You Can’t Vote Your Way Out Of A Mess You Never Voted Yourself Into

Caitlin Johnstone
6 min readMay 29, 2023


Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

Well it’s that time again. Time for everyone to spend a year and a half pouring mountains of mental energy into arguing about who should be the next President of the United States of America.

Friendships will be shattered. Family dinners will be ruined. Social media activists will lose themselves in weeks-long flame wars. And, when all is said and done, the person sworn into office on January 2024 will oversee an administration which governs in more or less the same way as their predecessors.

As Tom Woods put it, no matter who you vote for, you get John McCain.

I’m writing this article now because I’m already getting a bunch of questions about this election and who I think is best and worst and why, and I know I’m going to get a whole lot more. Many Americans get so swept up in this thing it often looks odd to them seeing someone talking about their government without talking about the presidential race when it’s in season.

So to be perfectly clear I will not be supporting or cheerleading any candidate in this election. Not because I don’t think Australians have a right to involve themselves in US politics (we absolutely do), but because US presidential elections are a performance designed to trick Americans into thinking they have any meaningful control over the major decisions that will be made by their government. They’re the unplugged video game controller you give your baby brother so you can stop him from whining to play without actually letting him.

I am not saying not to vote. By all means vote if you want to; it gets you out of the house, gives you something to talk about, plus you get to have a sausage (I’m assuming Americans also get sausages at their voting sites).

And vote for whomever you please. Vote for Biden. Vote for Ronald DeSantrump. Write in Warwick Davis, star of the 1988 cult classic fantasy film Willow. Write in a pod of laundry detergent. It will make the exact same amount of difference to the large-scale operations of the US government.

So on election day, please do as you wish. How often to you get to make a decision that’s completely free of any consequences of any kind? Whoever you vote for or don’t vote for, you can sleep free and easy knowing that it made no difference to anything at all. Like eating a single cucumber slice with no dressing.

This is because the US presidency is too important to be left in the hands of the electorate. If you live in a western “democracy” and you want a road fixed or a school bus route changed, then you might find some recourse in electoral politics if you are lucky. But the position that is officially responsible for overseeing the operation of a globe-spanning empire is not something that you will ever be permitted to vote on. There’s just too much power riding on it.

That’s why any third party or primary candidates who might pose a challenge to the machine will never be permitted to get to the general election. If they look like they might put a wobble on things they’ll be demonized, marginalized, and otherwise pushed off course.

Only those trusted by the empire will be allowed to cross the velvet rope by the imperial bouncers — and yes I’m sorry Trumpers but this includes your guy; he’d never have made it through if he wasn’t trusted, and indeed he spent his entire term advancing longstanding empire agendas.

Only those willing to sign off on all the murderous, tyrannical things that need to be done to keep a globe-spanning empire on the top of the world order get to be president. They don’t really need to have any other qualities than that: a willingness to either actively facilitate the empire’s interests or passively allow the empire managers to do what they need to do.

The fact that a literal dementia patient sits in the White House currently is all the proof you could possibly need that this is the case. All that’s required of a US president is to not get in the way while the empire managers do their thing. A bottle of kombucha could do Biden’s job, and do it just as well.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t vote your way out of a mess you never voted your way into in the first place. You never voted for any of this.

You never voted for your government to circle the planet with hundreds of military bases and continuously work to destroy any government which disobeys it.

You never voted for your government to imperil the world with rapidly escalating brinkmanship against nuclear-armed nations.

You never voted to base your entire civilization on the pursuit of profit while shoving your biosphere into the capitalist machine like a tree branch into a wood chipper.

You never voted to let plutocrats and war profiteers make decisions for your government while normal people suffer and toil to scrape by.

You never voted to let billionaires live as kings while homeless people shiver in tents.

You never voted for surging authoritarianism with more and more police militarization, surveillance, censorship, propaganda and control.

You never voted to create this freakish dystopia where all political oxygen gets funneled toward vapid culture war debates which threaten the powerful in no way while any effort to effect meaningful change is ground into the dust.

None of those things were ever on the ballot, and they won’t be in November of next year either. What will be on the ballot is whether you want all of those things to continue under the office of someone with a D or an R next to their name.

This doesn’t mean there’s nothing anyone can do to make things better, it just means nothing will be made meaningfully better by the results of the US presidential election. If a building is on fire and everyone’s pushing on a fake door that’s painted on the wall, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to escape the building, but it does mean they need to stop pushing on the fake door and start looking for real exits if they’re going to get out.


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