It’s funny that we call it that. Over half of Congress is made up of millionaires, voter preferences have “near-zero” impact on public policy and there’s no economic democracy to speak of in America – compound these problems if you’re a woman or a minority, when lack of political and economic power harms you even more.
It’s Independence Day, but most of us are at the whims of the capitalists and the politicians they own.
“[Bourgeois] democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains, in effect, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich,” Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1917. “Owing to the conditions of capitalist exploitation, the modern wage slaves are so crushed by want and poverty that ‘they cannot be bothered with democracy,’ ‘cannot be bothered with politics;’ in the ordinary, peaceful course of events, the majority of the population is debarred from participation in public and political life.”
Let the 2020 election be a case study of what Lenin’s talking about. More Americans voted in 2020 than in any other presidential election in 120 years – and yet 80 million people didn’t vote at all.
Ipsos conducted a survey to attempt to find out why. 59% of respondents said they either weren’t interested in politics, didn’t like the candidates or felt their vote wouldn’t have made a difference.
Can anyone blame the nonvoter for feeling so disaffected? Back in 2019, Joe Biden told a room full of wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he became president. A rare moment of naked honesty from our representatives to hear them assuage their masters’ fears of class resentment.
Question for liberals: how can you tell someone their vote matters when the person you want them to vote for promises that nothing will change? How can you tell them their vote matters when research has shown voter preferences have a “near-zero” impact on public policy?
Last week Biden once again said he opposed expanding the Supreme Court, expressing worry about the institution becoming “politicized.” Let’s forget for a moment the illegitimacy of his concern – the Supreme Court is a political institution and always has been – and just stew on the fact that a record number of people turned out for Biden and in return he says he cannot do anything for them.
Fireworks are for celebrations, but it’s hard at the moment to find anything worth celebrating. No affirmative action, no student debt relief, no abortion, no universal healthcare, no safety for trans kids, no PRO Act, no Build Back Better – most of these are measly reforms and we can’t get any of them.
The calendar says “Independence Day” but the working people of the U.S. are powerless. The rich serve themselves, and as Lenin said, the working masses have been debarred from political life. To run for office and win often requires a great deal of time and money, something working people don’t generally have in abundance.
What’s my point, you might be wondering – should we just hang it all up? Surrender?
I said we were powerless, but this is just how things appear. In reality, there are many more of us workers than there are exploiters, and this is where we draw our power. What I’ve tried to prove is that the U.S. doesn’t belong to us but to the capitalists. They own the government and the economy, and the Democratic Party won’t deliver it from them to us.
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We must take the U.S. for ourselves. We do this by organizing our workplaces, and by becoming politically conscious. As for voting, I wouldn’t discourage it and I do it myself. But I know that it is a small gesture that at best minimizes harm. Ensuring as few Republicans as possible take office is a good thing, but political victory will require much more.
We therefore must form our own political party. The current strategy of some leftists like the Democratic Socialists of America of running members as Democrats is too slow to be meaningful. Patience is growing thin – we are tired of waiting for Democrats to save us. Education and organization are the order of the day – it is how we will save ourselves.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a senior studying journalism and political science.