Anarchy at the Ballot Box


After the Ron Paul campaigns the term anarchism floated to electoral politics. Especially finding in anarcho-capitalists like Lew Rockwell, Walter Block and Adam Kokesh among their most loyal supporters. Ron Paul was particularly influenced by the radical anarcho-capitalist economist Murray Rothbard whose theories about a free society without a state on the basis of the non-aggression principle and free market economics become a central part of the career and campaigns of the Texas Congressman. But it wasn’t the first political project of anarchist characteristics. The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971 had in the past a strong debate between anarchism and monarchism while the organization with the Dallas Accord in 1974 downplay the faction fighting by not mentioning in their platform whether the state should be abolish or not but in the 2006 Libertarian National Convention it happened the  what is known as the Portland Massacre where great parts of the more radical aspects of the platform were erased by the reformers. The Green Party was founded in 1984 had also since its founding anarchists as recounted by longtime activist Howie Hawkins. It was precisely Howie Hawkins who along Murray Bookchin and radical green activists organizing around the ideas of social ecology in the late 80s created the Left Green Network with members of the Green Party who questioned liberal environmentalism. Although in the 90s the project would fall apart it reflexed the post-anarchist ideas of Murray Bookchin like using local elections as a form of direct democracy while he was living in Burlington the greens ran a campaign for city council with a platform of replace city government by neighborhood assemblies. During the Nader campaigns some anarchists were part of the leftist pro-Nader alliance. The anarchists and Nader were not strange bedfellows in fact while the enemies of the state and a friend of good government had a lot of differences they agreements in foreign policy and against corporate welfare put them as allies.

But now without Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, even someone more rothbardian or bookchinite third-party candidate; the electoral possibilities for american anarchists are few in the 2016. On the Democratic side: Hillary is a burocratic liberal imperialist while Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb are not as decentralists as Mike Gravel. On the Republican side: Rand Paul is only liberarian-ish not a rothbardian like his father and the rest just a bunch of neocons. On the Libertarian side: Gary Johnson support for the Fair Tax could lose support from anarcho-capitalists. On the Green side: Jill Stein will be the defacto choice for many left-anarchists although she’s not the most libertarian among the greens. Anarchists could point out that the changes they goals could only be accomplished by working outside the electoral system despite a protest vote for third-party candidates maybe be also option.

But there is a point in between the protest vote that doesn’t end in just voting for a third-party presidential candidate that’s what some had called used the elections as a direct action. In Iceland, Jon Gnarr an anarchist comedian and former punk rocker was elected in 2010 as mayor of the capital Reykjavík in Iceland with a surrealist platform. America is no strange of these kinds of campaigns. Two artists also whom at least at some point identify themselves as anarchists ran eccentrically campaigns. The writer Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York City in 1969 with the promise of secede from the state and a radical decentralist platform of community control of the neighborhoods. Jello Biafra the frontman of The Dead Kennedys ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 with an even more eccentric platform that include made police officers stand for election. These tradition were part of large history of mock campaigns of the New Left like when Yippies ran for president a pig called Pigasus in the Chicago Democratic National Convention of 1968. The discordian writer Robert Anton Wilson more recently ran as write-in candidate for governor of California in 2003 with a platform of replace part of legislature with ostriches. In his song Candidacy, the legendary anarchist folk singer Utah Phillips says:

I am running as an anarchist candidate in the best sense of that word. I have studied the presidency carefully; I have seen that our best presidents were the do-nothing presidents: Millard Fillmore, Warren G. Harding. When you have a president who does things, we are all in serious trouble. If he does anything at all — if he gets up at night to go to the bathroom — somehow, mystically, trouble will ensue. I guarantee that if I am elected, I will take over the White House, hang out, shoot pool, scratch my ass, and not do a damn thing. Which is to say, if you want something done, don’t come to me to do it for you; you got to get together and figure out how to do it yourselves. Is that a deal?

Anarchists are many times dismissed as extremists but in 2016 they would look accurate when political dynasties like the Clintons and Bushes are making America look more a corporate monarchy rather than a democracy. The neoliberal consensus in the Democratic Party and neoconservative consensus in Republican Party are the corporate rule and the military empire. The fact that there are still anarchists active in third-party politics is no coincidence but the protest against the state violence and oppression from the American Empire.


About Camilo Gómez

My main interests are history, politics, film and music. Twitter: @camilomgn
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