If the original inhabitants of the Americas were given the choice 500 years ago, do you think they would have chosen to keep on living their lives as they had been, or would they choose small pox, genocide, boarding schools, and being forced off the land? If the African humans that were enslaved in the Americas were given a voice back in the late 17th century , do you think they would have voted for freedom or to protect the rich white men that “owned” them? If the 21st century citizens of the USA had the opportunity to fund a robust public health infrastructure – including universal healthcare and a fully-funded, science-based, national-level plan for dealing with a pandemic – do you think the majority of people would choose public health or would they choose to cut the funding and cancel the research while cutting taxes on the rich?
For much of my life I was fed the bullshit idea by the media, schools, and politicians that colonization and slavery were sad but inevitable moments in the march towards progress. I was told that “society evolved” since then and that racism was over, that all of society had debated and come to the conclusion that a government and an economy were best-designed by the men who stood to gain the most from the situation. But we never debated and were never given a choice outside of the two-party system: Democrats vs. Republicans; blue vs. red. For the last 40 years we have had presidential elections every four years like normal, the ball bouncing back and forth between the two parties as the rich got even richer and the middleclass – burdened with massive debt, restructured work patterns, and stagnant wages – got smaller and smaller. And all this time, voter turnout in the USA remained at just 55%. 2020 saw historic numbers of voters participate in the presidential election, but even at the highest estimate (72%), that still leaves 74 million eligible voters who decided to stay home (by comparison, the population of Canada is 38 million and the population of Thailand is 70 million). A lot of commenters insist that non-voters do not deserve to have their voices heard, but that is the exact attitude that the political and economic elites of both parties benefit from. The Democrat Party might have a bigger advantage in terms of turnout for a general election, but they know that the interests of the elites running the show would be seriously threatened if even 10% of those 74 million eligible non-voters were given the tools for understanding, analyzing, and organizing themselves. We saw how quickly the Democrat Party moved to squash the Sanders campaign, which wasn’t all that radical, as much as anyone tried to paint it that way.
Now as always, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of people who live lives of extraordinary luxury and consumption that you and I cannot fathom. It doesn’t matter if they were “self-made” or if they inherited it – an extreme concentration of wealth and a government that refuses to adequately tax that wealth is not in the best interest of a society. Our infrastructure is shot to hell from sea to sea, we are getting sicker even as we boast “The Best Healthcare in the World!”, and college/house/consumer debt keep us unstable and terrified of falling through the cracks. We have been living this pandemic nightmare for 8 month now and there has been only one stimulus bill passed to support the millions of people who lost their jobs. You can easily blame this on Trump, Mitch McConnell, and The Republicans, but if you had the opportunity to vote specifically on how your government would handle an airborne viral pandemic (which epidemiologists have been warning us about for at least 30 years), would you not have voted for something much better than what we were given? Would you not expect public health to be a non-politicized realm of government that you could trust to exist year after year, no matter which party is in power?
How can we call our political-economic arrangement in the US a “democracy” when our individual rights to bodily autonomy, to love who we want, and to due process under the law are continuously threatened and undermined by an authoritarian minority? What about our collective rights to health, family wages, and dignified housing? The right of future generations to live on a planet with breathable air, drinkable water, and climate equilibrium? We were told by authoritarian propaganda that the 2020 election was about capitalism vs. communism but that is wrong. Under the 2-party system, the economy is only ever capitalistic: one party relishes in a “sink or swim” Social Darwinist ideology that celebrates “failure”, while the other party celebrates “success” and advocates for a few more opportunities for exceptional individuals to gain status and maybe even wealth. We have never had the opportunity to vote for a party that questions the basic assumption that unlimited and unencumbered economic growth is the best economic arrangement for the majority of citizens. The authoritarian Right can talk shit about communism all they want, but the reality is that if the US was ever a democracy and the majority of people had a real say in things, there would be some kind of collectivization of the economy. You can give it whatever name you want, but most people are not trying to win the “whoever dies with the most toys wins” game. We want love, care, community, equity, stability, justice, and the opportunity to use our gifts in a meaningful way. We want to have strong families where the parents are not working multiple jobs just to get by, where children are nurtured and protected. If given the choice, we would choose local food systems over industrial, education investment over building prisons, and peace over war. We would choose a government that was actually representative of regular people as we are now, not a government that represents some future fantasy where we are in a higher tax bracket.