You’ve been radically misled to believe that the only thing, or the most important thing, or one of the super important things you can do is vote. Voting in a functioning democracy would be a fairly important thing to do, but wouldn’t somehow eliminate the thousands of important things that would also need doing. Voting in a broken democracy is a mildly important thing to do, for the reasons you know by heart, but also for this reason: Seeing so many people so eager to do something alerts everyone else to the fact that you give a damn.

“I’ve been waiting two years to do something!” This remark, common on Tuesday, must sound joyous to many ears. But if you study history and notice that change comes primarily from organizing, educating, protesting, marching, disrupting, disobeying, and creating things anew, and if you’ve spent the past many years trying to get more people to do those things, then all the “All I can do is vote, oh helpless me” comments may have you pulling your hair out.

There are circumstances in which you can do very little. We are moving in that direction. But we are not there. We are still able to speak, write, assemble, and agitate — and vote. I have to think that more of us would do more if we recognized the gravity of the situation. The planet’s climate can no longer be saved, but the agony can be slowed and eased. Nuclear apocalypse is closer than ever before, but can be averted. Fascism can be undone, but not without actions that extend far beyond voting.

I’m not against elections. I think we should have one someday, with no private money, with no corporate media, with no gerrymandering, with fair ballot and debate and media access and public financing, with substantive platforms, with hand-counted paper ballots, with election day holiday and free food and drink, with instant runoff, with automatic registration — elections meeting world standards. In fact, if I had my druthers, we’d abolish the Senate, enlarge the House, govern largely by public initiative, turn the president into an executive, lower the voting age, abolish the electoral college, and so forth. But even with the broken system we’ve got, I’m not against voting. I’m against imagining that voting is all you have to do, and that because somebody sticks an “I voted!” flag sticker on you, your country loves you and everything is going to be OK.

Your country is sending its military to the border to protect you from poor children hundreds of miles away who were made homeless with help from your country, because your country loves you. Well, not your country exactly, but the patriots in charge of it. They love you, although they would kill you in a heart beat.

Remember when your government proposed to kill you in Operation Northwoods? It was similar to the actual effort to kill you in Operation Tailwind, which had something in common with Operation Dick, as well as Operation Constitutional Scholar, not to mention the delaying of the end of WWII in order to use nukes, including on Hiroshima where captured U.S. pilots were killed alongside hundreds of thousands of mere non-Americans. Your country spends the majority of the money it makes decisions on each year on an enterprise that it knows endangers you. Its name is militarism. Its participants are killed first and foremost by suicide. They are your government killing itself.

Your country is first in the world in a number of things, including environmental destruction of various sorts, in which the U.S. military takes the lead; locking people up in prisons; and the most disastrous policies in the wealthy world on guns, healthcare, poverty, etc. If your country isn’t killing you quickly, it is doing so slowly; in other countries people live longer. Please don’t imagine that you have to defend this atrocity because you created it. You didn’t. You let it happen. But it is run by an oligarchy that we just go on year after year pretending is a democracy or a republic.

Congress has long since marginalized itself. Nobody even thinks to expect Congress to halt an attack on starving children from Honduras, not because nobody cares, but because it’s Congress, which its biggest fans and its own members admit has basically shut down.

So, I don’t object to one day spent on an unaccountable voting system, choosing this or that generic platform-free candidate. I don’t mind people getting their chance to vote against a president without the bother of having a second presidential candidate on the ballot whom they’d like to vote against as well. But don’t imagine it’s a substitute for impeachment. Don’t imagine it’s a fill in for nonviolent revolution. Don’t imagine that in this bus careening toward a cliff, it’s more than a change of windshield wipers.

When it’s done, we should all be curious — better late than never — to find out what the people elected intend to do and what we can compel them to do instead. Here are some questions I think we should pose to them:

  1. What would you like the U.S. discretionary budget to look like? With 60% now going to militarism, what percentage would you like that to be?
  2. What program of economic conversion to peaceful enterprises would you support?
  3. Would you end, continue, or escalate U.S. war making in: Afghanistan? Iraq? Syria? Yemen? Pakistan? Libya? Somalia?
  4. Would you end the exemption for militarism in Kyoto, Paris, and other climate agreements?
  5. Would you sign / ratify any of these treaties: Paris Climate Agreement? Convention on the Rights of the Child? International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights? International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights optional protocols? Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women? Convention Against Torture optional protocol? International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families? International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance? The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities? International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries? Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court? Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Convention on Cluster Munitions? Land Mines Convention? Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Proposed treaties banning the weaponization of space and banning cyber crimes?
  6. Would you halt or continue expenditures on the production and so-called modernization of nuclear weapons?
  7. Would you end weapons sales and the provision of military training to any governments? Which?
  8. Would you close any foreign bases? Which?
  9. Would you halt or continue the practice of murder by missiles from drones?
  10. Do you recognize the ban on war, with exceptions, contained in the United Nations Charter? And the ban on threatening war?
  11. Do you recognize the ban on war, without exceptions, contained in the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
  12. Will you end discriminatory bans on immigrants?
  13. Should actual, non-military, no-strings-attached foreign aid be eliminated, reduced, maintained, or increased? How much?
  14. 84% of South Koreans want the war ended immediately. Should the United States block that?
  15. Should NATO be maintained or abolished?
  16. Should the CIA be maintained or abolished?
  17. Should the ROTC be maintained or abolished?
  18. Should domestic police forces be trained by, collaborate with, and be armed by militaries?
  19. Should the U.S. military pay sports leagues, secretly or openly, to celebrate militarism?
  20. How large should the U.S. military’s advertising budget be, and how much should the U.S. government spend promoting the concepts of nonviolent dispute resolution and the abolition of war?
  21. Will you keep the United States in the INF Treaty?
  22. Will you impeach and remove Trump and Pence?

I’m sure you can think of dozens more concrete questions on various topics never asked or at least never answered during the election campaigns. They might include the election reform measures mentioned above. Remember that the way you use elections is not by electing people but by achieving the credible ability to unelect people.

Now, let’s get to work. There are thousands of great local, national, and global organizations that you should consider at least as important as any electoral candidate. Here are two I work for and recommend. Here is a tiny fraction of the powerful tools waiting to be picked up and put to use. Like all tools, they can be ignored or put to harmful use. Putting them to good use, together, strategically, is our only path out of catastrophe. I quote:

Formal Statements
                  1. Public Speeches
                  2. Letters of opposition or support
                  3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
                  4. Signed public statements
                  5. Declarations of indictment and intention
                  6. Group or mass petitions

Communications with a Wider Audience
                  7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
                  8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
                  9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
                  10. Newspapers and journals
                  11. Records, radio, and television
                  12. Skywriting and earthwriting

Group Representations
                  13. Deputations
                  14. Mock awards
                  15. Group lobbying
                  16. Picketing
                  17. Mock elections

Symbolic Public Acts
                  18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
                  19. Wearing of symbols
                  20. Prayer and worship
                  21. Delivering symbolic objects
                  22. Protest disrobings
                  23. Destruction of own property
                  24. Symbolic lights
                  25. Displays of portraits
                  26. Paint as protest
                  27. New signs and names
                  28. Symbolic sounds
                  29. Symbolic reclamations
                  30. Rude gestures

Pressures on Individuals
                  31. “Haunting” officials
                  32. Taunting officials
                  33. Fraternization
                  34. Vigils

Drama and Music
                  35. Humorous skits and pranks
                  36. Performances of plays and music
                  37. Singing

                  38. Marches
                  39. Parades
                  40. Religious processions
                  41. Pilgrimages
                  42. Motorcades

Honoring the Dead
                  43. Political mourning
                  44. Mock funerals
                  45. Demonstrative funerals
                  46. Homage at burial places

Public Assemblies
                  47. Assemblies of protest or support
                  48. Protest meetings
                  49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
                  50. Teach-ins

Withdrawal and Renunciation
                  51. Walk-outs
                  52. Silence
                  53. Renouncing honors
                  54. Turning one’s back


Ostracism of Persons
                  55. Social boycott
                  56. Selective social boycott
                  57. Lysistratic nonaction
                  58. Excommunication
                  59. Interdict

Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
                  60. Suspension of social and sports activities
                  61. Boycott of social affairs
                  62. Student strike
                  63. Social disobedience
                  64. Withdrawal from social institutions

Withdrawal from the Social System
                  65. Stay-at-home
                  66. Total personal noncooperation
                  67. “Flight” of workers
                  68. Sanctuary
                  69. Collective disappearance
                  70. Protest emigration (hijrat)


Actions by Consumers
                  71. Consumers’ boycott
                  72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
                  73. Policy of austerity
                  74. Rent withholding
                  75. Refusal to rent
                  76. National consumers’ boycott
                  77. International consumers’ boycott

Action by Workers and Producers
                  78. Workmen’s boycott
                  79. Producers’ boycott

Action by Middlemen
                  80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott

Action by Owners and Management
                  81. Traders’ boycott
                  82. Refusal to let or sell property
                  83. Lockout
                  84. Refusal of industrial assistance
                  85. Merchants’ “general strike”

Action by Holders of Financial Resources
                  86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
                  87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
                  88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
                  89. Severance of funds and credit
                  90. Revenue refusal
                  91. Refusal of a government’s money

Action by Governments
                  92. Domestic embargo
                  93. Blacklisting of traders
                  94. International sellers’ embargo
                  95. International buyers’ embargo
                  96. International trade embargo


Symbolic Strikes
                  97. Protest strike
                  98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)

Agricultural Strikes
                  99. Peasant strike
                  100. Farm Workers’ strike

Strikes by Special Groups
                  101. Refusal of impressed labor
                  102. Prisoners’ strike
                  103. Craft strike
                  104. Professional strike

Ordinary Industrial Strikes
                  105. Establishment strike
                  106. Industry strike
                  107. Sympathetic strike

Restricted Strikes
                  108. Detailed strike
                  109. Bumper strike
                  110. Slowdown strike
                  111. Working-to-rule strike
                  112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
                  113. Strike by resignation
                  114. Limited strike
                  115. Selective strike

Multi-Industry Strikes
                  116. Generalized strike
                  117. General strike

Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures

                  118. Hartal
                  119. Economic shutdown


Rejection of Authority
                  120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
                  121. Refusal of public support
                  122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government
                  123. Boycott of legislative bodies
                  124. Boycott of elections
                  125. Boycott of government employment and positions
                  126. Boycott of government depts., agencies, and other bodies
                  127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
                  128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
                  129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
                  130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
                  131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
                  132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience
                  133. Reluctant and slow compliance
                  134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
                  135. Popular nonobedience
                  136. Disguised disobedience
                  137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
                  138. Sitdown
                  139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
                  140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
                  141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

Action by Government Personnel
                  142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
                  143. Blocking of lines of command and information
                  144. Stalling and obstruction
                  145. General administrative noncooperation
                146. Judicial noncooperation
                147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
                  148. Mutiny
Domestic Governmental Action
                  149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
                  150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

International Governmental Action
                  151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations
                  152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
                  153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
                  154. Severance of diplomatic relations
                  155. Withdrawal from international organizations
                  156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
                  157. Expulsion from international organizations


Psychological Intervention
                  158. Self-exposure to the elements
                  159. The fast
                                      a) Fast of moral pressure
                                      b) Hunger strike
                                      c) Satyagrahic fast
                  160. Reverse trial
                  161. Nonviolent harassment

Physical Intervention
                  162. Sit-in
                  163. Stand-in
                  164. Ride-in
                  165. Wade-in
                  166. Mill-in
                  167. Pray-in
                  168. Nonviolent raids
                  169. Nonviolent air raids
                  170. Nonviolent invasion
                  171. Nonviolent interjection
                  172. Nonviolent obstruction
                  173. Nonviolent occupation

Social Intervention
                  174. Establishing new social patterns
                  175. Overloading of facilities
                  176. Stall-in
                  177. Speak-in
                  178. Guerrilla theater
                  179. Alternative social institutions
                  180. Alternative communication system

Economic Intervention
                  181. Reverse strike
                  182. Stay-in strike
                  183. Nonviolent land seizure
                  184. Defiance of blockades
                  185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
                  186. Preclusive purchasing
                  187. Seizure of assets
                  188. Dumping
                  189. Selective patronage
                  190. Alternative markets
                  191. Alternative transportation systems
                  192. Alternative economic institutions

Political Intervention
                  193. Overloading of administrative systems
                  194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
                  195. Seeking imprisonment
                  196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
                  197. Work-on without collaboration
                  198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government




David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

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