(cross posted at The Montana Maven )
Or so Dimitri Orlov would like us to ponder. It's not a new idea, but it is an idea that doesn't get much play in the media and in our discussions with neighbors. We are told over and over that voting is the patriotic thing to do. People died for the right to vote. We get little flag stickers to put on our coats like the purple fingers of Iraqi voters. That the conventional wisdom. So why do so many Americans sit the elections out? And at the same time, if Americans do participate why do we hear over and over from pundits and comments on the blogs that those folks in Kansas and other reddish places just don't get it. "Why do they vote against their own self interests? " progressives ask. The wags note that these voters are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders. But on the other hand, vast numbers of people including women and minorities vote for the blue team and get nothing substantial out of that too. So what's up? And yes, why do they even vote at all?
Orlov is a linguist and an engineer who has a blog called Club Orlov. He has also written several books, one of which, "Reinventing Collapse", I am reading for advice on how to survive such a collapse besides our two month's supply of Nalley's Chili and two generators. He emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-Seventies and made several trips back to Russia during the Soviet rule and then after the Soviet collapse. He believes that there are many lessons we in the U.S. can learn from the collapse of the other late 20th century super power. That there are more similarities than differences between the two super powers, as Orlov describes them, gave me pause. It's always interesting to look at a common question through a different set of glasses.
Both the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. derived their identities from being either capitalist or communist and the "extreme adherence to one or the other" as opposed to healthier countries that mix it up is what Orlov believes led to the doom of one and the coming doom of the other. Ideologies are all well and good, he says, if they actually work. But when it becomes clear that the average working citizen is not doing so well, the legitimacy of the rigid system begins to unravel and finally collapse. He points out that Albert Camus made the observation that the two superpowers were more alike than not back in the 1950s. Camus said that a specific failure of both systems was their inability "to provide creative, meaningful work." This Orlov says leads to mass depression. Read more about Don't Feed the Animals. Why People Who Don't Vote Could Be the Smart Ones and the Real Rebels
Sam Smith is one of my favorite thinkers and commentators. He has been editing the Progressive Review since 1964. Every Monday he is on the Mark Thompson radio show on Sirius Left. Each Monday he comes up with original ways of looking at the week's events and has a generous and positive way of criticizing the Democrats as well as Republicans. He can put down Obama with such grace and sweetness that he does not get the blow back that Glen Ford gets when he does the same thing on Wednesdays. (Glen is another favorite of mine and speaks truth in a powerful voice.) Read more about Post Empire Survival Guide by Sam Smith
... well, we all want to change the world. In How to Destroy the Democratic Party ... I explored an approach that could lead to an independent party with more than symbolic strength. But recalling the dog who finally caught the car he’d been chasing all these years, it would raise the question of what we would do when we finally catch it, i.e., had some serious parliamentary strength backed by an energized mass base. Read more about So you say you want a revolution ...
Back in September I was casting about for a good, liberal rallying cry in advance on the 2012 elections and typed out the following platform:
1. Medicare For All.
2. End The Wars.
3. Soak The Rich. Read more about Vote Socialist 2012 - Now with a jobs guarantee!
On Friday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, congress members spoke in defense of Medicare, Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other programs that by almost anyone's definition are socialist, programs that were denounced as socialist by opponents of their passage in decades past, programs that would not have been created without the efforts of socialists and the Socialist Party. Read more about Did You Just Call Me a Socialist?
In one of these freakonomical perverse results, apparently right-wing memes about socialism have been overused and are hence rebounding against them. Via Yglesias:
Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better. Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided.