Monday, September 17, 2012

Occupy the Voting Booth

A year ago today, the Occupy movement began.  It gave me such hope to see people organizing in that way.  Even though PICO uses different methods to get the same jobs done, I and other individual organizers found ourselves grateful for the Occupy movement’s success in highlighting the questions and issues no one was talking much about before that point.

The movement gave us a shorthand for the unhelpful wealth disparity in this nation, 99%, 1%, are common parlance now.  They act as shorthand to keep us aware of the reality of wealth disparity and the systems that keep it in place.

The Occupations were important and made a real change in the consciousness of many.  Today there have been some protests and rallies in New York City, here in San Francisco and elsewhere.  They look to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands we saw last year at this time.  It will be interesting to see if a strong Occupation reemerges.  

Meanwhile, everyone who cares about the direction of our country has to also look at other avenues for change.  Though our democracy may be on life support, it isn't dead yet and exercising our right to vote along with our rights to free speech and free assembly can help revive it.

Too often I hear from folks who do not believe their vote counts or that voting makes one complicit in our current systems of injustice.  Neither one of these beliefs reflect reality.  The last thing the big corporations and the power mongers want is for you to vote, because your vote actually does have power.  You give that up when you refuse to vote.
I learned at a recent SFOP meeting that over 60% of the people who actually vote are wealthy, white, and seniors.  It was a crystallizing moment for me.  Why don’t politicians pay attention to the needs of young people, minorities, the poor?  Because they know there are not as many of us who vote.  Voter demographic information is tracked and the politicians can look it up as easily as anyone else.  We can hold all the rallies, sit ins, protests we want, but if we don’t vote, they don’t care.

It’s just that simple.

If your aren’t already registered, you can do it right now at if you live in California.  That’s simple too.  Then get out and vote on election day, or send in a vote by mail ballot ahead of time and beat the rush.   
The way to break the power of big money is with a big vote.  If you want your interests to matter, you must get out to the polls and vote.  And, yes, I know about voter suppression laws and all the other tactics those who have the power right now have in place to keep power all to themselves. 

Not going to the polls doesn’t make any of that go away.  The way we beat it is turning out in droves.  If the politicians see a lot of us at the polls they will see and hear us better at the rallies, too. 

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