All as a reason to vote for her is an astonishing feat of intellectual gymnastics.
Third, AOC assumed that, should Pelosi say no, the House progressives who withheld their votes will be responsible for her losing her Speakership. And here again we see the logic of inverted democracy: when subordinates refrain from supporting a leader, the leader is not deemed to have failed her supporters, but vice versa. If Pelosi loses her position as Speaker it will not be because of such a simple demand being made by House progressives, but rather because of her refusal to concede to that demand. Pelosi losing the Speakership would be what it looks like when a constituency holds its leadership accountable. Pelosi would have failed, not the progressives who held her up to such a minimal standard.
So, AOC’s argument was based on false assumptions: a Republican speaker was never a real possibility, Nancy Pelosi probably would not have sacrificed her Speakership just to prevent a floor vote on Medicare for All, and if she had, it would have been her own fault, not the fault of those who refused to support her without such a promise.
But even if AOC and other progressives realized all of this, there were plenty of reasons to support Pelosi, even if they aren’t the most noble of reasons. It just so happens that Pelosi wields enormous fundraising power, as one of the richest and most well-connected (read: corrupt) members of Congress, and such informal powers, combined with the Speaker’s ability to mete out punishments and rewards in the form of committee assignments, have allowed her to scare anyone away from stepping forward as an alternative candidate from within the Democratic caucus—including the most vocal progressives in “the squad”, like Ocasio-Cortez herself. In the absence of such a challenger, the choice appeared to be between Pelosi or someone possibly even worse.
So, for House progressives, it was either Pelosi or the wrath of Pelosi. When presented with such a restricted choice, there is no power—no freedom—in choosing either A or B. One must have the power to say no. The power to say no is central to the most basic democratic processes. Imagine a legislature that, when voting on legislation, structures the decision as follows: vote for bill A or bill B, and if you don’t like either, you should vote for the one you dislike less. When Congress—or any legislative body, for that matter—passes legislation, it does not use this model, but instead votes on a single bill, up or down, yea or nay. No is always an option. If no is not an option in the choice you have before you, your vote is not an exercise of sovereignty. In such cases, that sovereignty has already been exercised by whoever put the choice in front of you.
Third-party voters (and many abstainers) are those who have come to grips with their power to say no. No, this choice is not good enough. No, I will not be coopted into validating the corrupt elite processes that put these oligarchic puppets on the ballot. Because of the Democrats’ reduced majority in the House, a handful of progressives had the rare opportunity to exercise their power to say no to Nancy Pelosi in order to force a vote on Medicare for All in the midst of a deadly pandemic. If Pelosi had refused to accede to their demand for a vote (only a vote!) and lost the speakership, then she would only have proved beyond a doubt that it is indeed time for new leadership. Yes, it would have been confrontational, even adversarial—it would have been playing hardball. But the power of the vote is that it must be earned, and leaders will not be made to earn your vote unless you are willing to walk away. There is no other way politicians can be held accountable to the people: if we are to have sovereignty, we must be capable of saying no.
[i] See, e.g. Hobbes’ Leviathan, Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, and Rousseau’s The Social Contract. Benjamin Franklin boiled it down like this: “In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” Ralph Ketchum, ed., 2003, The Political Thought of Benjamin Franklin, Hackett Publishing, p. 398.
[ii] All of the members of “the squad” ended up voting for Pelosi without extracting any promises on a vote for Medicare for All.”
About the Author:
Ben Darr teaches politics and international studies at Loras College, in Dubuque, Iowa. He went to college at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and earned his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Iowa. His interests include global inequality, and U.S. foreign policy. He is currently working on a book on spectator sports as a model of neoliberal politics.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers’ rights have returned to popular discourse because of mass reliance on frontline workers. As millions of those workers have been scraping by and fearing for their futures, the wealth gap has widened, yet workers are largely expected to go on as normal—show up to work and continue to create a profit for someone at the top, often with no hazard pay.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has been a COVID-19 hotspot, a union only several years old has taken bold action to unite people in their demands for better working standards and fair wages. Before the pandemic hit, the union won a major contract with the Bucks, which granted a $15 minimum wage by July.
Now, Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers, better known as MASH, is bringing people together to vote. On the morning of Saturday, October 24th, MASH held an early voting rally at the Fiserv Forum (the new Bucks arena) for service and hospitality workers. Workers themselves gave impassioned speeches before going as a group to vote early at MATC.
MASH president Peter Rickman started the rally with an announcement that one person who planned to make a speech was not able to make it because her car broke down on the way. Rickman cited the situation as an example of common obstacles the working class faces.
“I’m holding Melinda Harmon’s remarks here because Melinda’s car broke down. Has anyone ever had their car break down on a day that’s important to them?... I think that story’s a little too common. People struggling in a tough moment, wondering ‘How am I going to get my car fixed? How am I going to pay the rent next month? How am I going to keep that We Energies call from coming in? How am I going to keep food on the table?’... The powerful thing about the story of people like Melinda is she just keeps on going,” Rickman said. “And Melinda got involved in fighting to win a union right here, along with 1,000 other people. The working class of the service industry has started to transform what’s going on in this city, because people like Melinda and other folks you’re gonna hear from got together and said, ‘We work together, so we’re gonna fight together’... Melinda helped create an industry-leading union contract at this place right here, to raise the wage not only to $15 immediately, but on a path to increase wages over two-thirds what they were before the union came in… right over there where the Bradley Center used to be.” (Rickman referred to what is now the Fiserv Forum.)
Speakers echoed the sentiment of these remarks. Wanda Lavender, who is a mother of six children and has worked at Popeyes for four years, stated that even as a manager at Popeyes, she still only makes $12 an hour. “Like many Black workers who are stuck in low-paying jobs, I kept going to work through this pandemic. I can’t work my job from the safety of my home, and I can’t afford to take off,” she began.
“People come in and don’t want to wear face masks so we risk getting exposed to a deadly virus... A few times, I’ve been scared that I have COVID-19. Even though I was feeling sick, coughing my lungs out, my job told me to come in. They said, ‘If you take off time because you are sick, you won’t have a job to come back to.’ No one should be forced to risk their health and safety for a paycheck you can hardly survive on.”
Lavender credited “workers in the streets making demands and changing public opinion” for politicians supporting the $15 minimum wage, and referenced Joe Biden as one of them.
Julia Derby, a recent graduate of UWM, was going to school full time and working two jobs when the pandemic hit. She graduated during the pandemic and noted that she has no plan for paying back her student loans. “I’m too preoccupied with how I’m going to pay the rent,” she said.
Derby slammed President Trump for “granting tax breaks to corporations and billionaires while refusing to raise wages or guarantee income replacement when people can’t work.” She also criticized the GOP’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, saying they have “massively mishandled and politicized COVID instead of prioritizing the health, safety and wellbeing of frontline and unemployed workers.” She continued, “We see their failures and we see a different future.”
Anthony Steward, former cook at the Fiserv Forum, made remarks about the history of the struggle for labor rights in Milwaukee specifically, saying that it was “once known as the best place in America for Black folks to raise a family.” Steward said that was so because of workers uniting “in our workplaces, and at the ballot box to elect policy-makers who would help rewrite the rules and enable us to win unions that balanced the power between workers and bosses.”
Bringing it back to the present, he said, “Political action also took it away. As soon as we won, the forces against us—billionaires and the boss class, Wall Street and the 1%—started trying to turn back our progress.” Our world now “looks a lot like the world before workers fought to change it,” he said, going on to emphasize the need for a renewed workers’ movement.
Justin Otto, who worked at The Pabst Theatre until March when live music events were all cancelled, referenced his conversations with service workers in Milwaukee: “Every single person I’ve talked to who’s back at work has had to deal with extra concerns, extra precautions, and extra work on top of their normal job, but they’re not getting any extra pay.” He went on to say that hearing these things are “really upsetting… but it’s not surprising.”
“It’s exactly what we can expect when decisions are made without us,” Otto said. “It’s exactly what we can expect when elected officials represent our bosses, corporations and themselves, instead of us. It’s exactly what we can expect until we elect different leaders and then demand that they listen to us.”
The final speaker was Troy Brewer, a father of three and former employee of the Fiserv Forum, Miller Park, and Jose’s Blue Sombreros. “I worked three jobs, not by choice but out of necessity,” Brewer said.
“What I have is hope and optimism that we, the people, meaning all the working people, can get through this thing together. As these jobs are coming back we know we can’t go back to the way things were. Normal doesn’t cut it for us. Normal was over 400 years of oppression and my people are still struggling. Normal was people having to work three jobs out of necessity. We can’t go back to normal. We have to build something new.” Brewer laid out his own vision for the future, where “Black lives matter… the educational system (is) revamped so that minorities in public schools get the same education and opportunities as private and suburban school children get” and “billionaire corporations pay their fair share.”
“Now, let’s march over to the MATC and vote together for Biden/Harris, and vote for that brighter future,” Brewer said.
Although speakers seldom referenced the Democratic Party as who would get their vote, MASH is openly supportive of the Biden/Harris ticket. Lindsay Adams, Lead Organizer at MASH, said that in terms of workers’ rights, another Trump administration will mean “reacting and protecting,” instead of moving forward.
“One example might be the National Labor Relations Board, which is like the court system for unionization and union-related complaints and decisions. They oversee union elections, contract compliance, grievances, etc. Usually it’s a bipartisan body, where you would have republicans and democrats. And there are typically five people who serve on the National Labor Relations Board. Well since Trump has been in office, he’s only put three people in, not five, and all of them have been republican.”
“In general, there’s this mismatch that you see as an extreme during the pandemic where on the one hand, we have all these people who are out of work and need work, and on the other hand we have all of these things that need doing, that are not being done. So something like the Green New Deal, where we have good union jobs with high wages and benefits and people trained to do the things like transition to a green economy. A Green New Deal is something that we would be pushing for and we would definitely not be seeing under Trump. There are plenty of Public Works projects that are needed and there are plenty of workers out there who need good quality, family supporting jobs. The thing is that we need a government that can match those two things together,” Adams said.
When asked for an official stance from MASH on the election, Adams said, “People are suffering and so is the climate. And so we do have the opportunity with someone who has publicly supported a Green New Deal, a public option in health care, unionization protections for workers, and a $15 minimum wage. These are already public commitments that Joe Biden has made, and so it is our position that we are going to be able to work with administrations that publicly support the things we care about to move the working class agenda forward. Whereas we know already that will be an impossibility with Trump. It’s damage control with him.”
MASH represents all of the workers at the Fiserv Forum. Adams said originally when they were going to build the arena, the owners wanted tax subsidies (public money) to do this, but several community groups asked for agreements on what these tax subsidies will generate for the city of Milwaukee, and particularly for working class people and people of color.
“Out of that came a Community Benefits Agreement, where in exchange for these tax subsidies, the arena had to hire at least 50 percent of their work force from zip codes with the highest unemployment rates in Milwaukee, with MASH enforcing that requirement. They had to maintain neutrality if there was a union drive, so we had work site access on the ground every day to workers to begin discussions around unionizing and also a path beyond $15 an hour. These were parts of the Community Benefits Agreement. So workers opted to unionize, that’s over 1000 employees at the arena, and bargain their first contract which was finally ratified and set to go into place the week that COVID hit, when the NBA season was cancelled and the arena as well as others across the country were shut down. So our members are now temporarily but long-term unemployed, since March.”
Having a union helped with their unemployment situation, according to Adams. “Everything from making sure that members had the appropriate unemployment information so that they could file very quickly, or if there were errors on the side of the employer, making sure that those were corrected so that people could get their unemployment benefits as soon as possible, to when they started having events without fans but still needed staff, making sure that those people who were hired were based on the agreements in the contract based on seniority and that they were paid under what should be their wages in the contract,” Adams said.
MASH made a reservation for the group to vote together at MATC ahead of time.
Photo Credits to MASH
About the Author:
My name is Maddy. I am a journalist, writer, and thinker based in Colorado where I work as a stringer for a small-town newspaper and have some odd jobs on the side. I am a member of the Democratic Socialist of America and am interested in bringing a lens of intersectionality to journalism and "pushing the envelope" to make people think critically about social issues. I love animals, music, food, creative writing, and the outdoors. She/her.
After a year or so since the CIA backed coup that ousted Morales, today we rejoice with the news that Movimiento al Socialismo is back in power in Bolivia. This event represents the first appearance of hope in a year plagued by a deadly virus and an even deadlier dealing of the virus by capitalist countries like the US, where more than 200,000 people have died. Some in the American left have used this victory in Bolivia as an inspiration towards organizing against Trump, stating that like Bolivia, we can vote fascism out of power. Communist Party USA (CPUSA) is pushing a campaign called Vote Against Fascism, which tries to inspire its members to vote for the lesser of two evils. With the victory of Arce, the message has been “Bolivia did it so can we”. In this way, they partially equate a vote for Biden in the US with a vote for Arce in Bolivia. In both cases we have the removal of a proto fascist government; this can be stated as “in both cases we have the electoral negation of fascism.” Although the American left agrees that in the affirmative end, Biden and Arce are nothing alike, their similitude comes from their position as a negation to fascism.
The thing about negation, is that it is always the mere initial face of affirmation. A similitude in negation, cannot itself meaningfully exist without a similitude in the affirmation upon which the negation opens the door for. Similarity in the space of removing fascism can only really stand as similarity if in the affirmative afterward of the fascist negation it stands as a similitude as well. If two rock climbers are slipping into an abyss and one jumps and catches on to a sturdy rock, while the other jumps and catches on to a fragile stick, both equally jump, yet we must be delusional to talk about such a minute similarity when the results in each case are so gradually different. The jumping in this case is the negation of the fall, and the grabbing is the affirmation of a possible climb. As in the electoral struggle against fascism, in the rock example, we have a life or death situation. In both cases jumping is the only thing that will bring the possibility of life.
Bolivia is the jumper that landed on the rock. It is, at least for now, safe to keep climbing. The US is the climber that is about to jump to the stick. Since it has not jumped yet, I wish to present a couple points about possibly jumping for the farther rock, given that if we miss the far rock or grab on to the close fragile stick, in both cases we will still fall. The stick, as in the case of Biden, is the most reachable out of the alternatives. The problem is that, as in the case of a vote for Biden, the stick is not going to prevent the eventual fall. This is clear, especially as one sees that the reason the rock climber is falling in the first place is because of his continual attempt to merely climb through sticks. Thus, the similitude a Biden win would have with the win in Bolivia is as minute as the example of the rock climbers. Arce and MAS combine their negation of fascism with a socialist affirmation. They negate fascism with the hope of the continual progress socialism has brought in Bolivia. Along with this, in the last year the major unionized industries in Bolivia have been tremendously active in fighting against the fascist coup; uniting worker and indigenous groups in striking and calling for the resignation of Áñez. With Biden this is not the case. A Biden negation has no truly hopeful affirmation behind it.
It is obvious to anyone who is halfway conscious about the class struggle in the US, that Trump is not some anomaly. The rise of fascism did not appear from a supernatural void that opened in 2016. This rise has its roots in the natural decay of a capitalism where a socialist revolutionary movement is absent. When socialist do not work on the subjective conditions of the working class when their objective conditions are revolutionary, it is bound that they will fall into reactionary circles. Concretely, Trump is a result of 8 years of an Obama administration that accelerated a neoliberal agenda even quicker than Bush had before him. On this, most communist agree, Trump is not an anomaly, but a symptom of the system and the last 4 decades of neoliberal governments.
From this perspective, we can see that a Biden administration is a return to the conditions that gave us Trump in the first place. I do not think there is much disagreement here. CPUSA and the American left do not conceive of Biden as potentially any better than Obama. The question they are asking is the following. “We accept Biden is not a panacea of the ills of our society. We accept that Biden is a return to the condition which gave us Trump in the first place. But is government that can potentially lead to fascism again better than a fascist government?” Their answer is a big YES. The American communist who disagrees with CPUSA’s informal agitation for Biden gets told that “a candidate who maintains the capitalist status quo and imperialism is better than a candidate who maintains the status quo and imperialism but who also agitates his militarized white nationalist base to kill communist and people of color”. When posed like this, it is quite obvious that the answer is correct. Anyone would prefer this lesser of two evils approach, given that the lesser is obvious in this case.
What we have here in their reasonings is a central assumption which I hope to pick out, in order to then more objectively analyze the scenario. The central assumption can be presented in both its philosophical and material formulations. Philosophically it is a question of potentiality and actuality. Do you want potential fascism or actual fascism? When proposed like this, potential fascism is the better route, given that it buys us time to potentially depotentialize that potential. The assumption here is that one can revert to repotentializing something which is already actual. The assumption is that a Biden win does not just negate a Trump presidency but negates the historical effects of that Trump presidency. The problem is that, once the oak tree is there, there is no reverting it to an acorn. All one can do, besides radically tearing the tree apart, is replant the new acorn the oak tree gives. That oak tree itself will never be an acorn, it will only give you new acorns, but even then a replanting of a new acorn does not remove the existence of the oak tree, but expands the possibility of that oak tree making a new oak tree friend. Their assumption is that this potential negates the actual. Where in reality, this potential will do no more than re-establish itself as the bearer of the potential to duplicate the actuality.
In its material formulation, their assumption centers around the conception that with Trump out of office, and with Biden in, the fascist militancy of the Trump fanatics somehow disappears, or at least begins to dissipate. But how much more guarantee do we have that Trump’s militant base will be less potent with a Biden presidency? Is the man who says that police should shoot black folks in the leg instead of killing them really going to take the steps necessary to face the militancy of white nationalism? Especially considering his involvement in the crime bill, his continual denial to decriminalize marijuana, and his old segregationist stances, all which are lethal for black communities. This is the guy you think will help lower the threat of the militant white supremacists Trump empowered? They might respond that since Biden does not provide the legitimation for these groups that Trump does, that this will be the source of the disempowerment of those groups Trump gave a voice to. But this assumes to easily that those shouting the loudest will be quite just because they were removed of their official microphone. Not only does it assume this, but it ignores the plethora of Trump supporters claiming outright civil war if Trump loses. In any case, I do not think that communist or people of color are much safer from the militancy of white supremacy just because Trump is out of office. On the contrary, if the current status of things tells us anything is that replanting that acorn will quickly result in a new oak tree. By this I mean a Biden win, from what we can infer, can only but exacerbate the militancy of white supremist.
So, what then? Do we not vote? Do we just allow Trump to win because we are scared of the civil war threats from his militant white supremacist circles? No, this is of course not the correct answer. We must vote. But as all communist should be aware, voting is perhaps the smallest and last part of a revolutionary struggle. Before any true victory can come from the electoral arena, we must have already had a strong level of economic organization. As Haywood states in Industrial Socialism “Our fight is, first of all a shop fight. It takes place at the point of production where the workers are at present enslaved. Until this is understood there can be no real understanding of Socialism.” The American left focuses the majority of its efforts in pursuit of electoral victories without the prior existence of organization among class lines. Until the irrational divisions of socialist parties and organizations in the US unite and focus their energies on workplace organization as the necessary predecessor to the electoral struggle, we will continue to face futility in the political sphere.
Although I have argued here that Biden is not the knight that will smash the rise of fascism Trump allowed, that does not mean in other social and welfare positions a Biden presidency will seem to make it easier for us to organize our revolutionary struggle. Regardless of how we decide to vote this election, the result will likely be very similar; American will continue to face the brutalities of a capitalism in decay. A day like today 94 years ago the most popular American socialist of the 20th century, Eugene V. Debs, died. Whether we step into the ballot box with his famous dictum “I rather vote for something I want and not get it, then vote for something I don’t want and get it” in mind and vote for a La Riva or Hawkins ticket, or whether we take the more pragmatic approach of voting for Biden; the reality of the revolutionary futility of this election is present. The only way to eliminate this endless condition of revolutionary futility the American socialists have had for a century is to dedicate the next four years to combining all of our forces together and begin, under one umbrella, a process of economic organizing. Only if we are able to do this will a serious revolutionary party impact in the political sphere be possible. The inspiration of the victory of socialism in Bolivia should not be spent on motivation for a futile election, but on organization to make the presently impossible possible. We are facing a capitalism challenged by its natural cycles of crisis and by the surplus crisis brought about by a pandemic. As millions of American lose their jobs and their employer-tied healthcare plans in the middle of a pandemic, the wealth of the 643 billionaires in the US grew by $845 billion. The time is now for communist and socialist to take advantage of these objectively revolutionary conditions and add the subjective element necessary to blow this whole thing open.
“[We] may be dreamers, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!”
 Peoples Dispatch, “National Strike Continues Across Bolivia, Demands Grow For Áñez To Step Down,” last modified August 7, 2020, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/08/07/national-strike-continues-across-bolivia-demands-grow-for-anez-to-step-down/.
 Haywood, William, and Frank Bohn. Industrial Socialism (Charles H. Kerr & Company Cooperative, 1911), p. 45.
 Saloni Sardana, “US Billionaires’ Wealth Grew By $845 Billion During the First Six Months of the Pandemic,” Markets Insider, last modified September 17, 2020, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/us-billionaires-wealth-net-worth-pandemic-covid-billion-2020-9-1029599756
 Hellen Keller, “Why I Became an IWW,” New York Tribune, January 1916. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/keller-helen/works/1910s/16_01_16.htm
About the Author:
My name is Carlos and I am a Cuban-American Marxist. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Loras College and am currently a graduate student and Teachers Assistant in Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. My area of specialization is Marxist Philosophy. My current research interest is in the history of American radical thought, and examining how philosophy can play a revolutionary role . I also run the philosophy YouTube channel Tu Esquina Filosofica and organized for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020.
The United States’ healthcare system is broken. What do I mean when I say this? To start, the US is the only “developed” country in the world to not guarantee healthcare to its citizens through one form or another of a universal healthcare system. A universal, or single-payer healthcare system, is somewhat self-explanatory. An entity, in this case the government, is the “single-payer,” or only insurer in the system. In the US, we have what is called a “multi-payer” system, where there are multiple private insurance providers in the country. Elected Republicans (and even elected Democrats), as well as free-market fundamentalists, will claim that having more than one insurer is better because “competition” will cause these multiple insurers to lower their prices, or else they will be pushed out of the market because their prices are too high. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to healthcare. Single-payer systems perform better in nearly every metric, compared to systems that aren’t universal.
To give an example of how single-payer systems are generally better than non-universal systems, there are two studies that indicate that the US healthcare system is not the best in the world, as some like to claim. The first study, findings by the Commonwealth Fund indicate that, “despite having the most expensive health care, the United States ranks last overall among the 11 countries on measures of health system equity, access, administrative efficiency, care delivery, and health care outcomes.” The US was the only country in this study to not have a universal healthcare system, and the fact that the US ranked last on this list illustrates the problems of a multi-payer private system in terms of health outcomes, access to care, and efficiency. This isn’t the only study with such findings, however. Another study by Health System Tracker found that the US ranked 9th out of 9 countries in terms of health care access and quality of care, despite having the highest per capita health costs out of the 9 countries. A big reason for this disparity between the US and the rest of the developed world is the lack of a public, single-payer system.
In countries where there are private insurers in the market, there can be many problems. There isn’t an incentive for health businesses to provide every person with insurance for a myriad of reasons, including pre-existing conditions, costly procedures, and ease of access to care, just to name just a few, because paying for these areas cuts into these companies’ profits. Because private insurance companies won’t cover people for many different reasons, millions of people are uninsured in the US. According to National Nurses United, approximately 30 million Americans are uninsured, with another 41 million Americans classified as underinsured, which means that the costs associated with their plans make it so that the coverage is not worth the price. With over 1 in 5 people being uninsured or underinsured, this problem is very widespread. In addition, nearly 530,000 Americans go bankrupt every year due to medical bills, according to CNBC, and an estimated 68,000 uninsured Americans die every year because they don’t get the care they need because of lack of insurance, according to the journal The Lancet. The problem of uninsured Americans has been exacerbated as of late. Millions of Americans have been losing their health insurance during the biggest pandemic in the United States in 100 years. Many Americans have their health insurance provided to them through their workplace, and when the Coronavius pandemic hit the US, millions were laid off, which meant that many of those millions lost their employer-sponsored healthcare. According to CBS News, 5.4 million people had lost coverage by mid-July, with another 22 million people at risk of losing their insurance as of mid-August 2020. If you live in a country where you lose your health insurance during a pandemic, it may be time to rethink the country’s healthcare system.
One of the reasons why our “health insurance” system is so broken is that there is essentially a middle man in the way of you getting care. You pay your premiums to the company, who then takes their cut in the form of profit and bureaucracy, before paying a smaller amount than you paid in to cover you when you need your insurance. Health insurance companies made over $35 billion last year alone, according to Fierce Healthcare. Why should a business profit off of the suffering of people? I certainly don’t think this is moral or even just, but this is essentially the business model of a private healthcare company. Under a universal healthcare system, because the government is the single insurer, it can guarantee healthcare to its citizens (regardless of ability to pay) because there is no incentive for profit within a government system. This means that the government is willing to cover somebody even if it costs more than that person pays in.
A good example of a government program that covers all despite the costs associated is the United States Postal Service. The USPS is willing to provide mail to all citizens in the US in a timely manner, whether a person lives right next to a Post Office or in a secluded area. Private postal companies like FedEx and UPS won’t deliver everywhere because it isn’t profitable to do so. The USPS is an example of a public good, where our tax dollars fund this agency in exchange for universal mail delivery at little cost, especially compared to private companies. I believe that our healthcare system should similarly be a public good, wherein our tax dollars fund our health insurance in exchange for universal, free-at-the-point-of-service care (this means no premiums, copays, or deductibles). In addition, a government program would have less wasteful spending, despite what bureaucracy-fearing politicians will tell you. According to the Center for American Progress, billing and insurance-related “costs for traditional Medicare and Medicaid hover around 2 percent to 5 percent, while those for private insurance is about 17 percent.” This means that government programs, Medicare and Medicaid, provide more money to care with less money lost on bureaucratic waste and profits compared to private insurers. Because of all of the problems with our current healthcare system, a single-payer system in the United States seems like a no-brainer. Next, I will explain the Medicare for All policy and how America can one day guarantee healthcare to all of its citizens.
An answer to the problems of our current health insurance system can be found within the pages of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill in the Senate, or in Representative Primila Jayapal’s bill under the same name, introduced in the House of Representatives. The Medicare for All system, if passed, would be implemented over a two-year period, with the first year seeing the expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids, and eyeglasses, and expanding the Medicare enrollment age to 55 and including those 19 and under. The next year would expand Medicare to all citizens, so that every American would be covered under a single-payer program. Once this system is implemented, premiums, copays, and deductibles would be a thing of the past. Instead of having to pay out of pocket at the hospital, citizens would be issued a healthcare card, and when a person goes to the doctor or dentist, they simply show their insurance card and get the care they need, similar to how a public library currently operates. Public taxes would go up to fund the program. However, think of health insurance costs (premiums, copays, and deductibles) as a private tax, because, for the most part, in order to have healthcare, a person is required to pay these costs, or else they lose coverage. The private taxes paid to private insurers would be gone, and the public taxes would be lower than the private tax, essentially leading to a tax cut. The reason that the public taxes can be lower is, as aforementioned, the system would be more efficient (more money directly to care and less on bureaucratic waste) and the profit-taking middle man would be removed.
Sanders’ proposal is very generous, and if it were to be passed, it would be one of the most comprehensive healthcare plans in the world. Instead of having to pay for private health and dental insurance, both would be covered under the same single-payer plan. This would make life a lot easier, especially for working families who may not have time to deal with choosing which private health and dental insurer they can afford (if they can afford one at all because of the outrageously high costs). Instead, everyone would get guaranteed insurance with little to no hoops to jump through. Medicare for All would make healthcare cheaper and our lives more efficient, not just because of the removal of headaches associated with choosing plans. Medicare for All would give every person more freedom in terms of their health care. Medicare for All, despite the fear mongering surrounding the policy, gives Americans more, not less, choice.
Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat running unsuccessfully in the 2020 Democratic Primary, ran on a policy under the name of “Medicare for All Who Want It.” This policy was essentially a public option, in which people can opt into a government healthcare program if they want, but which leaves in place private health insurance companies (this name also co-opts the popularity of the Medicare for All plan while being not nearly as sufficient). This policy may sound appealing on its face, but still leaves in place many of the problems of our current healthcare system. For one, millions of Americans would still be left uninsured because the public option would be funded through premiums, which would still be unaffordable to many. Joe Biden ran on a similar plan, which boasted that 97% of Americans would be covered under a public option system. This would still leave about 10 million Americans uninsured, which is 10 million too many. Buttigieg and Biden claimed that a public option gives Americans a “choice” in their health insurance options. The choice, however, is that of which private health insurance middleman to be covered by. The government option could be a good system, but the fact that private insurers still exist is a problem. One thing that insurance companies could do is halt the coverage of their old and high-risk patients and “unload” them onto the government program, therefore increasing the cost of the public option and making private insurance seem better by comparison. This is the danger of leaving private insurers in the market. These companies will do everything they can to stay in business.
National Nurses United, one of the organizations leading the struggle for M4A
In terms of other freedoms under a universal system, there is more freedom to choose your doctor. Under our current system, the concept of a “network,” or system of hospitals and doctors in which you can receive care, severely limits your choice of who you can see or where you can go. However, under a Medicare for All system, you would be able to choose any hospital or doctor, for all of the hospitals would accept the same insurance, and therefore can’t turn away someone with incompatible insurance or even one without insurance, because that would no longer be a concern. The choice is really between freedom and security (both in terms of finances and guaranteed coverage), or restrictions and uncertainty.
The biggest question surrounding Medicare for All is the question of “how do you pay for it.” Under Sanders’ plan, there is a 4% tax starting with income around $30,000, and working progressively up with income. Some estimates say that the program will cost anywhere from $28 trillion over a decade, according to the Committee for a Responsible Budget (CRFB), to about $32 trillion over the same period, according to both Blahous and the Urban Institute (CRFB). This seems like a lot of money (because frankly it is), but our current healthcare expenditures, when stretched over a decade, exceed even the highest estimates from the CRFB. In 2018, US healthcare spending exceeded $3.6 trillion, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and this number is only expected to grow. Over a decade, this spending could surpass $40 trillion, and Americans would still be worse off than other nations that have universal systems. In the long run, Medicare for All is estimated to save money. Even if Medicare for All cost more than our current system (although according to all estimates, the plan would cost less), wouldn’t it be worth it to have all Americans covered under a universal system? As previously stated, Medicare for All would be one of the most comprehensive plans in the world, with almost all health expenditures covered. Would it not be worth it to spend more or the same amount as our current system to get more bang for our buck? This to me again seems like a no-brainer. I am not alone when I think this. According to an August poll by Hill-Harris X, 69% of Americans, including 87% of Democrats, 68% of Independents, and 43% of Republicans, support “providing Medicare to every American,” which is a simplistic way to explain exactly what Medicare for All does. Medicare for All is so popular because of all of the benefits associated with the plan, as described before. However, there is one final reason that Medicare for All has the support it does; Medicare for All would disproportionately benefit the working class people of this country.
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the last thing a person should have to worry about is not having health insurance. However, as previously covered, there have been at least 5.4 million people who have lost their health coverage during this pandemic, and an estimated 22 million people at risk of losing their coverage. These Americans, many of them working class, lost their health coverage through no fault of their own. Rather, it was the fact that their health coverage was tied to their place of employment and they were laid off during the pandemic. Having a single-payer system would eliminate the problem of losing insurance after being laid off from work. The fact that health insurance can be a benefit through a job means that if you were to get laid off, even if it wasn’t your fault and was caused by a pandemic, you can still lose health insurance. In addition, having health insurance as a benefit through work means that it can be hard to leave a job that you might dislike because it has ‘good’ health benefits for you and your family. Having a universal system means that workers are freer to seek other places of employment because a major benefit that they might get through work is now guaranteed to them by the government.
Guaranteeing healthcare to every person in America would make our country much healthier. With everyone having guaranteed healthcare, there would be more people that would now be able to get treated for common conditions like the flu, the cold, and other illnesses that can be spread easily. An example of where our current system fails in this way is the foodservice industry. According to Anuj Gangopadhyaya and Elaine Waxman, there are nearly 7.5 million adult foodservice workers in the country. At least 1 in 4 of these workers were uninsured in 2017, and this has had dire consequences for all involved. The CDC says that sick food service workers cause hundreds of illness outbreaks every year in America. Now it may seem like common sense for these sick workers just to stay home, but for a working class person who may not have insurance, working as many hours as possible is the only way to put food on the table, and a sickness won’t necessarily stop this. The CDC finds that almost half of foodservice workers who worked while sick worked because they needed to get paid more. Having a universal healthcare system would protect these uninsured (and even insured) workers because they would have some financial security in going to the doctor. However, a policy like paid sick leave could also provide aid to service workers and actually keep them home when they are sick. The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed another vulnerability in our healthcare system. The fact is that many essential workers (the people working jobs with the highest chance of exposure to Covid) are uninsured. Trying to live through a pandemic while on the “front lines” and uninsured, is at the very least, stressful, and at most, costly and maybe even deadly. Medicare for All would protect workers who don’t currently have insurance by guaranteeing healthcare, which is exactly what many millions of Americans need in this current moment.
Another important piece of Medicare for All is the fact that, if everyone were guaranteed healthcare, unions would be able to fight for more for their workers. When healthcare is tied to jobs, it kills a unions’ bargaining power because the union will spend a majority of their time fighting for healthcare rather than fighting for better wages or working conditions. For example, the UAW union spends a majority of its bargaining power on healthcare, which ends up hurting the other causes a union could explore if all of its members were guaranteed healthcare. I am an advocate for universal unionization because I believe that all workers should be able to collectively bargain with their employers. However, if all that a union is able to accomplish is to secure healthcare (while this is obviously important to all in the union) then the bargaining power of the unions decreases. Medicare for All would therefore strengthen unions.
The benefits of a Medicare for All system on the working class would be apparent in many different ways. The most basic yet important reason that Medicare for All would benefit workers is that everyone would have healthcare guaranteed to them, and for a person who is working long days to provide for their family, the last thing they want to do is worry about what happens to them and their family if they get sick because they don’t have health insurance. The 1 in 5 Americans who are uninsured or underinsured would suddenly be covered under a generous plan, the 530,000 Americans who go bankrupt from medical debt would no longer have to worry about such debt, and the 68,000 Americans who die every year from lack of insurance may have some semblance of a fighting chance once Medicare for All gets passed. While there are many benefits for workers under a single-payer system, the most basic yet crucial benefits of Medicare for All on the working class is the fact that everyone will have healthcare.
The future of Medicare for All is not quite certain. While the Democrats control the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t even bring Rep. Jayapal’s bill up for a vote. Even if the measure were to pass the House and move onto a Democratically controlled Senate in 2021 (assuming that Democrats take control of the Senate after the 2020 election), there will still be a fight there. If Joe Biden were elected president in the coming months, he has said repeatedly that he would veto Medicare for All if it reached his desk. These options don’t sound promising. Yet there is still hope. The fact that over two-thirds of the country now support an idea that, before Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign for presidency, wasn’t in the mainstream of American politics, shows that once Americans were shown the broken nature of our current system, we now see a better alternative in Medicare for All. We now want to catch up with the rest of the world and guarantee healthcare to all. It may take years or even decades, but we can’t stop fighting for this important measure. In the meantime, we must elect progressive candidates that champion this policy. However, as we have seen time and time again, electoral politics does not always work in favor of the people. Instead, what we need is an outside movement to pressure politicians into passing legislation that an overwhelming majority of the country supports. I know that I will do everything I can to push for this policy, and strive for a more just healthcare system for all Americans.
CBS News. (2020, August 05). Over 25 million Americans at risk of losing health care as coronavirus pandemic rages: "It's been real hard for me". Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-pandemic-health-care-25-million-risk-losing-coronavirus/
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Martin, J. (2020, August 04). 87% of Democrats support "Medicare for All," though Joe Biden doesn't. Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.newsweek.com/87-democrats-support-medicare-all-though-joe-biden-doesnt-1522833
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New 11-Country Study: U.S. Health Care System Has Widest Gap Between People With Higher and Lower Incomes. (2017, July 13). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/press-release/2017/new-11-country-study-us-health-care-system-has-widest-gap-between-people-higher
With the latest attack from Trump on the US postal services for the sake of voter suppression, the outrage from the democrats has been at an all-time high since the epoch of the great Russia Gate conspiracy. The difference is that now, unlike Russia Gate, this attack on the post office is something real and worth worrying about. The post office is one of the few and great public services of our country, and any attack on it should be fought against ferociously. The main concern of this work is on the reaction by most democrats to these attacks by Trump, and specifically on what precisely it is that they are outraged by.
To the naked eye the reaction of outrage is the natural result of a clear case of voter suppression and hindrance of our democratic process. To be fair, it might genuinely be the case that many democrats are really outraged at this monstrosity; at the end of the day, it is truly a monstrosity. But in terms of the democratic establishment, the discontent comes not in the action itself, but in the image the action portrays. Essentially, how the action destroys what has been a bipartisan effort to create the illusion of democracy, revealing the truly undemocratic character of our society.
The most drastic change the Trump administration has brought to the US has not been the brutal treatment of immigrants, the fascistic use of the state’s instruments of violence on protestors, the imperialist and regime change policy, or the complete lack of regard of the interest of the mass of Americans; all those things are quite old and hence were already there before him. Policy wise his government has been indistinguishable from any administration of the last four decades of Neoliberal rule. So, what has the democrat's outrage really been about? Well the answer lays in the mask, and not the one used by Jim Carrey.
The mask has been ideologically the most essential tool in the development of our country. The mask is the ideological justification for the about-to-be or already-committed atrocities. Whether it is the mask of “civilizing the Indian savage”, “enslaving the inferior blacks”, “preventing the spread of communism”, or promoting the “spread of democracy while fighting terrorism”, the mask is how we have been able to convince the populace to accept the atrocities we will commit; whether it is the genocide of the native, enslavement of blacks, or the brutal imperialist expansion into the global south and middle east. In any case, the mask has been the security of the ruling classes of our country since its founding, without it their hegemonic rule, which allows them to commit all the crimes they want to continue capital accumulation, would begin to shatter.
Thus, what scares democrats is not actually any of the policies Trump is proposing, hell, most of them has been approved by the democrats themselves; their real fear is the how Trump is doing all these things. It is in the question of the how that we find the real answer to their outrage, whether of this latest event or any other event of the last three years of his administration.
The real problem we must attack, if we consider ourselves proponents of democracy, is not merely the last three years of Trump, but rather the accumulation of previous administrations that took us to the point of having a Trump - while now telling us that all the problems started with Trump. More than attacking Trump, something so simple a child could do, we must attack a democratic establishment who has abandoned workers the last 4-5 decades of Neoliberal policies; leaving working class Americans with such a feeling of abandonment that they see their only hope in the fake right wing populism Trump represents.
If we consider ourselves proponents of democracy, of a government of and by the people; then unlike the democrats want us to believe, the attack on American democracy did not start three years ago. The attack itself is inexistent, because for there to be an attack on democracy there must exist a democracy to be attacked; and I’m sorry to break it to you, but having the opportunity to vote every two years for puppets chosen by the ruling elites of our country is not democracy. A slaves opportunity to choose his master does not change his status as a slave, so that our opportunity to elect different factions of the ruling elite of our country does not change the fact that at the end of the day you are voting for elite backed candidates who only care about you when it is time for you to vote, and whose interest lay in those factions of the ruling class that funded their campaigns.
If we really are proponents of democracy, we must reject the current concept of democracy we are used to in this country. We must realize that what we have is “democracy for the insignificant minority, democracy for the rich”, and that in essence “to decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament” is in no way, shape, or form actual democracy. What we have now for the mass of Americans is a dictatorship of the class who owns the means of production, the media, the politicians, and who has created every structure in society to make you think that democracy for them is equivalent to democracy for you. Anyone who truly believes in democracy must reject this for a democracy of the majority, a democracy where people actually feel like they are contributing to the creation of the world around them and not participating blindly in forces that where already present there before they arrived.
If we really uphold the constitutional values of a democratic government of and by the people, we must actively struggle against the imposition of this democracy for the few. We must struggle to build a country were politicians aren’t funded by special interest making each election predictable through an analysis of who got more money from the elites, and where democracy and participation isn’t just an event every two years where we get a nice sticker for partaking in it. We must realize that when working man and women around the country wake up for their 9-5 jobs, they are experiencing the hand of tyranny for most of their day. At their workplace they are subject to the will of the person who owns where they work. And even though these working man and women are the ones who create all the wealth of our country, they have essentially no say in their work. They have no participation in how they produce, what they produce, and what happens to what they produce. They are a part, like any other machine, in the process of the accumulation of capital. In essence, at work, this period where most Americans spend most of their life, what they experience is not democracy, but the tyranny of their boss.
Thus, when it comes to the democrats outrages of Trump, let us not be fooled. What bothers them is not itself the voter suppression whose goal the attack on the USPS represents, but how obviously un-democratic it is. But, un-democratic in what sense? If we have already established that there is no real democracy for the mass of Americans. Well, it is undemocratic in that it thwarts the process of the illusory democratic process of the masses, which in reality is the game by which the different factions of the ruling elites play house and decide who will be the face of the shitshow for the next few years. What bothers the democrats is not the un-democraticness itself, but how it destroys even the fake democratic veil previously held up to cover the dictatorship of capital. Their problem is not really with Trump’s attack being undemocratic, if that was really the case they would be trying to abolish the basically legal bribe mechanism that came with Citizens United, or trying to expand democracy at work through promotion of union membership or cooperative worker owned businesses. None of these things are promoted by them because they represent the potential of democracy for the many, the biggest threat to their democracy of the few. Thus, their real problem is with the unapologetically un-democraticness of Trump’s actions; because to them it is most importantly an attack to the legitimacy of their mask, both nationally and internationally.
The struggle of the democrats against Trump over the last three years has not been one fought in the arena of matter but in the arena of form. What bothers them about Trump is not what he actually does (matter), but how it is that he does it (form). Thus, although we do have to struggle against the un-democratic actions of the current administration; we must primarily struggle against those who have for many years done the same in the dark, and when now it is done in the light they fight to bring it back to the dark. Our struggle cannot just be against the symptom which Trump represents, but against the totality of the illness itself; in order to then actually destroy it at the root and prevent any worst symptoms from appearing. In essence, if you really are disgusted by the Trump administration, your fight must also include those who actively created the conditions for that administration to emerge.
If what disgusts you about Trump is the material, the actual policies and what he does, not just how; then your answer is not in changing the form but maintain the content. This means that your answer is not in Joe Biden or anyone else in the democratic establishment. Your answer to the Trump phenomena, if what he is doing is what bothers you, is to fight against the whole system itself. Not just because it was the system that brought about Trump, but because everything that is despicable in the material of Trump is identical to every other administration the system has produced, and the removal of it is not in the return to the mask, but in the destruction of the whole head in which the mask is put on and removed.
The Trump phenomena seems to have divided the traditionally organized ruling classes of our country. The answer from us must be to capitalize on their weakness and on the chaos being produced by the pandemic and organize ourselves. We must organize ourselves towards destroying this hidden fetter which maintains us in the shallow democracy of a few and tyranny for the many. This hidden fetter is our economic system. A system that has as its only condition the accumulation of capital by any means necessary; and which to maintain its tyrannical rule it has created the illusory mask of democracy. The mask which democrats today are fighting endlessly to put back on; knowing very well that without it their mass blinding hegemony, both nationally and internationally, will begin to crumble. Something which I believe we are already witnessing.
 V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution (Foreign Language Press, 1970), 74.
 Ibid., 38.