Americans were apparently supposed to wake up this morning with a glowing sense of pride, cast a smile at the shards of glass ceiling now scattered on the floor, strike a Rosie the Riveter pose, and go about their day feeling empowered.

Yet I woke up much as I went to bed: with a sinking feeling.

History has indeed been made. So far this election year, we have seen an unprecedented amount of voter suppression and fraud. The candidate for the “left” might be indicted before the election — ironically, for one of her lesser crimes — and she’s not even the first woman to win a presidential nomination (Cynthia McKinney 2008; Jill Stein 2012). The glass ceiling may have broken for a woman in the Democratic Party, but when you’re armed with Wall Street cash, drones, missiles and grenade launchers, even unbreakable barriers crumble relatively easily.

This country is due for a female president; in fact, it’s long overdue. Many countries in the world have elected female leaders and we are far behind in women’s rights in general. For example, the United States ranks 74th in wage inequality, it’s the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer guaranteed paid maternity leave, and it ranks in the bottom half of national parliaments around the world when it comes to female members.

However, to suggest that any woman will do implies that any president will do. If that’s the case, why weren’t we lining up behind Carly Fiorina? Or Sarah Palin? Well, because the quality of woman matters. The quality of woman matters because the quality of president matters. As Glenn Greenwald put it in his recent piece for the Intercept: “The one positive aspect, though significant, is symbolic, while the actual substance – rallying behind a Wall-Street-funded, status-quo-perpetuating, multi-millionaire militarist – is grim in the extreme.”

It is indeed grim, as is the system that brought us to this point and left many of us feeling far less than empowered after last night’s primaries. We can’t look at Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party without looking at the embarrassing journalistic failings of the mainstream media along with the gross violations of voter rights throughout this Democratic race.

For example, at exactly 6:53 p.m. EST on Tuesday (that’s 3:53 p.m. PST), CNN displayed this message: “Clinton About to Declare Victory.” Meanwhile, a large clock in the left-hand corner was counting down the more than one hour before polls were to close in New Jersey. Another graphic reminded viewers that California polls don’t close until 11 p.m. EST, and that Clinton’s victory speech would commence at 10 p.m. EST.

To be fair, CNN was actually late to the victory party. Associated Press had, after all, already announced Hillary Clinton the winner a full day before the primaries using an image that had a date stamp of June 4 — a full three days before the primaries. Outlets such as MSNBC followed suit, and amazingly, the Democrats had a nominee on a day when no one actually voted.

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Sadly, there is no way to calculate how many voters shrugged off voting due to this massive failing in journalistic integrity. And for those who did go out to vote, experts are doing their best to tally the after-effects of yesterday’s voter fraud.

It’s difficult to know where to start in this sea of corruption and cover-ups, but consider this number: 4.2 million. That’s the number of voters in California who are registered as NPP — “No Party Preference,” a.k.a. independents. The Hoover Institution Golden State Poll, released Tuesday, showed that NPP voters favored Sanders by a whopping 40 percentage points. If you haven’t yet heard, Clinton won California.

But wait, it gets better — or worse. Award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast reported Tuesday night that NPP voters were essentially unable to vote in the presidential race unless they used the “magic words.”

According to page 49 of the Election Officer Training Manual, “A No Party Preference voter will need to request a crossover ballot from the Roster Index Officer. (Do not offer them a crossover ballot if they do not ask).” Yes, that is verbatim from the manual. And NPP voters better recite that line verbatim, too, if they want to vote.

As a registered NPP in California, you will automatically get a ballot with no presidential candidates. If you ask for one without specifically saying, “I would like a crossover ballot,” you won’t be able to vote in the primary. You can’t say, “I want a presidential primary ballot” or any variation thereof. If you ask how you might vote in the presidential primary, the clerk is instructed to not let you in on the secret. Furthermore, as almost half of California voters vote by mail, ballots sans presidential options were sent to thousands, if not millions, of NPP voters. In order to vote in the primary, those voters would be required to bring their ballot to their polling place and say this, verbatim: “I want to surrender my ballot in return for a Democratic ‘crossover’ ballot.” Again, if you don’t say that exactly, you won’t get to vote, and in fact, the polling clerk can simply take your blank ballot and count it as such. Oh, and you also have to bring the vote-by-mail envelope or you can’t surrender the ballot.

As if this weren’t despicable enough, Palast goes on to list several other almost laughably atrocious examples of voter fraud and suppression in California yesterday, including names missing from voter rolls, entire streets missing from voter rolls, new voter registrations never registered, polling places running out of ballots, and some voters being asked to show ID “as if California is now New Alabama.”

And that’s just California!

Election Justice USA, a coalition of lawyers, voter suppression experts and citizen advocates, is currently pursuing legal action in New York, Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky and several other states. They also have an online form for anyone who has experienced trouble voting or registering to vote.

The events of Tuesday, not to mention the entire election cycle up to this point, could fill a book. And I hope they do. It is abominable to see how the system has silenced voters under the din of propagandized drivel and fraud. Ultimately, however, it is not that surprising. Clinton was crowned queen long before the AP left their journalistic integrity at her feet. Bernie Sanders may have chosen to ride on the establishment coattails in order to build his campaign, but there was never a question as to whether he’d be shaken off.

And I know that the superdelegates don’t vote until July 25, but a modicum of depressive realism is necessary here. Bernie won’t win. But look on the bright side, Jill Stein won’t win in November, either.

The Democratic Party isn’t going to embrace someone who stands on stage and calls for a revolution. Neither the mainstream media nor the political establishment will consider a woman who calls for a “Green New Deal.” In reality, Stein was blacklisted even before she spent eight hours chained to a chair for daring an attempt to debate in 2012. Candidates like these won’t win – not in the system that we currently have. If Clinton gets indicted, the Democrats will throw someone else up there, possibly Vice President Joe Biden, who has the same charisma and electability as Al Gore in 2000.

Sanders may run as an independent, although his campaign has denied this possibility several times. Stein has reached out to Sanders on numerous occasions, and as far as I understand it, has yet to hear anything back. I know many people, myself included, that would wake up with a considerable sense of empowerment should Sanders and Stein run together. Twitter even erupted with the hashtag #SandersStein2016 to support the idea. But all of this remains to be seen. And ultimately, all of this is not really what’s important.

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As I scrolled through Twitter last night, I also saw the hashtag #ThankYouBernie lighting up the twittersphere. In short heartfelt memos, his supporters thanked the senator for engaging them in politics, for making them feel that they mattered, for making them feel that all of this corruption, this ingrained systemic evil, could change.

 

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This is what’s important.

The engagement and action of the people is what will create change, not a candidate. We must move away from this incredibly tempting fantasy that one person can save us. It may sometimes feel like we live in the Matrix, but there is no Neo who will swoop in and save the day.

The Kool-Aid hangover is ghastly, but necessary. If you gleaned energy and inspiration from Sanders, don’t lose that. Regardless of what happens in July and indeed in November, if you let the fight die with the candidate, then you never understood the fight to begin with.

This is not something you win in an election. As Bill Black, whistleblower and economist said, “We reject any military metaphors. You can’t win a decisive battle against corruption.” This is the long haul. This fight will continue after 2016, and it must, by definition, continue after we take back our rights, true justice and a system of, for and by the people. It’s cliché but true: politics is not a spectator sport.

Engage.

Look outside the two-party system, outside the record-skipping loop of corruption. Look outside the confines of what corporate America and it’s media minions have deemed acceptable. Distance yourself from the illogical argument that voting for a lesser of two evils is somehow not evil. (Spoiler alert: It is.)

Vote. Vote not because you think your candidate will win but because you feel your candidate is right on the issues, not corrupt and the best representation of your voice. Vote because voting should matter and not voting just makes the job of fraudulent goons that much easier. Understand that voting is just about the smallest contribution you can make to the political system and you need to do more.

Recognize that there were local elections last night that no one is talking about but that have FAR more bearing on your day-to-day than a presidential primary, or indeed even the general election.

Realize that the power for change doesn’t lie in a cute campaign slogan or in the person who stands up to speak. The power for change lies in the powerless, as Vaclav Havel pointed out.

If you woke up feeling powerless rather than empowered, you’re on the right track. Stay on it.

Article by Eleanor Goldfield, edited by Mikala Reasbeck of Mint Press News