More thoughts on the U.S. election from Starhawk. This is only an excerpt. You can read the article in its entirety, including her powerful insights as a result of helping in the recovery efforts for the Katrina victims; just go here.
Remember – in October, 2000, Al Gore had a double-digit lead. Please don’t take anything for granted. There are still plenty of tricks in the play book and apathy would be our undoing.
I don’t think Obama will be our savior. But if he’s elected, the wind will shift. The breeze will be at our backs, pushing us further and faster toward destinations we otherwise cannot reach.
If McCain wins, or steals the election, the right will claim a popular mandate that will propel their destructive programs onward. Progressive causes and movements will suffer.
I sometimes hear the argument that it has to get worse before it gets better, that people will become radicalized when it gets really awful. I’ve been hearing that since Nixon was elected in ‘Sixty-eight, and I’ve yet to see it happen.
It is already really awful, and we’ll be lucky if we can persuade most of the people to simply not vote the architects of the awfulness back into power.
People do not become empowered by constantly having their powerlessness rubbed in their faces. In the United States, at least, where the worst possible thing you can be is a ‘loser’, people like to be on the winning side. Increased repression does not tend to make people more radical-if it did, we’d see our movements growing over the last eight years instead of shrinking.
It tends to make people give up, or turn their energies toward smaller efforts where they feel they can make some impact. A McCain win would reward the machinery of lies and corruption and cement the power of the police state.
For Obama to win, and to assure that this election does not get stolen like the last two, he needs to win big. To have some hope of implementing progressive changes, he needs to have a supportive Congress and Senate win with him.
I hear arguments from some of my dear friends that voting doesn’t matter, that it’s not empowering or revolutionary.
But for the vast majority of people in this country, elections are the only place where they interface with politics or attempt to exercise power, and if we sneer at that, we lose the chance to link together and open up broader channels for change. And for the kids I’ve worked with in the Bayview, who have never seen a flowing river and whose career options range from crack dealer to murder-for-hire, voting would be a big step upwards.
I’m a registered member of the Green Party. I vote Green often, and on a local level, I think the Green Party can have an enormous impact. I also love Cynthia McKinney, whose policies are much closer to those I hold dear.
But I hold no illusions that she can win. A Green Party can provide a counterweight on the left to the many pulls to the center and the right that play on candidates. But I would prefer to see the Green Party concentrate on the local issues and candidates that can make a difference, rather than make a weak showing on the national front.
Policy is only one aspect of what we need in a President. A President must be able to garner the power and the backing to get policies enacted.
And on an energetic level, a President embodies a national mood, a zeitgeist, an energetic field. Obama has that magic charisma, that ability to inspire a mood of hope and optimism. In spite of all the attempts by both Clinton and the Republicans to diminish his appeal, he retains that great gift.
In these times when so much of what ordinary people have depended on is crashing down around us, mood might actually be more important than specific points of policy. Because if we have no hope, if we spiral downwards into cynicism, despair and apathy, we will lose any power we might otherwise wield.
Obama may or may not be all we hope. But this election, we actually have a clear choice between candidates who represent very different approaches to the huge crises that we face.
For the people who’ve lost their homes or pensions in the last months, for the people under fire in Iraq, for the companies struggling to start up solar or wind installations, for the millions without health insurance, for the billions of people around the world at risk from climate meltdown, the decision we make in the next weeks is crucial.
I will continue to work and organize and teach with the vision of a thousand, a million Common Ground-style organizations everywhere. I won’t give up my vision of an ideal world of shared and decentralized power, and the bulk of my efforts will always go into envisioning that world, teaching the skills and understandings we need to bring it about, and agitating to make it happen.
But I’m also going to vote, and to encourage others to do so, to engage with this election, to register the disenfranchised, work in the swing states, volunteer to monitor to assure fair elections, and talk to your friends and neighbors.
And when I cast my ballot for President, it will be for Obama.
Copyright (2008) by Starhawk. All rights reserved. This copyright protects Starhawk’s right to future publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Please keep this notice with it.