We’re in the election season, the filing deadline has passed, the primary is ahead, and candidates are out in force. If you are registered with a party affiliation you get to vote in the primary. Primaries narrow a party’s field of candidates to one.
In a 2018 Gallop poll, about 55 percent of Americans who were asked identified with the two major political parties, with 43 percent responding Independent. How many of those who claim to be Republicans or Democrats actually get involved in campaigning, selecting candidates, serving as delegates or doing precinct work? I don’t mean writing a check or putting out a yard sign; the number that actually do the work. It is a small number of very committed folks.
“As a citizen, you need to know how to be a part of it, how to express yourself – and not just by voting.” – Sandra Day O’Connor
I have raised and donated money, knocked on doors, made telephone calls, delivered yard signs, been a campaign adviser, and even written speeches. It was mostly fun and it felt purposeful for those I was backing.
I have helped Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those in local, nonpartisan elections. I have campaigned against specific Democrats, Republicans and Independents. I have worked for Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan elected officials. Democrats thought I was a Republican and Republicans thought I was a Democrat. Interesting, right? Parties are not knocking down my door to sign me up, and that’s okay.
Through the years, I’ve been approached about running for office, something I only seriously considered once. I didn’t need to belong to a party for that office, but even non-partisan elections need a campaign machine and political parties offer a lot of resources. You have to get your message out and make your name known. So, Mike. Why not join a party? It is the old Groucho Marx saying that I would never be part of a group that would have someone like me as a member. I say that in jest. Mostly. Honestly, I’m just too independent. I join campaigns, but party membership is very restrictive for me.
Okay. If you don’t find synchronicity with one of the major parties, why not just become an Independent? What does registering as an Independent really mean? Is there a philosophy, or is it simply not being one of the other guys? In my younger days, I was tempted to support John Anderson, an Independent for President in 1980. I totally disagree with the Libertarian and Tea Party groups, and the Green Party, no thanks. Locally, there has been a movement to start a Moderate Party, and while the basic purpose has merit, I am more concerned about how it would pull votes from other candidates. Voting becomes a chess match of knowing how your support impacts other candidates.
Every election I look at each candidate and each issue. Parties want you to support their ticket; meaning everyone on the ticket. While I sometimes vote a straight ticket that is not by design or loyalty. Every candidate and issue is on their own to earn my vote. I give money to candidates that earn my support, whatever party they belong to. In this election cycle I have given money to candidates in both parties, though in different amounts and for different races. Moderates get more of my money. In every situation, it is the candidate, and what he or she believes and is committed to doing.
“You’re not just voting for an individual, in my judgment, you’re voting for an agenda. You’re voting for a platform. You’re voting for a political philosophy.” – Colin Powell
Gen. Powell and I disagree. I do not vote for snappy slogans; I need substance. I am not a single issue voter either; tell me how you approach many important issues.
As a voter and interested citizen, I attend legislative meetings of both parties because I want to learn, not only about those in office, but I want to understand more about complex issues, and hear different views. More voters should do this.
I hate labels but that is how life in America is. It is how we market, group people, align interests and isolate each other. Labels identify but also marginalize.
In my early years, I helped several candidates run for office by walking districts delivering campaign material. I was not very good at making telephone calls and I still prefer not to do that. Twice, I helped someone run for district attorney and unfortunately that was a highly visible race. Twice my candidate lost, and I lost some of my professional reputation by backing that candidate. He was my friend and I believed in him, and I would do it again. While he lost, he was later appointed a district judge, which better served his talents. By backing him, it in part, led to me losing a job. Not by itself, but people keep score and when you work where there are political currents, there are hidden dangers. I was not in a politically appointed job, but in the end it didn’t matter. When people want to settle scores, they figure out a way to do it. It was time for a change anyway.
I’ve heard Democrats talk about how unscrupulous Republicans can be and vise versa. I’ve seen individuals of both parties do bad things. I have observed elected officials of both parties try to politicize the professional staff and bend them to partisan action. Thankfully, most elected officials have been respectful and not tried to compromise the professional staff, but it does happen.
My complaints aren’t with parties per se; quite the opposite. My issues are with some of the people who rise to power that use it for personal gain and the infighting that can steer the party toward things most members do not readily support. I often hear, “this is not the party I used to know,” or “it doesn’t reflect the beliefs of (fill in the name of a former politician).”
Being a voter for 43 years, I’ve made my own decisions every election, and I’ve enjoyed the process of figuring it out. I’ve learned a great deal from figuring it out. I vote in primaries because I am affiliated with a party.
We live in a country with free and open elections. Never take that for granted. We hear claims of voter fraud, but the greater threats are election rigging, voter machine hacking, voter suppression and gerrymandering of districts. Don’t just follow your beliefs, educate yourself, and exercise your right.