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I recently had an interesting exchange of posts and e-mails with Peter Werbe from Fifth Estate on the subject of whether or not anarchists should vote in American presidential elections, or if it even makes any difference. I found his position to be equivocal at best, somewhat deceptive (albeit unintentionally), and a bit delusional. On the one hand, Peter rightly points out that one or a few votes by anarchists would make little difference in the outcome of an election, but on the othe hand, he follows the standard Democratic Party tactic of insisting that this time (just like last time, and the time before that...), the stakes are much higher. While he never comes right out and says it, I get the impression that Werbe not only intends to vote himself ( and probably always has), but that he would like to see as many votes as possible for his favored candidate (always a Democrat - never third-party, because that would be wasting one's vote).

And therein lies the delusional aspect of his thinking: no matter how many examples he gives of just how horrible both Democratic and Republican administrations have been, and how both parties share the same neoliberal agenda, he truly believes that the Democrats would offer at least a marginally better alternative to the Republicans, although he is never able to explain exactly how. When Werbe asks rhetorically what harm one little vote could do, or suggests that one furtive little vote in the privacy of a voting booth (or a mail-in ballot) doesn't prevent one from pursuing anarchist goals the rest of the time, he is really subtly encouraging people to vote.

As I pointed out to Peter, we eventually become what we do, and if an anarchist continues to vote in one election after another, always with grave reservations and the best intentions, then a voter is what they become, both in spirit and practice. I said that for an anarchist to vote is a humiliating admission of hopelessness and despair, but that a better strategy would be a very loud and public propaganda campaign against electoral politics in general (demonstrations, posters, anti-voter registration cards, etc.), but this seems to be something Werbe has little interest in.