Christie Schaefer, Write-In Candidate State Senate Dist. 19- Socialist Equality Party
Text of a presentation at Hillsdale Library, October 9, 2006.
I am running as a write-in candidate for State Senate (District 19). After spending most of the year petitioning, we missed the signature qualification by a mere 93. Most of the invalidated signatures were marked "MV", which stands for "Multiple Vote". This is due to HB 2614, which made any signature by any person who voted a partisan ticket in the primaries invalid on a third-party or independent candidate's petition- whether they signed the petition before or after the primary.
The following is the text of a presentation I delivered last evening at the Hillsdale Library. The next meeting will be on Thursday, Nov. 2, location TBA, speakers to include David North of the editorial board of the wsws (www.wsws.org).
-----(Sorry it's a little long, but complex times require it)----
The most frequently asked questions about this campaign begin with "Why?" Why are we doing what we are? Why was I trying to get on the ballot? Why not just vote for a Democrat and hope for the best? Why a write-in campaign?
We are doing what we are doing- engaging in a write-in campaign in Oregon- to broaden the debate on such issues as the Iraq War, funding for schools, funding for health care, the erosion of democratic rights. All of these are issues which affect us on a daily basis and which have far-reaching consequences. We are doing it as a write-in campaing because, though we petitioned tirelessly, we did not, thanks in great part to HB 2614, passed by Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature, get onto the ballot.
Under the current two-party system, there are too many issues which remain unaddressed. The Democratic Party, long seen as the party of the people, has repeatedly, at every level, joined with the Republicans in their protection of big business at the expense of the citizens which they claim to represent. They have repeatedly voted for bills and budgets which will leave us all bankrupt, as a society if not personally.
Most recently, though you would not know it from the sex-scandal-dominated headlines, there was a 100-0 vote in the Senate at the national level to fund the Iraq War, and the passing of sweeping anti-civil-rights measures- including the right of authorities to arrest and detain indefinitely any legal resident without warrant, charges, or evidence- thereby doing away with the Constitutionaol right of Habeas Corpus. The argument that "If you have done nothing wrong, you should not be worried" is obviously a false one at this point. The fact that this legislation also limits or bans the right to appeal the basis of your imprisionment surely should put an end to such arguments.
There has been no outcry from any of our legislatures, at any level, at the audacious attack on the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.
This bill also exempts the CIA from having to operate under the rules of the Geneva Conventions, and permits statements obtained under torture to be used as evidence in the appeal-free trials.
This Congress has repeatedly voted to give the Bush Administration the appoinments and powers which it has wanted- Democrats and Republicans have come together to consolidate unheard-of control in the office of the presidency. Some have argued that the Democrats are doing this because they "know" they will have the White House next. I ask, though, would we want any party or person in the White House which would deal so fast and free with the rights of and lives of the people they claim to represent?
I would also ask how they "know" that, when we have seen two presidential elections take place wherein the Democratic Party candidate conceeded before all the votes were counted? This is to say nothing of the massive voting irregularities in both elections.
Another question I am asked is- "Aren't you afraid that you'd be taking votes from Democrats and making the Republicans stronger?" My answer to that is, were the Democrats standing up for what is right- the expansion of democratic rights, the elimination of exploitation of workers and citizens by corporate interests, then, yes, I would be worried. This is not the case, however, as we see on a daily basis in their votes, in the bills they introduce and pass, in the people they approve (sometimes with lip service given to "with reservation") for Supreme Court and Cabinet positions. Their own interests run counter to those of the people they claim to represent. Every vote by the incumbent Democrats has proven that they are working in tandem with the Republicans. These most recent votes, only more blatantly than previous ones.
The cry that their votes only reflect the necessity of "trading" votes, since they are the minority party is abhorant. In trading their votes, in giving up the filibuster, they sell *our* rights and freedoms. What, exactly, are we gaining? Not security, to be sure.
From the decision of handing Bush war powers, to the tacit approval of the NSA wiretapping, to approving massive tax cuts for the wealthy top percent in the face of an ever-increasing budget deficit, to the recent abandoning of Habeas Corpus, the Democrats have been complicit in the erosion of democratic rights and in the erosion of the infrastructure required to build and maintain a strong society.
We see this here in the cutting of the funding for schools, the crippling of the Oregon Health Plan, and the quiet passage of the anti-democratic HB 2614- which was co-sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican. This legislation makes it more difficult for minority political voices to be heard- and thus to find out if they actually are in the political minority, or just so in representation. We have a tax "surplus", which is being given back in the form of a kicker, while we have schools being closed and merged and bridges needing repair or replacement. We have had three hospitals close in the last four years.
Add to this the very idea that your votes are somehow "owned" by or "owed" to the Democratic Party is ridiculous in view of their disregard for the massive anti-war feelings of the population, and their dissmissiveness of the interests of the working class in favour of policies which run directly in opposition to the interests of the working class and I would say- I will take the votes which they have abandoned.
There are issues which are seen as local. There are issues which are seen as Federal, and so seem out of our control. These latter issues- most notably the war in Iraq and the recent Congressional votes- are ones which affect us on a daily basis.
Did we not see recently the struggle to release a severely autistic Oregon man from the clutches of an army recruiter trying to make his quota? That a Federal Representative had to step in before it was resolved shows how very little control we are allowed over the fate of our own children in this time of war. That a person of such obvious unfitness was targeted shows the casual disregard- the deadly disregard- in which we are held. Yet any small dissent on the part of our local representatives is met with fury by those in higher places. And so the dissent on our behalf evaporates. Clearly, the sincerity of such half-hearted and easily-killed dissent in non-existant. This cynical posturing is insulting- meant only to quash liberal qualms and keep the votes coming in- meanwhile our rights are trampled and public funds are gutted. The job of protecting and serving the people is left unfilled, though the seats are certainly not.
Billions of dollars have flowed overseas, millions have dissapeared without proper accounting- and without, I must add, any serious calls from the Democrats or Republicans for an accounting before yet more public money is voted into this abyss. The most recent such vote was about two weeks ago- 100 -0.
More importantly, we have lost thousands of people. Many of these men and women leave behind children and families. Many entered military service out of economic desperation, or out of a sense of duty to their country- with the idea that their commander in chief would have enough of a sense of duty himself to use their time and risk their lives wisely and as a last resort. One would hope we would only enter war on honest terms, as well. One would hope, but this is not the case.
Many who have come back have returned from these ill-conceived wars in Afghanistan and Iraq not entirely whole- physically or mentally. Yet in the midst of this war, the Bush Administration has cut funding to the VA. Support our troops, indeed.
Many who have gone in have been given the message that torture is all right, preferred, even, when dealing with people "of a certain type". What can society expect from these people when they come back into our ranks? Will we see a new crop of Timothy McVeighs? How many Lyndee Englands will walk among us?
In light of the recent legislation, it is fair to ask for what purposes these harsh lessons will be used at home.
We saw the story of a group of soldiers in Iraq who stand accused of raping a 14-year-oldchild and murdering her and her family. One of those involved was given an honourable discharge and walked free in his home state. It has since come out that he had a long record of violent felonies and was given a "moral waiver" to join the Army. A totally different sort of unfitness is here displayed- yet another which endangers those with whom they are barracked and the people whom he was ostensibly sent to "protect". The "moral waiver" is indicative of the criminal nature of this war. Criminals recruiting criminals.
As to what can be done at the local level, I must point now to Louisiana, where a recent vote by the state senate and house was taken to outlaw abortion. This law, which would make abortion a crime- even in the case of rape or incest, and which would penalize doctors providing this service with fines and prison, was passed at the local level and it was approved by the governor (a Democrat). It is a blatant attempt to challenge Roe V Wade. This is an example of what can be done at the local level. It is wrong-headed and backwards, to be sure, but it will have far-reaching effects.
In Oregon, we face again federal challenges to our Death With Dignity rights, as well as to the Medical Marijuana laws. These measures, passed at the local level, have been repeatedly upheld on appeal. At the same time as challenges to Death With Dignity and Medical Marijuana arise, cuts to health funding and research into the potentially life-saving uses of stem cells are put forth. This hypocracy must be challenged.
Much as I disagree with Tom Potter in general, his insistance on knowing what is going on in his own city, and his ire at attempts to infiltrate City Hall by federal agents were warranted. Think for a moment about this- if the mayor of a city the size of Portland is not allowed to know what is going on, is told to butt out, what chance does a silent constituency have? This is all part and parcel of the erosion of democratic rights- the NSA wiretapping of broad sections of the citizenry and the infiltration of city halls are very closely linked. This is why I am standing up, as are many in this country, and calling for the building of a new party. The more people speak out, not the less, the safer we will be.
Since I will not be appearing on the ballot, I will be working to secure as many write-in votes as possible. It will be more difficult this way, to be sure, as not appearing on the ballot has removed me from a number of public debates and lessened the number of articles being written which would include my name and positions. I am also not so "fortunate" as to receive corporate backing. Many people wonder why I have not just quit.
Some wonder how we have gotten as far as we have. Given the increasingly onerous requirements for ballot access presented by the two parties, it is a difficult thing, indeed, to run. We came very close, despite HB 2614, to getting on the ballot- indeed, we were less than a hundred validated signatures away. Thanks to HB2614, we were vetting our signers - "Have you voted/do you inted to vote for a partisan candidate in the upcoming primaries?" Yes? I'm sorry, but thank you for your support. We turned away, on some days, more people than we allowed to sign- we were trying not to inflate our numbers, and so tried to limit ourselves to registered independent or non-voting people. Even still, the majority of disqualified signatures were those of people who had voted a partisan ticket.
One could well ask why the ballot access is so limited. One could also ask why, even when meeting the requirements, stalling legalistic tactics are used by the Democratic Party to keep a candidate off the ballot anyway. This is what happened to our candidate in Illinois. Joe Parnarauskis gathered the signatures, overcame the many objections made by the Democratic Party, and was certified to appear on the ballot. I would like to quote him for a brief moment:
"This fight involved crucial democratic principles. Does an ordinary citizen have the right to run for office to defend the interests of working people, or are only those who are personally wealthy or backed by large amounts of corporate cash eligible? Do the people have the right to vote for a candidate of their choice, or is the right to vote limited to selecting between candidates who belong to two big business parties, with only minor differences between them?"
Our party represents an historical force- the working class. We have seen members assassinated- including our founder, Trotsky, himself. We continue to fight on and continue to build this party because the working class has no alternative. The majority of the people in this country, and inded the world- are opposed to the war in Iraq and the policies being pursued by the Bush Administration. Yet, those in power practically pride themselves on their willingness to reject the will of the people they supposedly represent.
The working people of this world, this country, this state, these counties, these cities and towns, all are subject to the whims of monied interests. As the world's economy takes on an ever more global character, it is imperative that the workers defend their hard-won rights. It is imperative that we build a movement which will expand the rights and improve the conditions of the working people.
Waiting for the Democrats to live up to their promises is futile in view of their track record. Their fundamental character is Capitalist in nature, which is reflected in their policies- their willingness to go to war, and their their support of the ever-widening scale of the war. Waiting for the Republicans to take an interest is laughable. Both serve the corporations- not too surprising, considering how many have seats on the very boards of these corporations both before and after supposedly serving the public.
The movement we build must be independent of these parties. We do not seek to act as an influence group, a group to refocus the energies into safe outlets which allow business as usual with a minimum of disruption. Business as usual is killing the working class and poor. Business as usual demands lives.
The current war shows the true face of capitalism-that is to say, imperialism. In the grab for essential resources, a country is invaded, a man whom this government backed for decades, and who is no prince, to be sure, is deposed and a population is brutalized. In the name of democracy, Abu Gahraib and Guantanamo Bay are staffed. In the name of democracy, the infrastructure of Iraq is bombed, and museums are allowed to be looted, thus assuring the destruction of a civilisation and its history. In the name of Democracy autistic children and felons are recruited tot he armed forces. In the name of democracy our democratic rights are signed away. This is business as usual.
The promised peace is not forthcoming. We see now an entire region set aflame with bombs. The example of pre-emptory strike was followed by Israel with its incursion into Lebanon. The region is hardly safer. Indeed-preparantions are being made to bring war to Iran.
In our country and cities we have homeless families. People are being forced further and further afield in search of affordable housing. We have families one medical emergency away from joining the ranks of the homeless. This is shamefull. The constant votes for unaccounted-for funds to be sent overseas- in the form of literal sacks of money, yet!- while we have such need here- this is injustice.
We have mines which are unsafe and which claim lives. We have hurricane victims who still have no homes to return to. We have children who can not eat on some days- children whose parents do indeed work very hard. We have a mess which the capitalist system cannot fix. Resources are not lacking- make no mistake there- they are being misallocated. The money flows ever upwards to pool at the top.
It is time for the workers to band together, to work for a better society for all. It will not be easy, it will not be instantaneous. But I ask- is it easy to provide for a family on today's wages? No. Is there an end in sight? No. If we stay this course, there is only the promise of more of the same, which is to say, less and less. Less security, less equality, lessening rights, less democracy.
It is time that the working class emerge as a politically independent force. It is time to build a party which will represent our interests. I would urge every one here to read our platform, contact us with any questions, and to join this movement.
Thanks for reading.
address: Portland, Oregon
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