A couple of years ago, before I irrevocably deleted my Facebook account, something hit my news feed that struck a chord. Maybe it was a right-place, right-time kind of thing, I don’t know. It was a video clip of a woman ranting about the fake battle between our two barely functioning political parties and how we all screw ourselves by buying into one side or the other.
It wasn’t anything many of us nonpartisan types haven’t observed ourselves, but the way she expressed her ideas had real power, and her matter-of-fact unselfconsciousness, her comfortable imperfection, her unabashed rage just lit me up and made what I thought were old insights feel fresh and potent again. It was cathartic. In a weird way, her rant kind of reminded me, at least in a humorously emotional way, of the climactic speech from the cheesy 80s teen film ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, which I’ll always have a soft spot for:
Within a few weeks, I sought out her YouTube channel, her Facebook page and her blog. I started watching her on a regular basis and, through her, got hooked into a lot of the independent and homemade media that, here in 2018, many of us yearners and outside-the-box thinkers are now actively engaged in. In fact, she’s the reason I heard about The Ghion Journal and pitched myself as a writer to its founder, Teodrose Fikre. Some of you may already know who I’m talking about. It’s Debbie Lusignan, aka The Sane Progressive. She’s scrubbed herself from most social media now, but at her peak she wielded genuine influence, with at least 40,000 active followers on YouTube, maybe 60,000 on Facebook and thousands on Twitter as well.
Eventually Debbie fell down a rabbit hole and got a bit paranoid when she started investigating mass shootings, drawing perhaps too many conclusions from holes in the official stories we were being told by the corporate media (though her work on Las Vegas remains terrifyingly groundbreaking in many respects). But what I appreciate about Debbie—this was the amazing thing about her naturalness on camera, you felt like you knew her—is that, at her best, you could really feel her reaching for something, like she was, to borrow words from Jim Morrison, trying to break on through to the other side to a new kind of political/personal enlightenment.
Over maybe a one-year period I watched her thinking evolve and it was quite a journey to see her go from vociferous Bernie Sanders volunteer to a sort of incisive, skeptical, research-intensive post-hippie mental dismantler of the entire American political system. For a time, it almost seemed to me that she and Caitlin Johnstone were psychically connected. A great meme creator, she was also one of the first I ever heard liken voters’ relationship with the Democratic Party to that of an abused spouse who couldn’t seem to get free of their abuser.
Debbie wasn’t afraid to mix it up with her audience, either. One of the things she was vocally critical of was peoples’ desire to dive into tactical solutions for America’s moral, political, and economic distress before doing the hard emotional work of separating themselves from manufactured party tribalism and hypocrisy (something Teodrose writes a lot about here on Ghion) and dealing with root-level issues like how we play out our personal traumas politically, our loss of and need to rebuild communal bonds (articulated so fiercely by Chris Hedges in his new book America: The Farewell Tour), our willingness to hear politicians’ rhetoric and not see their actions (or lack thereof), our misplaced trust in media narratives, and the fraudulence of one of the basic foundations of this ostensible representative democracy: our voting system.
In the aftermath of this week’s midterm elections, I’ve been thinking about Debbie a lot. She was near tireless in documenting the wanton fraud that was perpetrated across multiple states in the 2016 Democratic primary, as well as at the Democratic National Convention itself. But those of us who were paying attention to Florida way back in the 2000 presidential election, amidst unauthorized voter roll purges, police blockades against black voters, fake lists of ineligible voters, hanging chad miscounting conundrums and illegal Supreme Court interventions, already knew the cruel joke America’s voting system had become. But here so many of us are this week, near 20 years later, ranting about both Democrat and Republican-led voter suppression and election fraud in Georgia, Texas, New York, the Carolinas and, once again, Florida.
Why is that? I suspect because in our collective hunger for the quickest and easiest answers to the complex catastrophe that is capitalism, we continually rush to tactical solutions—elect this or that person we think will come to our rescue—and neglect to do the real foundational work. One big piece of that work is fixing a broken and corrupted voting system. With everything we know, at this stage, there’s no earthly reason why members of any political party, state or federal institution, who all have obvious skin in the game, should have control over debates, voting registrations or elections—at all.
It’s a preposterous conflict of interest no matter how you slice it. This is an absolutely fucking easy, Mickey Mouse conclusion to draw. Everything surrounding elections should be administered impartially and subject to swift and merciless nonpartisan correction if they’re not. And they should be conducted without the needless use of vulnerable machines. Simply designed paper ballots should suffice, with clear systems of accountability that oversee actual sentient human beings carefully tallying up every vote. Technology, as any good dystopian science fiction film or novel will teach you, often causes more problems than it solves. Sometimes the only way to do something effectively is the old-fashioned way. Click To Tweet
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If there’s one bright spot in our sham election system it’s the admittedly imperfect ballot initiatives. Here we actually see a semblance of the expression of the popular will. Take a look across states and cities this week and you’ll see some amazing things: people voting to build houses for the poor, give felons back their right to vote, raise the minimum wage, provide more money to education, reduce the harm of industrial agriculture, legalize cannabis, and protect water and wetlands. Forget politicians and parties, this is where democracy seeps through the cracks. That’s truly foundational stuff. Jimmy Dore did a little piece on it this week that’s worth a watch:
More than anything, what I would love to see the next time I go to the grocery store is some idealistic person in the parking lot with a clipboard asking me to sign my name to a ballot initiative that takes the voting system away from parties to create and fund fair, nonpartisan, simple administration of elections. And if we don’t get it that way, I would love for us to demand it in the streets together. This is something that can actually satisfy a bit of the gnawing hunger for decency so many of us feel out here—when we do things for US. All of us. Regardless of which dumb political tribe we mistakenly think we belong to.
I think Debbie would agree. My side, your side, it’s all bullshit. It’s hard enough to face up to the ugliness that lies at the root, break through the fear, and just be yourself out here in this angry, extraordinary, dangerous, wounded, beautiful contested land.
On a final note, as folks bellyache about the predictable election frauds occurring in places like Georgia, read this piece by Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report about some of those would-be political saviors who may be denied office due to those frauds. It’s icy and cynical, but it’s true and we should thank him for the reminder about the deep duplicity ingrained in our politics.