The Burgeoning Boycott Movement: The Message Of Not Voting

By @MMichaelsMPN |
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    (MintPress) – “Whereas both major political have sold out to the Wall Street banks and multinational corporations, we hereby refuse to vote in the 2012 presidential election,” write supporters of the burgeoning electoral boycott movement.

    As millions of voters prepare to head to the polls next month, a small but growing number of American citizens will abstain from voting altogether in a protest of the current electoral system that is awash in special interest money and manipulated by fallible, some would say “outdated,” electoral college system. Taken together, these limitations erode the democratic process and undermine the ability of third party candidates to have a chance at winning on a national stage.


    The boycott movement: Voters not voting

    Although the idea is nothing new, the old-fashioned boycott could resonate in a big way this election season, especially with voters who see both major candidates as lackluster and incapable of delivering on the robust promises from the campaign trail.

    Playing on the language of America’s founding fathers, “boycotters,” representing a range of political affiliations, have issued a statement laying out the reasons for their discontent with the current state of U.S. elections, writing in their “boycotter’s manifesto,”

    “Whereas third parties have no possibility of winning the presidential election due to corporate control over the electoral process and the media, Whereas three decades of solid efforts to reform the electoral process have been subverted by the corporate state, Whereas participation in the electoral process lends legitimacy to a system that has lost its legitimacy, We hereby refuse to vote in the 2012 presidential election.”

    Millions of potential voters have already decried the current state of electoral politics, beset oligarchic leanings and awash in special interest money. This was exacerbated following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that defined corporations and labor unions as “people,” allowing the right to contribute virtually unlimited sums of money to political action committees (PACs) advocating for a particular candidate or party.

    This election season has become a record breaking fundraising cycle with the Democratic and Republican National Committees raising more than $1.1 billion for Congressional, Senate and presidential races.

    This total does not include the hundreds of millions contributed to semi-secretive super PACs, supported by a handful of wealthy individuals. The “Restore Our Future” PAC, the largest PAC this election season, has already raised more than $82 million on behalf of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Of the more than $230 million raised by Super PACs this election cycle, over 57 percent came from just 47 individual donors, according to a study by DEMOS, an independent research organization.

    More succinctly, Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) believes, “Washington has become an auction house where policies go to the highest bidder.”

    There are a number of other factors contributing to a candidate’s electoral success. However, fundraising plays a major role, allowing politicians to finance a multi-pronged approach to reach constituencies, including television and radio ads, social media outreach and campaign literature.

    According to the Center for Responsive Politics, between 2000 and 2010 the candidate with the highest fundraising totals won in 93 percent of Congressional races and 83 percent of Senate races. Rather than support a system driven by oligarchic and corporate interest, some citizens believe that the best way to signal their discontent is to abstain from voting altogether.


    The failures of the electoral college

    Those supporting a boycott have also expressed their disdain for the electoral college, a system that many Americans feel is antiquated and unfairly gives a disproportionate voice to voters in sparsely populated states like Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota, among others.

    Nowhere was the fallibility of the electoral college more evident than in the 2000 presidential contest. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) won the plurality of the popular vote but ultimately lost the election to George W. Bush (R-Texas) because Bush surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected.

    In all but two states the “winner take all” rules of the electoral college requires that a candidate capture a majority of the votes in a state in order to secure all of that state’s electors.

    Writing about their opposition to the electoral college, authors of the boycott manifesto write, “The Electoral College is obsolete, designed to work in a one-party republic with roughly 4 million citizens; it is open to manipulation and inconsistent with the fundamental American principles of fairness and equality.”

    This sentiment is shared by a majority of Americans who would support amending the constitution to create a direct democratic balloting system for presidential elections.

    According to a Gallup public opinion poll conducted last year, 63 percent of Americans favor replacing the electoral college with a popular vote. Just 35 percent said that they still supported the electoral college system. Seventy-one percent of Democrats support direct, “one person, one vote elections.” Fifty-three percent of Republicans supported the idea as well.


    Low voter turnout muddles the message

    “… if a huge number of people joined [in the election boycott] it would make an important statement,” declared professor Noam Chomsky, a prominent linguist, academic and activist in an email exchange with boycott supporters earlier this month.

    While Chomsky has endorsed Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, his tacit support for a boycott on a large scale faces a major challenge given already poor voter turnouts in the U.S.

    Differentiating the silence of boycott supporters from the hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of disinterested American voters will be challenging in a political climate already tilted decidedly in favor of corporations and wealthy citizens.

    Unlike Australia, the U.S. does not have compulsory voting. Even during years with higher turnout, only 50-60 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. The 2008 presidential election, a banner election for voter participation, drew just 63 percent of eligible voters.

    Although Barack Obama captured the lion’s share of the more than 131 million votes, the total percentage was lower than the 64.8 percent who cast ballots in the 1960 presidential election. While record numbers of African-Americans and young, college aged voters contributed to Obama’s success in 2008, some project that the turnout in 2012 will be lower than four years ago.

    Differentiating the “silence” of an electoral boycott from the silence of millions of passively disaffected American voters will be difficult. However, the electoral boycott has worked previously in other countries, sending a powerful statement of discontent to candidates and elected officials.

    For example, in the Jamaican general elections of 1983, the People’s National Party called for an electoral boycott after the ruling Labour Party refused to update the electoral role. The majority of Jamaican voters adhered to the boycott and just 2.7 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, a clear sign of voter discontent with the Labour Party’s decision.

    Compared to a large country like the U.S., a grassroots election boycott is much easier to mobilize when the possible electorate is fewer than 3 million. However, if enough voters decide to boycott the flawed electoral system, awash in special interest money and beset by the limitations of electoral college chicanery, then silence might speak louder than votes in 2012.

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    • If you truly think that not voting is any kind of answer you deserve what you get when the somebody truly horrible gets elected. You will only be able to blame yourself, because you didn’t use your right as an American to vote. Also read and listen to Romney’s speech asking employers to tell their employees to vote for him or else. Can you still ignore your right to vote? Good luck with that.

      • Why are you assuming that only Obama votes would be diminished by the boycott?

    • Aletheya

      I can’t think of anything more self-defeating than refusing to vote. There are plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the major parties; no one likes the electoral system; and the influence of PACs is certainly a corrupting influence. The Supreme Court screwed us good there. Nevertheless, if you think it makes no difference who gets elected, you just haven’t been paying attention. No one is going to feel sorry for you or change the system just because you didn’t vote. No one is even going to notice. You cannot change the system by sitting it out – you need to participate from the inside. If you opt out, then you are unrepresented, you’ve given up your voice, and you have no right to complain about how things are run. Voting is a right and privilege, and a duty of citizenship, and many people have died to secure that right, and others are dying right now in places like Syria. Refusing to vote simply means you think those sacrifices mean nothing. Grow up, or shut up.

      • Grow up or shut up? Is that the voice of an *adult* who lives in a country where Freedom of Speech is protected by its Bill of Rights?

        If you believe there is such a vast difference between the two candidates, YOU are the one who hasn’t been paying attention. I assume you’re an Obama supporter because it sounds like you’re refuting the lesser of two evils argument. Well, here’s the short list of what Obama has done so far:

        Signed the NDAA into law – making it legal to assassinate Americans w/o charge or trial.
        Initiated, and personally oversees a ‘Secret Kill List’.
        Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
        Started a covert, drone war in Yemen.
        Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
        Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan.
        Maintained a presence in Iraq even after “ending” the war.
        Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
        Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries.
        Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.
        Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia.
        Opened a military base in Chile.
        Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan.
        Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster.
        Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal”.
        Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports.
        Signed the Patriot Act extension into law.
        Deported a modern-record 1.5 million immigrants.
        Continued Bush’s rendition program.

        References and more at:

        As for your other claims, how does supporting a corrupt system from the inside change anything? Or is it that you simply choose to disbelieve the full extent of its corruption? Look where we are now after decades of doing the same thing. How has that worked out? Why do you expect the results to be different this time? We ALREADY have no voice in government because the people we’ve elected don’t do what they promised. YOU are the one who has no right to complain, because YOU are the one supporting them. The two party monopoly is a CON GAME.

        Voting is a privilege and duty UNLESS the government no longer secures our civil liberties, which it most certainly has failed to do. Our very Declaration of Independence states: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

        And no one has died for my right to vote for a corrupt government. The “War on Terror” and “humanitarian interventions” are both LIES. Even most *soldiers* know it by now, and some of them are speaking out, too, or even refusing to be a part of it! Do you think that voting for Obama will put an end to their sacrifices? Do you believe it is right for them to continue FIGHTING FOR A LIE?

    • Pingback: The Burgeoning Boycott Movement: The Message Of Not Voting | Proletarian Center for Research, Education and Culture()

    • Dennis Leahy

      I am boycotting the 2012 federal elections, but I will not stop there. The electoral system does not just need to be bitched about, it needs to be changed. Virtually every movement trying to change the electoral paradigm makes one or the other wrong turn:

      a.) they think yet another 3rd party is the answer
      b.) they want to try to close-off just one of the paths used by the Financial Elite to control elections

      As it turn out, comprehensive “Election Reform” (a gentle way of saying “electoral paradigm transformation”) is the key to every activist’s success. No citizen-centric legislation will ever be passed by corporate-friendly (corporate vetted, approved, supported, and sponsored) elected officials. Citizen-centric legislation will flow from Congress when Congress is full of ordinary citizens without corporate ties. Citizens representing citizens. Anything less is a waste of time and will change nothing.


    • This chart reads:

      the 1960’s, V.O. Key wrote that whoever could unlock the key to voter
      participation would dominate politics for a long time. Since then, non-voting
      has increased to even higher levels: non-participation is a chronic reality in
      American politics. More people participate in Presidential Election than any
      other type of election, yet even in Presidential Elections, for the past 40

      presidents adequately and legitimately represent and lead the nation when so
      few people vote and only about one-fourth to one-third vote for the winner?


    • Hello! I am among those leading the torch for ELECTION BOYCOTT 2012 and please note that it is NOT necessary to “[Differentiate] the silence of boycott supporters from the hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of disinterested American voters will be challenging in a political climate already tilted decidedly in favor of corporations and wealthy citizens”!
      “Voter apathy” is a natural or organic type of boycott — demonstrating low confidence in the fraudulent, rigged system and our corporate crafted choices which are ‘two wings of the same birds of prey’.
      ELECTION BOYCOTT 2012 has arrived and it’s growing stronger daily! For more, please visit
      Thank you!

      • philly cheesecake engels

        Apathy takes many forms; it is perhaps a little too easy to count all those non-voters for our burgeoning movement.

        • mymarkx

          Apathy is the enemy of the Election Boycott Movement. There are millions of people who know that their votes don’t have to be counted, can be manipulated by the central tabulators, cannot be verified, and cannot influence policy decisions, people who are fully aware that both major party candidates have almost identical corporate agendas and that due to the fact that we don’t have proportional representation, instant-runoff voting, and that they are excluded from the debates, third party candidates have no chance of winning, but are so apathetic that they continue to vote.
          In the only poll I know of that ever asked them instead of just hanging up when they said they didn’t vote, most nonvoters said that the reason they didn’t vote was because nobody on the ballot would or could represent their interests. Voters know that third party candidates, even if they won, would lack the seniority and support needed to accomplish anything in government, and that the major party candidates won’t represent their interests, but they don’t care and continue to vote, often for a lesser evil so distasteful to them that they have to hold their noses. What else can you call it but apathy when people don’t care if their votes are counted and don’t care if the only possible winners will represent their interests or not?
          The myth of the apathetic nonvoter is one of many I’ve refuted in my book, Consent to Tyranny: Voting in the USA, available free here or on amazon Kindle for a buck. People who want their votes to count are people who care. People who don’t care if their votes count or not, are apathetic.