An Open Letter to Dr. West About Voting for Obama

Mark Taylor Canfield, a Daily KOS contributor and Occupy movement member, wrote an open letter to Dr. Cornel West about the left’s, and in particular the Occupy movement’s, presumed support for President Obama’s 2nd term. In it Mr. Canfield lays out very valid reasons as to why every supporter of Barack Obama should pause and reevaluate whether voting for the lesser of two evils is necessarily a good thing.

You can read the letter below:

 

I had the great honor of meeting Dr. Cornel West when he visited the Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community College in November 2011.

I will never forget that historic beautiful day in the Emerald City…

I was very impressed by Dr. West during our meeting. He is undeniably one of the most respected mentors for the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially when it comes to issues of social justice.

Dr. West was reportedly the first in the nation to coin the phrase “American Autumn” when he described the occupy camps that had sprouted up all across the United States. I consider him to be among the most inspirational and informative people I’ve ever met, including Arun Gandhi, Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges, and others…

Although I have a great deal of respect for Dr. West, I must strongly disagree with the esteemed doctor on one important point!

Dr. West has already endorsed President Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election.

I do not believe that promising my vote to President Obama at this time is either practical or reasonable.

At the very least, I feel that I should not declare my voting intentions until later in the election after the national political conventions. Declaring one’s support for a candidate so early in the election seems like giving it away much too easily. I’d rather see the president forced to fight for the votes of the occupiers during this national election. He needs more pressure from the grassroots in order to hold him more accountable to the people.

I would welcome the opportunity to debate Dr. West on this subject. I am anxious to hear his opinions regarding the upcoming national elections and the influence of the occupy movement.

As a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I feel that political candidates must prove to the ninety nine percent that they truly represent us – otherwise, I’m not pledging my vote to any of them!

Our political representatives must prove to the occupy movement that they support our issues: stop the home foreclosures, regulate Wall Street and the banks, get the money out of politics and our electoral system!

So far, neither the Democrats or Republicans have showed any real evidence that they support anyone but the one percent who fund them…

Unless the President can prove to the majority of Americans that he supports the protection of their civil rights and their desperate need for economic relief, I cannot, in good conscience, declare that I will support his candidacy.

I was a proud voter when I cast my ballot for him in 2008, but today I have many reservations regarding this important decision!

I have talked with Congressman Jim McDermott on the subject of politics and the occupiers, and although he did address an Occupy Seattle general assembly, the Democrats are still uncertain as to how to deal with the occupy movement.

Surprisingly, the neo-liberal establishment hasn’t been able to co-opt OWS!

Most of the party leadership apparatus is utterly confused by the occupiers because they seem to have no political aspirations to run for office and they don’t actively support candidates for any political party.

In reality, the Occupy Wall Street movement has already had an important influence on local and national politics. They have utilized grassing roots organizing strategies to stand up for the ninety nine percent at city council meetings, state legislatures and during sessions of Congress. A few of the occupy activists have actually announced their candidacy for public office, including Nathan Kleinman who is running for US Congress in Philadelphia. But Kleinman represents a minority of the movement – most occupiers absolutely loathe party politics and they shun the corruption inherent in the US election election process.

The post “Citizens United” era in America is fraught with lack of transparency in our national public affairs. Many activists see no way of getting their voices heard within the two established corporate political parties. They are very aware that the national elections are completely controlled by big money…

President Obama’s vote to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, and his failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to obtain civilian court trials are just a few examples of why I will refuse to blindly throw my support behind him at this time.

As one of his constituents and supporters, I have been very disappointed by many of the President’s decisions on important public policy issues, including attacks on the right to privacy, huge corporate bailouts, and continued interventionist military actions.

I do agree that Obama has established some beneficial programs, but I am deeply saddened by the fact that he has continued to pursue the Bush administration’s security state and economic policies. He has been successful in bailing out the wealthy in our nation while doing very little to support the unemployed or poor working families. The huge financial support he has received from Wall Street is indicative of the administration’s “business as usual” mentality. The number of his advisers who have represented Wall Street is yet one more shocking fact to consider.

Who does President Obama really represent?

The continued erosion of our constitutionally guaranteed rights during his administration has established an ugly historic precedent. In my humble opinion, the US electorate gave Barack Obama an opportunity to become a great historic figure. In effect, the country needed a brave man like Martin Luther King or Franklin Roosevelt, but instead all we really got was just one more compromised politician. How can anyone blame the millions of Americans who voted for him for being disappointed and disillusioned at the result?

With a corrupted election system and a corporate controlled media and government, how can democratic principals prevail in the US? Without the necessary reforms required to bring accountability to our financial and electoral systems,  how can the voters be certain that their vote will actually make a difference?

I challenge you, Dr. West to provide us an answer to this reasonable question. I would be very interested in hearing your response…

Our refusal to allow Occupy Wall Street to be influenced by the same corrupt forces that have controlled US politics is one our our greatest strengths as a movement for social and economic justice. How can we possibly hold our elected leaders accountable if not by withholding our votes?

I would love to have the opportunity to discuss my disagreement with Dr. West on the air during his radio program on NPR with Tavis Smiley. I have sent this letter to the show’s website. I hope he responds…

For the sake of transparency, I must admit that I was a Democratic party delegate for Barack Obama. I was one of the folks marching in the streets in celebration when he was elected as our president!

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