Every two and four years the elections come to town like a big circus. For months, we hear on the radio, watch on TV, or read in the paper an endless stream of advertisements and speeches promoting one candidate or proposition over another. We are constantly bombarded with messages of how important it is to get out and vote because that is our most powerful tool to bring about change in this country. Well this year it isn’t any different.
But who and what are we supposed to be voting for? This election cycle has already become the most expensive midterm election in history. When this is over with, somewhere between four and five billion dollars will have been spent. Most of this money is coming from corporations and the private accounts of millionaires and billionaires.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top three funders for this year’s election campaigns are the Pharmaceutical industry (over $187 million), the Electrical Utilities industry (over $118 million), and the Insurance industry (over $85 million). These are just the top three – there are hundreds of millions of dollars coming from real estate corporations, banks, energy companies and just about every single other industry.
And this money flows equally into Democratic and Republican candidates. Most of the industries have donated about half to one party and half to the other. To even be considered as a political candidate, then, one has to already get the approval of the corporations. So, the main candidates on the ballots across the country are politicians who have been hand picked and funded by the corporations.
The same process is true of the propositions. It takes millions of dollars to even get a proposition on the ballot. It costs money to pay people to collect signatures and run advertisements. Most propositions on the state and national level are funded by corporations and the wealthy to serve their interests.
So what are we really voting for? For the most part, this is an election to serve the interests of the banks and corporations. For the governor’s race in California, for example, you have a pick between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman. This is a choice between the former CEO of Ebay, who’s already spent over $140 million of her own money; or a longtime politician who oversaw a series of cuts to workers, the poor and education the last time he was governor. Both candidates agree on cutting workers’ pensions, decreasing regulations for corporations, and not imposing any major tax increases on the super rich or corporations. And something similar can be said of all the races for governor and congress this election year.
The truth is, working people don’t have any candidates to vote for who actually represent their interests. And there are no propositions that propose the kinds of changes workers need. There’s no vote to force the banks to payback the trillions of dollars that was handed to them. There’s no vote to fund education, to stop the layoffs, or provide people with jobs. There’s no vote to keep people in their houses. And there’s no vote to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Voting takes about ten minutes. It is certainly not the most important tool that workers have to bring about change. It is not what we do in the ten minutes we may spend inside a voting booth that is important, but what we do the other 364 days a year. No major changes benefitting working people have come through the ballot box. They’ve come from the only people to represent the interests of workers – workers themselves, organized together, fighting in their own name.