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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Why I'm not voting today - Remember DC

    I am not voting here in the District of Columbia, and I will explain why. And, let's forget for a second that I don't believe that the voting process is in any way meaningful in our system of government. I will tell you why I'm not voting, even on the assumption I had much of anything to vote for. Nevertheless, the reason why I am not voting sheds light on why I believe that the voting process is a complete sham and actually often enough helps perpetuate the colonial status that the residents here have.

    First of all, as a resident of DC, we have no members of Congress, and so there is no congressional election here. We have a non-voting delegate of Congress, but that is not the same thing. It means that she can sit around Congress and hope for the best. Her name is Eleanor Holmes Norton, and I have been to her office. She and her staff couldn't be less responsive, but even if they were, there would be nothing they could do.

    So, the whole national debate over the two parties, or even voting for a third party, is irrelevant to me this day. There is no congressional race to vote for.

    We do have a mayoral race today, at least in theory. However, since DC is over 90% Democratic, that race was essentially decided in the primary. There is an election today, and there is also a Republican as well as a Green Party candidate. I am a registered Statehood Green Party member, and I even know the mayoral candidate very well. Of course, knowing the guy, I believe for too many sordid reasons that he would be an abysmal mayor. I could write in a perpetual joke candidate for mayor named Faith (that's her whole name), who actually has a radical platform calling for "DC secession", but she's also so completely out of it most of the time that I couldn't imagine she could serve any constituents. What if I supported Adrian Fenty, the Democrat, and someone who definitely seems interested in constituent services? He's actually my current council member, and there's no doubt he works hard for his constituents. The problem is that he also works hard for the developers as well, despite his rhetoric, supporting the continued gentrification of our Petworth neighborhood and condo development (including one just a few blocks from where I live that will ultimately drive up property values and force out more working class families from the neighborhood). I could not in any way feel confident that my voice is heard. And, even though the mayor of DC has some power, any decision that is made in DC is actually subject to approval by Congress, yes the same Congress that we residents of DC have absolutely no say in.

    We also have non-elected officials who oversee us; we vote in school Board races, though the city doesn't control the school system. There is also a system of public charter schools that seem totally renegade. There's something of a club called the Federal City Council, which wields huge influence over Congress, but is not elected and is a select club made up of some of the richest business interests in town.

    DC has among the highest, if not the highest, income and sales tax rates in the country, and on our license plates, it says "Taxation without Representation" which got snuck on our plates when Congress wasn't in session. They weren't amused but didn't take the time to stop it, since it was already too late. We have the highest AIDS rate in the country, a huge homeless population topping at least 12, 000, and one of the largest gaps of rich to poor anywhere in the country. A huge swath of the city is nowhere near a hospital since the city closed the only public hospital left in it, which served that area, saying there was no money (though plenty for a $700 million baseball stadium that is being built at the expense of small businesses and people who lived along the Anacostia River waterfront).

    So, when you vote for Congress, you vote to perpetuate a system where a city with more residents than either Wyoming or Alaska have no tangible say in how they are governed, and you vote for people who continue to support the colonial status subjigated on the poor, overwhelmingly people of color, population of the District of Columbia, who have virtually no decent choices in their own local elections, elections which again are for positions with relatively little "home rule." Remember that this is true of other U.S. colonial possessions like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

    I don't believe the representative system is participatory or at all a show of any action we ourselves have control over (it's a non-action); I don't believe it empowers us to take further action. I feel that even more palpably here in DC. Please remember what you are doing to us by voting and not joining in our struggle to end colonialism here in the nation's capital. It's not enough that you vote; in fact, in some ways, it hurts us because your member of Congress will continue to wield control over us. However, I'm not sure it hurts us enough not to cast a ballot, and so go ahead. Just remember what I've said, learn for yourselves, and teach others.

    This is not democracy.


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