I’m a card-carrying Democrat, and I have been since I first registered to vote when I turned 18, back in those heady days of 1991. But I’ve never felt particularly comfortable voting the party line. Hell, my first Presidential vote was for Ross Perot because I wasn’t convinced that Bill Clinton would be good for the country. Thankfully I was wrong about Clinton, and I was quite happy to vote for him the second time around.
But even back then I was more comfortable voting straight Democratic than I am now. Part of what drove me to drift away from the Democratic Party line was discussions with my friends in college. I remember one guy who was a Democrat not because he believed in the platform, but because he was a union supporter and because his father was a Democrat. And I recall telling him that was just plain stupid, that it was more important to vote your beliefs than it was to vote your dad’s.
Another thing that happened was my macroeconomics class, where the prof said over and over “I don’t blame either party – there’s more than enough blame to go around.” I gained confidence in myself and my ability to make my own choices when I choose to abandon my childhood faith in favor of self-created spirituality and through my training in the martial art Tang Soo Do. But it was the sudden and horrifying realization that I, someone who had been raised to be tolerant since the day I was born, was a racist and a bigot (now in recovery) that forced me to reassess many of my core beliefs about myself and the world around me.
College and grad school were turbulent times for me, as they were for most of my fellow students, but I came out of them with a better understanding of just what really mattered to me, and a realization that the political views of my youth were naive at best.
Ever since then, I’ve watched politics with an eye for who represents me and my beliefs. And over the years, I’ve come to realize that no-one represents me – not the Democratic Party I belong to nor the Republican Party I oppose on nearly every policy. Yet I remain a registered Democrat because I’m unwilling to be cut out of the primary and caucus process in my state and, quite frankly, because as misguided as much of the Democratic Party is, their policies still far more accurately represent my own.
But my particular brand of progressivism has left the Democratic Party behind. I’m anti-Iraq but pro-Afghanistan. I’m free trade except when I’m not, and I’m anti-union until I see a job sector being exploited by management. I’m pro-choice and pro-death penalty. I think the government should get out of the way of corporations whenever possible, but I also think that corporate personhood is one of the most screwed up ideas ever conceived by man. I believe in a strong military, but as only one component of a policy of national authority that also includes diplomacy, economics, and cultural “soft power.” I believe that taxes should be lower, but only as low as they can be without adversely affecting the effectiveness of the government. And above all, I believe that the nation has serious problems that need to be addressed in a thoughtful, wise, and pragmatic fashion.
So, who represents me?
Not the Republicans. The only pro-choice candidate from the GOP is Rudy Giuliani, but he’s pro-tax cuts and against universal health care even though it’s becoming obvious that our country needs it to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Mitt Romney supports the abstinence-only sex ed even though it doesn’t work and he’s against same-sex marriage. John McCain is pro-Iraq. Tom Tancredo is a bigoted nativist. Fred Thompson is against campaign finance reform and supports privatization of social security. Sam Brownback believes that the only constituent that matters is God, and to Hell with the rest of us. And Ron Paul is so libertarian that he’d wipe the federal government off the map if he could, even though it’s the only entity that can address most of the problems facing the United States.
What’s more disturbing, though, is that the leadership of my own Democratic Party doesn’t represent me either. Hillary Clinton is pro-Iraq and supports the fatally flawed Kyoto Protocol. Mike Gravel opposes the death penalty. Bill Richardson is pro-coal. Barak Obama supports biofuels and building (ineffectual) fences along the southern border. And John Edwards? Well, right now, I actually can’t find anything wrong with John Edwards – but I suspect that there’s something out there that I just haven’t found yet.
The Democratic Party is even worse than the candidates they’re fielding for the 2008 election. The Party website claims to be about “honest government and open government,” yet the supposed “earmark reform” was hardly a reform, and the House under Nancy Pelosi is nearly as insular and anti-minority as it was under Republican Tom Delay. The party claims to support renewable fuels but is still beholden to politically-convenient corn ethanol subsidies instead of using that money for cellulosic ethanol. As a supporter of globalization, the nativist tendencies in the “keep US jobs at home” wing of the party just make me shake my head in amazement. And its become painfully obvious that we’re going to have to slash benefits, raise the age at which Social Security benefits kick in, increase taxes, and raise the effective retirement age in order to keep Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid solvent, yet the Democratic Party is too beholden to its own special interests to speak this particular inconvenient truth to the U.S. citizenry.
And of course, if you happen to support the idea that sometime military force is justified in the service of our national interest, you can just forget the entire anti-war liberal wing of the party too.
So while I’m a registered Democrat, I’m not really a Democrat – I’m an independent with progressive tendencies who wants to be as involved as possible.
I’m OK with voting for candidates who don’t exactly represent my views – I don’t expect that there are many out there with the wealth to make an effective run for the Presidency who hold most of my views. But I’m tired of voting, both in primaries and the general elections, against one candidate or another or for the lesser of several evils. And I’m tired of the candidates I help elect interpreting my vote as a mandate when it isn’t one. And I’m tired of both parties corrupting the system with power grabs that never lead anywhere productive.
Politics shouldn’t be this way. Our country deserves better.