Published: Oct 27, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 25, 2012 04:49 PM
Well below the radar of most in our community, on Oct. 13, a group on the far left held an event in Peace and Justice Plaza called “Rally Against Electoral Farce.” The proposition that the presidential election is a farce is based on a blinkered worldview that finds little difference between Obama and Romney and on a belief that, since the government is entwined with so much injustice, it is morally wrong to participate in its affairs even to the extent of voting.
There are many on the left, not just anarchists, whose view of the presidential election is along the lines that, as the rally’s manifesto put it, the two candidates agree on “unparalleled military domination; a growing prison system, the largest in the world, whose racist policies maintain the white supremacy this country was founded on; earth destroying resource extraction; a capitalist economy that rewards ruthless competition without concern for human cost.” And to a significant extent, that analysis is correct. Romney and Obama vie to be titular head of a global empire whose interests are often inimical to people and planet.
For many, it comes down to a critique of Obama’s specific policies: that he failed to close Gitmo, that he has continued much of the Bush Administration’s assault on civil liberties, that the war in Afghanistan drags on, that he has expanded the use of drone attacks, or that he has not addressed climate change with requisite urgency. All true enough.
But as important as these concerns may be, the differences between Romney and Obama are compelling, particularly in their impact on the lives of those of limited income, poor health, or who suffer from discrimination. Many hunger for nutritious meals. Many suffer from a lack of health care. Many cannot find the work they need to take care of themselves or the wherewithal to help their children succeed in the only schools they know.
For them, every vote matters. It makes a significant difference, sometimes one of life or death, whether tens of millions will receive health care as a result of Obamacare. It makes a difference to those who might find homes here in Chapel Hill if only federal housing dollars are protected from further cuts by the Republicans. It makes a difference to young people who need access to birth control, to gays and lesbians who want to be able to express their love freely. I could go on.
It is a fine thing when those on the left create food-sharing projects like Food Not Bombs or invest their energy in creating community gardens or in skills-sharing to help increase self-reliance. However, for the poor, these cannot, on the scale needed, take the place of food stamps, a program Obama supports but that the Republicans revile.
Frankly, I am disturbed by the privileged self-indulgence of many on the left who act like these real impacts on the lives of so many people should be shunted aside for an ideological principle. The simple fact is that it is the job of the left to build a movement capable of realizing their social and political goals. While that work is (seemingly endlessly) in progress, it is hard-hearted to shun the electoral choices that can make a significant difference in people’s day-to-day lives. There is no reason that even those who deplore government in principle should not undertake the simple act of voting for the sake of others. The lives of those on the left are filled with much more egregious hypocrisies as they daily avail themselves of such benefits of life under capital as texting on smart phones made in China or burning fuel provided by Big Oil.
Sure, Obama is a centrist and the state is the servant of capital. But, just as you drive a car even as you decry global warming, those on the left should take the 15-minute break needed to vote for Obama. It is the compassionate thing to do and therefore it is the right thing to do.
Dan Coleman is a Carrboro alderman.