After reading the very interesting article by Joel S. Hirschhorn “Time to Boycott Voting” I decided to contact him to ask him some further questions about his controversial point of view. He kindly agreed to answer my questions for which I am most grateful to him.
Q: Please introduce yourself, tell us about you, about what you do in life
A: Though I started my professional life in engineering and was a successful professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,, I moved into public policy, spending 12 years at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment working mostly on environmental issues and after that about 5 years at the National Governors Association where I was Director of Environment, Energy and Natural Resources. I have testified at over 50 Senate and House hearings and a number of state government hearings. Writing was always my love and when I stopped working a regular job I focused on writing several books, including Sprawl Kills and Delusional Democracy. Now my time is devoted to writing articles that appear on over 100 websites, covering political and government issues. I also co-founded Friends of the Article V Convention at www.foavc.org and that is a very special interest for me. More recently I have become active in the 9/11 truth movement.
Q: Are you not implicitly responsible for whatever outcome an election has if you abstain? Does your *failure to oppose* not make you an accomplice of the policies which are enacted after your abstention?
A: My view is that our current political system is so completely rigged and corrupt that it really does not matter which Democrat or Republican wins a particular election. There comes a time when good citizens must face the ugly truth: that participating in a corrupt and criminal system that no longer obeys the rule of law nor honors our Constitution merely legitimizes this awful system. We have a delusional democracy that is nearly worthless; it serves the interests of a rich, powerful elitist class much more than it serves ordinary citizens. That our voter turnout is so low simply reflects the fact that most Americans see voting as next to useless. Those who think that they can vote our nation out of the current condition are delusional and/or brainwashed. I strongly agree with the Jeffersonian view that we need periodic rebellions to preserve a quality democracy. But now we must use a non-violent approach, which is extremely difficult because the mainstream media are part of the problem because of corporate ownership. Moreover, the power elites have engineered a culture and society that makes most citizens distracted, tired and sick consumers — too busy and too exhausted to be truly engaged with their democracy. Intentional civil disobedience with a political reform goal is very different than merely being too distracted, busy or tired to vote.
Q: You mention Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. If they decided to join forces and run in the name of, say, a “Jeffersonian Party” whose platform would only be to 1) stop all wars of aggression 2) restore all civil rights mentioned in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – would you consider voting in for such a ticket?
A: Yes, I must admit I would; I have always been a very strong advocate for third parties. The problem is that the two major parties have succeeded in rigging our political system to make it nearly impossible for third party candidates to win federal elections. And the media don’t help at all, because they want simple horse races to keep the public watching and listening, and to make tons of money from the two big parties.
Q: You say that Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich will not be nominated by their respective political parties. But does voting for them not send a strong message to the party leaders about what people want? Imagine Ron Paul coming in third or even second at the Republican Convention. Would that not be an earthquake for the GOP?
A: Again, these kind of populist, minor candidates keep people that are rightfully fed up with our political system engaged. Their supporters are no threat whatsoever to the big parties and their candidates. Most people are terribly ignorant about our political system and how the major parties operate. Their conventions are tightly controlled. I am sickened by the delusional state of the supporters of Paul most of all; they really do not seem to understand how rigged and corrupt the two-party system is. They are wasting their time, energy and money – BUT I fully understand and support their zeal. In the end, they will accomplish nothing, and then what?
Q: If not the big parties, how about voting for, say, Nader? If he got enough votes, would that not rock the boat enough to make the US politicians pay attention?
A: In every election where he was on my ballot I voted for him. Intellectually and in terms of policy he has been about the best presidential candidate we have had in many decades, but he is no politician, so he never stood a chance. And he was falsely and illogically blamed for Bush’s victory.
Q: Say that people follow your advice and massively abstain. What do you imagine the reaction of the political elites would be to such an event? Do you really expect them self-dissolve themselves and leave the political scene with contrite hearts? Why could they not simple ignore it and vote some money to increase “civic education in schools”?
A: They would never easily give up their power, but neither could they ignore a very low voter turnout. They have managed to hoodwink the populace in so many ways. But if the turnout dropped to 25 percent or lower the situation would be profoundly different. Our political system, president and government would have absolutely no credibility on the world scene; it could not be ignored. In a marvelous and strange way I think reaching that extremely low voter turnout would trigger a massive, populist rebellion among Americans. The delusional democracy would no longer have any credibility and could not survive; key parts of society would become activist and engaged – civil disobedience CAN WORK! People should think in terms of a tipping point – when the vast majority of Americans clearly reject their political system, politicians and major parties.
Q: Assuming that a huge amount of people abstaining did rock the boat enough and the system would be in a crisis, how would then a reform come from people who are nowhere represented in the political system or, if you prefer, how could abstainers make sure that they voice is heard and, even more relevantly, that their voice would matter?
A: I envision many possible events, including popular support for constitutional amendments achieved through the nation’s first Article V convention; the main goal would be major reforms that loosen the grip of the two major parties and open the system up to third party candidates. A number of electoral reforms would be used to greatly increase voter turnout; for example, making Election Day a national holiday and making voting mandatory, as it is in many democracies. One or both major parties would undergo massive self-reforms to regain public trust. We have to think in terms of a successful Second American Revolution, from which new honest, high quality leaders emerge.
Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy – Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government that presents many electoral and other reforms; he can be contacted through www.delusionaldemocracy.com . Formerly, he was a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association.