Vote - My Gamble
By Andrea Dworkin
02 November, 2004
in Washington, DC now, after nearly 30 years of living in New York City.
Washington is built on swampland, literally, an origin that signals
its character. It was designed to look like Paris. There are boulevards,
monuments, museums, along with a dangerous, desolate, and impoverished
inner city, still not rebuilt from the 1968 riots triggered by the assassination
of Martin Luther King Jr. Citizens of Washington, DC do not have any
voting representatives in Congress. There was and is no state entity
as such. Washington is a district, not quite a city, sleepy and southern
in its habits, not fully enfranchised. We are not so much citizens as
members of a colony, like Guam or Puerto Rico.
Yet this is a swamp devoted to politics. The players in this company
town live on political barter, while amassing personal fortunes for
themselves. I am not a player. I experience instead an adumbrated form
of democracy, articulated most eloquently by the invitation every four
years to vote for a president and vice-president.
I accept the vote
as a primitive expression of democracy out of respect for my suffragist
foremothers. They fought so hard for women's civil and economic equality
and ended up settling for the vote. I measure this up against a rape
or an honour killing and I don't think it counts for much.
Anyway, I am supposed
to vote for one or the other of two men who are differentiated by style,
not by policies. They have more in common with each other than either
has with me. They also both lie.
I'm voting for
John Kerry, and I'm not happy. In 1972, during the Vietnam war, I refused
to vote for anti-war candidate George McGovern, even though I had spent
most of my young adult life in opposition to the war, because he was
anti-abortion. I refused to vote for über-liberal, pro-civil rights,
all-around good guy Hubert Humphrey because he did nothing while demonstrators
were being beaten up by police in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Convention.
In 1976, while my feminist colleagues organised for Jimmy Carter, I
refused to sign petitions or vote for him because he was anti-abortion.
The first thing Carter did when elected was to have his health secretary
end all federally funded abortions, which was the only access poor women
had. (Yes, my sisters learned something. Now the legality of abortion,
not access, is the feminist litmus test - too little, too late).
In 1984, I couldn't
bear Geraldine Ferraro as the first woman vice-presidential candidate
because her husband, John Zaccaro, owned a warehouse filled with pornography.
The Washington Post reported that year that Zaccaro refused to comply
with requests for full income and tax disclosures. I voted the first
time (in 1992) for Bill Clinton because, on a lecture tour in Texas,
I heard George HW Bush - known fondly in retrospect as 41 (George W
being 43) - accuse Clinton of un-American activities, which he inferred
from a trip Clinton had made to Moscow when he was at Oxford as a student.
In 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader. I don't recommend myself as a model
for citizenship, except to say that I have always abhorred the lesser-of-two-evils
philosophy, and Al Gore let himself be dressed by Naomi Wolf.
I couldn't be bothered
to vote most of the time because it was almost always a choice between
the corrupt and the more corrupt. There is the primordial sludge and
then the more pristine amoeba. My guy's the amoeba; the other guy's
the sludge. This is a recipe for madness, otherwise known as the American
Of course, who could
have imagined September 11, 2001, and Bush, the war president? And if
one were to strike out against state sponsors of terrorism, who could
imagine mistaking Iraq for Iran, even though in English they appear
nearly the same? This is a George W kind of error.
Let me tell you
about my amoeba, Kerry. He voted for the Iraq war. Asked if he, knowing
then what he knows now (no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear arsenal),
would have voted differently, he said no. He is vaguely committed to
putting more soldiers on the ground. He showed up for his political
convention as a Vietnam war combatant, not as an anti-war protester,
which he was, with honour. He is a multi-millionaire married to a multi-billionaire.
His running mate, John Edwards, is more pro-war than he is, less ambivalent
and less ambiguous. Edwards is also a multi-millionaire.
My amoeba talks
about the middle-class; he has conveniently forgotten about the poor.
(Edwards used to talk about poverty before he was absorbed into Kerry's
attempted seduction of the middle class.)
My amoeba calls
prostitution a "nuisance" instead of a crime against women.
Some 25 years ago my amoeba was a prosecutor. He prosecuted at least
one rape case, which he won. He was responsible for setting up counselling
for rape victims. This was precocious and superb.
Fast forward: two
weeks before the election, my amoeba recognised that American women
make 76 cents against every male dollar and decided to draw attention
to this fact. Such is the gratitude of women that my amoeba beats the
primordial sludge by as much as 10 percentage points among women in
the subsequent polls. He is especially popular with single women who,
needless to say, have to support themselves.
My amoeba promises
improvement. He will support pay-equity legislation. (Have I been in
a deep sleep? Is this 1970?) In the parlance of his campaign, he has
a plan. He keeps the specifics to himself. He will also raise the minimum
wage over several years from $5.15 an hour to $7 an hour which, his
campaign reckons, will give 9.2 million women another $3,800 a year.
How pathetic is that? He has a plan for health insurance and another
plan to produce jobs and a plan to protect social security, that tiny
safety net that older Americans, especially women, have against utter
poverty. In any other year, this wouldn't be enough to differentiate
him from the primordial sludge, because mostly it is not true. It's
either the Iraq war or health care, not both.
Now look at what
George W offers me. First, he gives me his middle initial: "W is
for Women". I don't want his initial inscribed on me. I find the
idea repugnant. He does not recognise the pay differential between men
and women. On the other hand, he is against sex trafficking and has
said so when addressing the UN. He has strong evangelical support for
this position. He is for bringing equality to women in the Arab and
Islamic world. I may want it and work for it in the US, but he and his
most anti-feminist rightwing advisors, including David Frum and Richard
Perle, want women's liberation in the Gulf region, and I do not mean
the Gulf of Mexico. Anywhere but here seems to be the general plan.
And what is the
price for these women's rights? It's a small one. Many bombs must fall
and many innocents must die.
argument for reelection comes down to this: in Iraq we have created
a new site for terrorists and they are so busy there that they won't
come here. Vote for us and you'll be safe. Vote for Kerry/Edwards and
you'll likely die. One has a choice between massacres there or here.
Vote Bush/Cheney. Choose there.
Despite the American
disdain for irony, electoral politics in the US is nothing if not a
lesson in irony. Richard Nixon the anti-communist went to China and
ended the Vietnam war. Clinton, prince of Democratic post-liberals,
joined with Republicans - in fact, led them - to get African-American
single mothers kicked off welfare and to create political cover for
those politicians abandoning the poor. He then had the honour of being
proclaimed, by Toni Morrison no less, the first black president. And,
in this land of political hallucination, maybe he was. He also may be
the only black president.
What Kerry will
do is this: he will get European and even Arab allies to pony up in
Iraq; he will intensify the war there; he will bring in more troops.
This policy will make it impossible for the Democratic candidate who
follows him, or he himself if he runs again, to have anything but a
pro-war policy. A rightwing Republican, maybe even a woman, plain-spoken
and Reaganesque (or Thatcheresque), will triumph by promising an end
to the Iraq war either four or eight years from now. He or she will
deliver because the war will be over and the US and its many allies
will have lost. This will be another generation's Vietnam with the blame
having a certain global quality. As at his convention, Kerry the combatant
will have trumped Kerry the anti-war protester.
So why is it that
I'm voting for Kerry? Oh, right, it's because my Massachusetts amoeba
is better than Texas primordial sludge. Make no mistake: I have regional
emotions. When someone from Massachusetts, the centre of abolitionist
activism, and someone from Texas, in our day and age a symbol of the
Confederacy, mix it up, our civil war is being refought. Kerry represents
those brilliant abolitionists - and he does it badly. Shame on him.
The thing is that
I'm scared to death that Bush will win. If Bush wins, we get more terror,
charmingly diverted to countries not the United States. I call that
a plan. I admire its simplicity. Who said that boy is stupid? Oh, I
did, a few paragraphs up: the whole Iraq/Iran confusion. Of course,
being dyslexic is not the same as being stupid.
plan is the equivalent of a moral sewer. I don't want to roll in that
dirt. It's someone else's blood and it doesn't wash off (cf the Scottish
We dream, some of
us, of being able to be good in a better world. The morally reprehensible
- the Bush/ Cheney strategy - smacks us between the eyes; and then,
and only then, do we vote for the lesser of two evils. But don't forget
that they are two evils. Sick to my stomach because he will stay in
Iraq, I'm voting for John Kerry.
Dworkin's most recent book is Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a