Essays — August 25, 2014 10:50 — 0 Comments

Vote Jess Spear: Vote, Participate

­The World will be What We Make of It: Why Voting, Activism and Getting Involved Matters

-Jess Spear, Socialist Alternative candidate for State House, 43rd LD

“This is the way the world is.”

Question income inequality, homelessness, war, and poverty and you are likely answered with, “The world has always known these problems.” Question the broken political system and all the politicians vested in their careers and corporate welfare, not the betterment of the people, and you are told that this is the character of human beings. Better not waste your time trying to change what has always existed. Better to just be pragmatic, realistic.

We, my campaign, reject that logic.

One hundred years ago women could not vote in the U.S. Shockingly, child labor was outlawed only 76 years ago (but continues in the agriculture industry). Just 43 years ago it was legal to dump waste into the ocean. Three years ago same sex marriage was outlawed in Washington, and not recognized by the Federal Government in states where it was legal. One year ago a $15/hour minimum wage was a remote dream and socialism was claimed to be a bad word.

The point is not that change happens, everyone is aware of that. How things change for the better is less understood. How did we win what was once denied? And, how do we apply that knowledge to the problems that persist today?

Many feel voting doesn’t change much. But, that’s based on voting for the same corporate politicians whether they hail from the Democratic Party or Republican. It’s time that we link voting, getting engaged, and activism with building a new force of working people. Let’s vote for candidates who reject corporate money and are therefore able to reject the corporate agenda after the election.

What matters in elections is what choices you have on the ballot and what they represent. Let’s not just vote for someone aiming to build his or her career. Let’s vote to build a new voice for the 99%, who have no mass political party on their side yet. We need an alternative that is based on engagement of working class people and able to challenge the status quo.

Let’s look at recent gains for LGBTQ people. The movement in the streets is why we are moving speedily towards full marriage equality in all 50 states. The heroes of this struggle are those who spoke out publicly and campaigned for years, not politicians who do and say what is politically convenient.

Just look at the current house leader in Washington State, Frank Chopp, my opponent in this election. In 1996 Frank Chopp did not support gay marriage. I guess his position was evolving along with Barack Obama’s – when it seems good for their career they discover “values.”

The people deserve leaders who show a way forward, not trail behind, blocked by the interests of their donors.

Imagine if we had more candidates elected like Kshama Sawant – who campaigned for $15 before it was popular and subsequently used her position as a Seattle City Councilmember to build the movement for it. We need more candidates who understand that it’s the movement and involvement of people that changes society.

Contrast Sawant’s approach with that of my opponent: “[Frank] Chopp said he supports [rent control], but doubts it would get enough votes to pass.” (He’s getting huge donations from real estate developers.) Asked about the statewide $12 minimum wage bill, Chopp said, ”Unfortunately the proposed plan did not have sufficient support to pass at that time.” As House Speaker, he wouldn’t allow a vote on the bill. But he takes donations from Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, corporations benefiting from poverty wages.

You could fill in the blank any number of issues that matter and get the same excuse: single-payer healthcare, a moratorium on home foreclosures, a moratorium on dangerous oil trains, or free higher education.

When you vote for the political establishment, you are voting for politicians who have been vetted by and take marching orders from corporations. So their idea of what is politically possible, what can be won and how, is correspondingly narrow.

Issues don’t win support all by themselves. They need advocates, people willing to take a lead and build that support, not merely wait for the space created by movements before legislation is advanced.

If we reject the world as it is, and instead are fighting for something better, we should reject the logic of the naysayer candidates, politicians, and media pundits who allow business to decide what’s politically possible and call for pragmatism. We need idealists, dreamers, and people demanding more than this or that tiny fix within a broken, capitalist society. We need to bring together all those willing to fight for what’s right, not just what’s popular with their donors right now.

Then voting, getting involved, and being active does matter. Then we can change the world.


For more on Jess Spear, visit

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney