If we want to end wars and cut military spending, will we accomplish that by changing the faces of the military industrial complex’s representatives in Congress and the White House or by educating the public about the human costs, financial costs, environmental costs, civil liberties and democratic costs, and the endangerment of us all caused by dumping 65 percent of discretionary spending into the war machine? Will we get further by funding candidates or by using civil resistance to disrupt the work of the makers of war? We can do both. We must do both. But which should we prioritize? Which should we make subservient? Do we want a culture passionately demanding peace and compelling all elected officials to work for it, a culture we approached, for example, in 1928? Or do we want a country in which loyal Democrats denounce Republican war funders, but nobody at all denounces Democratic war funders?
Should we be dumping what resources we’re left after paying our war taxes into electoral campaigns or into independent activism? I don’t think this is a difficult question.
“Oh no! If the good people stop funding elections, only Republicans will have money!”
Well, you know, only Republicans do have money; some of them are just called Democrats. Well-run independent principled organizations working for peace and justice do influence our society right now, but if they had a fraction of the funding routinely dumped into lesser-evil electioneering, this would be a country dominated by a ringing demand for positive change. There’d be no more need for, and no more time wasted on, hope. And don’t talk to me about the media; with the kind of money good people dump into elections we could create a new people’s media.
Republicans are pushed in the directions the tea partiers want, not because the tea partiers politely criticize them and swear to work for their reelection no matter what, but because tea partiers often denounce them without any self-censorship and threaten to toss them out of office. Nobody does that on the left. There’s a whole industry working to imitate the tea party from the left that completely misses this central point. An example of this is Van Jones’ October 3, 2011, speech at the Take Back the American Dream conference.
As we watch electoral-political groups swoop in to join Occupy Wall Street, you’ll notice attempts to label this Occupation movement the anti-teaparty, followed in the next breath by attempts to define the duty of the anti-teaparty as electing Democrats. No matter how well-meaning this may be, if you agree with me that what we desperately lack is non-electoral politics, then you have to see this “support” as an act of betrayal. If the energy of independent outraged activists too young to have been properly corrupted is redirected, as it was in Wisconsin, into electoral politics, a movement will have been betrayed.