Got an e-mail from someone who’s apparently been reading my archives to figure out my political views. It was a hostile e-mail, but at the heart of the e-mail is a legitimate question, which I will paraphrase as such:
You say you’re politically independent but you vote like a Democrat. Why don’t you just admit you’re a Democrat?
The answer is: Well, because I’m not.
Three points here:
1. Being a Democrat, in the most obvious sense, would mean being a member of the Democratic Party here in the United States. I am not a member of the Democratic Party currently, nor have I ever been, unless you count the five minutes in 2008 when I checked the “Democrat” checkbox so I could vote in the the 2008 Ohio presidential primary. By that standard I may have been a member of the Republican Party as well at one point, since I believe I voted in a GOP primary once in Virginia (I can’t remember if that required a statement about my party; suffice to say I think closed primaries are silly). From the first time I could vote, I have registered as an independent.
Reasons for this: One, on a practical level, it cuts way the hell down on the amount of political junk mail I get. I find most political mailings obnoxious and insulting to my intelligence, not to mention a waste of trees, so the less that I have to see, the better. Two, on a philosophical level, I think political parties are a bit of a menace. I don’t know if I would actually be happier with our political system if political parties didn’t exist and all political candidates had to fend for themselves without a national organization riding herd on them, but I do know that I would be willing to live in the universe where that was the case, to see how it worked out.
2. I don’t have a party, but I do have political views. If I lived in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England or most of what used to be called Western Europe, those political views would probably get me tagged as a member of the major local conservative party. Here in the US, they currently align most frequently with the Democratic party, our ostensibly “liberal” major political party. But 40 years ago, they probably would have gotten me tagged as a moderate Republican. This to my mind suggests there is wisdom in not aligning with actual political parties, and instead establishing one’s own political ideals and then finding which candidates most closely align with the one ideals, and political goals.
3. I have (and do) vote for political candidates other than Democrats, and don’t automatically vote for Democratic candidates. I’ve noted before that when I lived in Virginia’s 10th District, I regularly voted for Frank Wolf, a conservative Republican; he had many positions I didn’t like (including his abortion stance) but he also was the head of the House’s Transportation committee (i.e., nice smooth roads in Northern Virginia), had a principled stance on human rights, and even his positions that I opposed were based on his moral and philosophical beliefs rather than mere political expediency. In the end the positives for me outweighed the negatives, and I could vote for him over his opponents in each cycle.
Here in OH-8, I’ve not voted for John Boehner, but there have been times when I didn’t vote for his Democratic opponent, either, because I didn’t like their positions, or thought that the advantages of giving him my vote would outweigh the advantages of keep Boehner, who is, after all, Speaker of the House, and was House Minority Leader prior to that (this election cycle there’s no Democrat running against Boehner, so I don’t have the option of voting for a Democrat in any event). Beyond that, in state and local elections, I’ve voted for Republicans candidates in most election cycles, when I believed that they were the most qualified candidates for that position and/or that they were running for a post where the more nutty aspects of the current Republican Party orthodoxy would not be a problem.
So, to recap: Philosophically aligned against political parties in a general sense, never registered for any political party, which party my personal politics align with depends on geography and temporality in any event, and I’ve never voted a straight ticket in my life, so far as I know. So there you are.
This is not to say, mind you, that I am neutral as regards my opinions on the US political parties are they are currently ideologically and practically constituted; I don’t think it’ll be a huge surprise to anyone that I am not at all a fan of the Republican Party in its most recent iteration. I would be delighted for the party to swing back toward people who have foundations based in a coherent political philosophy, rather than “whatever Obama is for, I am against, and rich people can do no wrong ever,” which is what it seems to boil down to these days for the GOP. The Democratic Party is no prize, but it’s at the very least not nearly as far down the slope of truculent irrationality. “Not as truculently irrational,” however, is not a sterling inducement for me to join the Democratic Party. Or any party, to be honest about it.