It’s hard not to notice that Canadian and Australian MRAs have made much more progress than Americans have in a lot of areas, and I don’t think this is entirely cultural. Although culture contributes–conservative traditionalism is much more powerful in large swaths of America than it is in those countries–there are also vital differences to how American politics work that tends to slow people down. Although there are quirks in the American system that can, if we educate people enough, make a huge difference. We just have to educate more people about them.
I recently uploaded the following video to YouTube, my first on-camera. As you can tell there was a delay/synch problem and some other quality issues which I’ll work on for future videos. In the meantime, I believe its message is pertinent to those here at A Voice for Men; it may help Americans learn more about their system, and it may help non-Americans understand the intricacies of the American system better and thus better able to make supportive comments or suggestions for American activists. I suggest listening to it, or reading the basic transcript, and checking out the links at the bottom of this article:
This is my first YouTube video on-camera. Hopefully my scary neckbeard doesn’t frighten any delicate ladies and small children. 😉
This is a response to my compatriot John the Other on his recent video on “why you should note vote.” It’s something of a rebuttal, although my rebuttal may seem a little subtle because I agree that most of the reasons he gives for not-voting are, on balance, correct. I would quibble with a few things but on balance I agree with John on the important thing: it really does not matter much who wins the White House this year, and it really does not matter much whether Party Red or Party Blue controls the US Congress. So the problem is not that he’s wrong in any of his specifics per se. But he misses the reasons TO vote.
There are other, easily missed reasons for an American to vote that John misses. Now, John the Other is Canadian, so it’s easy for him to miss some of those reasons. But saying he’s Canadian isn’t actually meant to dismiss him. In point of fact, most Americans miss these reasons too, and they have far less excuse: this is their own government and they don’t understand it either. Americans ought to know more about how their own government works than they generally do, and that’s a sad thing.
Mind you, I think it’s a good idea for Canadians to vote too, but the reasons are different. They’re different because the design, and the dynamics, of the Canadian system are quite radically different. Even though both systems are democratic, the design is like the difference between a motorcycle and a helicopter–they’re both just very different. So if my Canadian friends are interested in why I think they too should vote, they can let me know. For now, I’m going to concentrate on my fellow Americans and why they should vote.
This has nothing to do with saying you have a duty or an obligation to vote. In fact, I think your right to vote includes the right to refuse. I’ll go further, I think that if you’re not very informed about politics, you’re kind of irresponsible to vote. If you’re just blindly following the talking points of Party Red or Party Blue, really, I think you should stay home on election day and find something else to do.
But there are reasons to 1) make sure you’re registered to vote at least, and 2) in almost any election, go ahead and vote, even if you’re just writing stuff in or leaving most of the ballot blank.
Let me give them to you:
In the American system, we don’t just vote for President, and we don’t just vote for our US House and Senate members. We vote for a wide variety of other offices, and we also vote for a wide variety of non-offices.
What I think a lot of non-Americans–and sadly, a lot of Americans–miss is that we don’t have an elected government here. We actually have a minimum of 51 elected governments–each of 50 individual state governments, plus the Federal government. That’s not even counting places like Puerto Rico, Guam, Washington DC, etc., which are a little different but also have their own elected governments. Every American gets to vote for who’s going to govern them at a minimum of two levels: at their Federal level, and at their State level.
But wait, I’m wrong: it’s actually three or more: we also have elected governments within each County level (or in Louisiana they call them Parishes but they’re the same thing), and often, at the town or city level.
I wish I had the artistic skills to show this graphically, but wherever you live in America, you have typically four levels of government. You’re going to be voting for at least three, and in most cases four:
Top layer: Federal government
Middle layer: State government
Lower layer: County government
Lowest layer: City or town government, which some voters in rural areas aren’t subject to.
Because so many people concentrate on the big top layer positions, like President of the United States, they miss the fact that they can have a major impact on those offices that are at a lower level. A lot of people don’t even bother to vote for those local offices, which can be a huge mistake, since those people are elected to represent you at a local level, and are often much easier for you to get to answer your phone calls or even get you to meet with them personally.
Furthermore, although this varies by state, I can tell you that in a lot of states, judges are elected.
Let me repeat that: in most cases, JUDGES. ARE. ELECTED.
At the US Federal level, where Federal issues get decided, judges are appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life. But at the state level? They’re often elected. And that’s potentially huge. Locally elected judges are the ones who serve over trials for most crimes, like murder, rape, and theft, and assault.
Get that? Federal judges very rarely hear cases like rape, sexual assault, theft, robbery, murder, and so on. It’s almost ALWAYS a state judge who hears those cases. And many of them, depending on the state, are ELECTED OFFICIALS. The same is true for most District Attorneys or Prosecutors. It’s stunning how many people are unaware of that.
Also, in virtually all civil matters, including for example Family Law, most of those judges are not appointed for life. They’re State judges, and in many cases are directly elected by the voters. In other states, they may be appointed, but even still, they’re not appointed by the President of the United States or by the US Congress: they’re typically appointed by the Governor and Legislature of that state, or sometimes by an independent panel who makes recommendations to the Governor or Legislature. It varies a little by state. But they’re either directly elected, or they’re appointed by locally elected officials. Not by the President, and not by the Congress.
In any case, a judge, or prosecutor, can typically be removed from office by impeachment. Who impeaches them? Not the President of the United States, and not the Federal government: the STATE GOVERNMENT DOES. Or occasionally, possibly the county government.
So let’s take for example a case that John the Other and I are very familiar with, a particularly odious Lizard in a Black Robe named LORI BETLER JACKSON. The Dishonorable Lori B. Jackson was elected by voters in Harrison County, West Virginia. Now, she’s an incompetent, child abuse-enabling baboon who has no business at all being there on a bench. But voters elected her. Which means, VOTERS CAN REMOVE HER.
Now in her particular case, she’s not up for re-election until 2016. So she seems safe, right? However, in some states, voters can set up an effort to recall an official and remove them. In some states they can do a recall anyway. You may remember the famous case of how California Governor Gray Davis was removed by a recall election because he was so hated? That’s how Arnold Schwartzenegger got to be Governor of California. Well that’s a big case: in a lot of states, you can recall a mayor, a city council member, a judge, a prosecutor, or almost any other official.
Now in some states you can’t do that. So far as I’ve determined, for example, in the case of the child abuser judge Lori Betler Jackson in West Virginia, it doesn’t look like judges can be recalled. However, in every state that I’m aware of, a judge can be impeached. In almost every state, if not all of them, your state legislature can scrutinize (not the Congress, not the President, the State Legislature) almost any judge or prosecutor and impeach them.
So how would you get a particularly odious person, like child abuse-enabling judge Lori Jackson of Harrison County West Virginia, or malfeasant prosecutor Ken Haltom of Delaware impeached? Well you would contact STATE LEGISLATORS and tell them you’re angry, and why you’re angry, and why you want things to change.
And here’s where we get to it: if you aren’t even registered to vote, why would your state legislator even care much what you think?
Oh yes, in theory, they should care just because you’re a citizen, right? You’re an American, you have the same rights as everybody else right? Yeah, ok, if you think they should care just because you’re a citizen, you’re a human being, you’re an American, you have the same rights as anyone else, technically you’re right. But if you believe that’s what’s most important you’re an idiot.
The blunt reality is they do not give a shit about you. The reality is that for any elected official, especially in America, ultimately, what they care about is STAYING IN OFFICE. No matter how good a person or bad a person they are, no matter how competent or incompetent, the #1 thing they almost always want is to keep their job. Even if they don’t admit that to themselves, the fact is that in the back of their heads, in the tiny little lizard brain back here, no matter how honorable and noble they may be, they always have a FEAR OF BEING FIRED BY VOTERS. They don’t want that to happen, and they try hard to avoid it.
And what’s most astounding is that when it comes to local offices, because Americans are so obsessed with what happens at the Federal level, where individual voters have the LEAST power, they don’t even KNOW who their city, county, and state-level elected officials are. They don’t even know who the judges are that they’ve elected.
They don’t even know who the judges and prosecutors are that they’ve elected.
They don’t even know who the judges and prosecutors are that they’ve elected!
This is arguably quite corrupt, and there are things the political parties do to keep it corrupt: they don’t actually want you scrutinizing the local officials that much. That way, the local officials can fly under your RADAR and pretty much do whatever they want.
If you’re an American, stop and ask yourself this question: do you even know who your State Senator is? Do you know who your State Representative is? I didn’t ask who your member of Congress or the United States Senate is, by the way. You don’t get any points for knowing that. No, I asked you, who is your STATE government representative, and who is your STATE government Senator? I would guess that 999 out of 1,000 Americans cannot answer that question, and that’s insane, because it’s public record and it’s easily found out. This lack of knowledge by voters is insidious, but it’s also potentially powerful.
In the low bar I’m going to leave you some links to find out who your locally state-elected officials are on a wonderful site named Ballotpedia. It’s very worth exploring. And in it, you can often figure out just by looking alone just how corrupt and incompetent your state government just might be.
For example, let’s look at the state of Delaware, one which is well known to persecute men. Where does most of that persecution of males of the human species come from? Not from Washington DC. Not from the US Congress or the White House. It comes from laws and policies set by the Delaware legislature, and by judges and prosecutors who serve in Delaware, under Delaware law.
And if you use Ballotpedia, you can immediately see one of the reasons why Delaware gets away with this: most Delaware voters are probably unaware of who their state-level representatives are. But these are people who can write laws, or rewrite laws. They can impeach prosecutors and judges.
DELAWARE HAS ONLY 41 MEMBERS. That’s right, only 41 people. Those 41 people can create all sorts of laws that only apply to Delaware residents. They can also do things like impeach judges or prosecutors. Well you can’t have much influence on them if you don’t even know who they are.
Yet as I scroll through the list of elected Delaware House Delgates–again, there’s only 41 of them, so it’s not very long, it’s astonishing to see how this election year looks.
For example, in Delaware district (you’d call them Ridings up in Canada), there’s district 3, currently represented by a Democrat named Helene Keeley. Let me be clear, I have nothing against Helene Keeley, I’m just picking her as the first example off of a list of what I’m talking about. She won her party’s nomination earlier this year, with no one contesting it. So she won that nomination without contest. And oh, guess what, look further: no one’s running against her on the Republican side. Republicans didn’t even bother to field a candidate against her, and no independent or third party tried for her job either. Which means in November, she’s going to automatically be re-elected. She has to do absolutely zero campaigning. Unless someone parachutes in with a write-in campaign at the last minute, she can walk into election day all by herself, and be the only person who votes for herself, and she still wins by default.
And don’t think this is a Democrat versus Republican thing. In the very same state of Delaware, I scroll down here and see, oh look: in Delaware district 12, we have an incumbent named Deborah Hudson, a Republican. Guess what? She ran for the Republican nomination unopposed, which means she got that nomination automatically. And oh look, Democrats did not bother to field a candidate to run against her, and there is no independent or third party candidate running against her either. Which also means she gets to just walk into office. She’s been in that job since 1995, and this year at least she’s automatically going to be re-elected. All that power, it’s already hers, and nobody cares.
How can this happen? Because Americans are by and large too lazy to bother finding out who their locally elected officials are. Or to realize that these officials have a lot of power, and that they are much more accessible to you. These are people who will often take your phone calls personally or who will make an appointment to see you just because they know you’re a registered voter (hey, remember where I said it’s important to make sure you’re a registered voter? Yeah, that’s one of the reasons). You might run into them dropping your kids off at school, or at a grocery store, in many states.
Of course, they’re going to be more interested in you if you say you’re a registered voter. Or you know registered voters in the area. And you’re thinking about giving them support. Or not supporting them. And you have some concerns you’d like to share with them.
Let’s keep looking at Delaware for a minute: Let’s look at District 15 in Delware: it’s a heavily Democratic district. Republicans did not bother to field a candidate, but the Libertarians put up someone named Amy Merlino to run there, who probably won’t win as it’s a heavily Democratic district. And there was a bit of a Kerfuffle in that very Democratic district: in September, two people actually fought over the Democratic nomination there, a James D. Burton and a Valerie Longhurst. And look at the numbers: 483 people voted for James D. Burton and 665 voted for Valerie Longhurst. Now, unless the Libertarian pulls off a major upset in that heavily Democratic district, the Democrat is going to win it. So contemplate that for a minute:
Valerie Longhurst won the Democratic nomination, and will therefore almost certainly be the elected delegate in District 15, having won a grand total of 665 votes. That’s not the margin she won by, she won by only 185 votes. No, a grand total of 665 people voted for her, period. And she now will get to do things like write and/or vote for or against legislation. She’s also got the power to move to impeach public officials, like corrupt prosecutors and corrupt judges. And she just won all that power by flying under everybody’s RADAR because most Americans don’t bother voting in primary elections and don’t bother finding out even who their state and local elected officials are.
But there’s power in that, John: what these local elected officials fear most is scrutiny. They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want someone who’s angry to run against them. They don’t want angry voters fishing around for another candidate next election season. And furthermore, a person who got elected by a few hundred people is someone who’s likely to take you very seriously if you live there, are a registered voter—or if you just happen to have the ability to communicate with registered voters who live there–and want to talk to them about something. You don’t even have to live there, you just have to have contact with people who are registered voters there. If nothing else, they may listen to you just to keep you quiet because they don’t like being noticed in a negative way.
You just happen to know some registered voters who are there. That alone is enough to get their interest. You just happen to know some registered voters who are there.
There’s other reasons to make sure you’re a registered voter, and that you vote. For example, at the state and local level, there are often ballot initiatives you might care about that effect all sorts of things. But by finding out who your locally elected officials are, you can have a potentially huge impact. Do you want to scare the hell out of a judge, or a prosecutor, or a district attorney, or a sheriff, or any other local official? Let them know you’re a registered voter, who knows other registered voters, and you know who they are, and you want to talk to them.
I’m going to link a couple of resources in the lowbar to something called USA.GOV, where if you live in America you can find out who your state legislators are by drilling down to where you live. You can find out, and directly contact them using this tool. You can write them, you can call them. I’ve done it, they answer my calls, they answer my letters, and I’m nobody but a registered voter. Those people are answerable to voters, and given how few people pay attention to them, they are potentially afraid of you. It’s not just that you might run against them and take their job away from them–although you could do that–but you could also just embarrass them so that next election season they’re worried about keeping their jobs because you embarrassed them and you made people aware of them because you’ve raised hell using their names when they’re normally used to flying under most voters’ RADAR.
Now this gets away from the fact that there are often city and county governments too, and that people don’t pay attention to those either but should. But this should serve to illustrate for you just how powerful being a voter could be. Fuck the big offices at the Federal level. There is enormous power being exercised at a local level, where corrupt officials can fuck your life over big time and you don’t even know who they are. Best solution to that is to be a voter, and find out who these people are. Some of them are great, some of them are lousy, some of them are in between: but if you know who they are, and they know who you are, the power dynamic shifts. It matters.
I have more to say but I think that’s about enough for now. But I’m going to tell you an anecdote. A good friend of mine is someone who goes by the name of GirlWritesWhat. John the Other knows her too. She has the #1 video on YouTube on the subject of feminism, as it happens. I’ll link it in the low bar. Now I just got off the phone with Girl Writes What and she told me an interesting story: a teacher, who she does not know, recently showed a class of High School students her video in a Social Studies class. Those High School students are all potential future voters who have now in some way been influenced by her. Maybe they agreed with her, maybe they disagreed with her, maybe they debated it. But you know what? If those kids get interested in local politics, long term, they could have a huge impact on the way society is shaped in the future. And that’s just one anecdote.
But they make the biggest difference–we all make the biggest difference–if they make it our business to stop concentrating on the top-level government officials who get all the national press, but instead on who those local officials are. Find out who those locally-elected officials are, and be a voter so they know you matter to them. Locally is where real change almost always begins ya know, even if it’s not visible nationally.
More later. But please register to vote and check out the links below. Peace out!
John the Other’s video on the supposed futility of voting:
USA dot gov: to find your local state legislators
Find out who’s running for what office almost anywhere in the US:
The Delaware House of Delegates campaign, 2012, that I reference a few places just for example purposes (all 50 states are Ballotpedia):
Girl Writes What’s popular video on feminism: