I know, in North Carolina there are no "Independents." They are called "unaffiliated" here. It amounts to the same thing and "U is for....." is a long ways off and I wanted to get this off my chest. Actually, now that I think about it, "unaffiliated" does a pretty good job of explaining my desire to leave the Republican Party. From the closest local level to the highest national level, there are policies and individuals that I just simply have no desire to be affiliated with any longer. I've not "turned to the dark side" as my mother asked, though. The locals who run the Democratic Party are just as obnoxious, and much more corrupt, than the local Republicans and the national Democrat platform is largely in complete opposition to the "just leave us alone" politics I support. So, a few weeks ago, I resigned my seat on the Brunswick County Republican Party Executive Committee and went to the county board of elections office and changed my party to "unaffiliated."
It wasn't easy and it wasn't particularly fun and afterwards I felt the strangest combination of relief and guilt. I joined the local apparatus of the Republicans to help keep John Kerry out of the White House. I wanted to do all I could to keep a man who called my father a baby killer from becoming president. My thoughts on that haven't changed. In fact, I was sickened by Kerry being given a speaking role at the DNC Convention last week and appalled by the applause he received from folks who probably consider themselves "supporters of the troops." I took over as a precinct chairman after a friend who held that position was unable to continue while she fought, and eventually was overcome by, cancer. Promises to dying friends aren't something one breaks easily, and I pray she is looking down and understanding that I just couldn't carry on in that role anymore, but I still think I failed her memory.
I feel I let her down for two reasons. First, I was unable to find a replacement whom I could trust to push the party in the right direction. Second, I left the party headed in a direction I am not at all pleased with. I don't regret a minute I spent on that board. Though it seems now to have been for naught, at least I tried. The vast majority of people love to criticize and whine and moan about politics, but never try to lift a finger to change anything beyond voting once every year or so, if that. I am proud that I tried and sometimes succeeded in making things better. I helped elect some good people, and helped prepare some of those good people to run. I saw the local party move beyond a local yokel old boys and girls club into a huge and relatively diverse group. The party holds the power in this county now, for better or worse. The Democrats that ran the place for decades are disgraced and sometimes on parole. My fear is that the new crop of elected Republican officials learned nothing from them and is sliding down the same slippery slope. Power does indeed corrupt, and I have seen it happen.
The county exec committee itself is changing as well. This election has brought out a level of anger and meanness that I've not experienced before. I entered the party, admittedly, as a "negative campaigner." I was against John Kerry much more than I was for George Bush. But while I have no respect for Kerry and think he is totally unfit to serve our country as an elected representative, I don't hate the man. I don't think he would have destroyed the country. I don't think those who supported him are evil or stupid. This election is different. There was getting to be a feeling of almost desperation in the atmosphere at those exec committee meetings that made me very sad. I watched as the most angry voices in the room drowned out the more optimistic ones. I liked the Republican party because it was the positive one, the one that said we were all capable of greatness if allowed to pursue our dreams, the one that believed nothing and no one could kill the spirit that made America the greatest place on Earth. I saw that slipping away to be replaced by fear and anger. I tried to slow it down or stop it, I really did, but I failed. I just don't know what else I could have done. I hate failing, but there you are.
So where does that leave me? Here is where the feeling of relief comes in. It leaves me independent. I have a friend running as a Republican for our county commission and I think he'll be different so he has my vote and whatever help I can lend him. I haven't become cynical, at least not completely so. I will wholeheartedly support my Republican state house member and state senator. Both men have cast votes I disagree with, but both vote their conscious and are not afraid to argue their point of view in an intelligent and respectful way to anyone who asks. Both are good men and I wish everyone could be so lucky to be so represented. The Democrats are running a complete nobody for governor to replace a Democrat that even the Democrats will admit is in waaaayyyyyy over her head, so I'll happily vote for the GOP there as well. Our US House delegate is technically a member of the Democrat party, but votes as a Republican and his opponent is a sleazebag, so there's a lever pulled for the Dems. I've never voted straight party ticket in my life, so none of that is unusual.
The big one causes me more trouble. The presidential election has everyone in a tizzy and I feel like an outcast because I just don't care. The seats I referenced above will affect the lives of me and my family billions of times more powerfully than the president. It's ironic that the one seat everyone fights over the most matters the least in our day-to-day lives. Our country has thrived and struggled under far left wing Democrats and far right wing Republicans. We boomed under Reagan and under Clinton. We busted under Carter and under Bush. We were led into war more often by the left than by the right, and the last two liberal ex-flower children of the sixties to occupy the commander in chief's seat have used our military power in wholly unconstitutional ways to kill innocent people. That won't stop no matter who wins, it's that power corrupting thing again. Our economy is stalled, not dead, and it will rebound in time no matter what the outcome of this election. Both candidates will keep in place a failed tax code and both will continue to spend money we don't have on programs our founders forbade the federal government to create. Social Security will continue to be a paltry help to those who truly need it funded by those in my generation with no hope of ever reaping it's benefits in their own retirement. Healthcare will move closer to becoming the responsibility of the federal government. The "Affordable Care Act" was pushed through congress by the Democrat nominee, but is based almost entirely on a program created by his Republican opponent. Both nominees will continue the Patriot Act, it gives the government too much power for either to willingly give it up. Religion will continue to be used as a political football with the left attempting to banish it from public life and the right attempting to force it into every meeting and school and gathering, both of which are expressly and clearly forbidden by the First Amendment (not that anyone reads the constitution anymore). Both parties will force government into the most private of personal areas. Whether the question is who can be married or what light bulb you buy, the federal government has no legal right to weigh in and neither candidate respects that. One side wants to make contraception harder to come by and another wants the government to pay for it. Both sides are completely and totally dead wrong, and for the same reason; both options give the Leviathan a dangerous amount of control over women and families' reproductive choices.
I guess that's my big problem with both parties.They share a disturbing tendency to want to control my behavior. The right tends to offer proscriptions against things they dislike, which is easy to see and disagree with at least. The left does the same thing, but adds a more subtle approach. They offer to let you do whatever you like in many cases, and even offer to make others pay for it.But that's another form of control, making you dependent on them. The man in the windowless van does not have your best interests at heart just because he's holding out a pile of candy.
I feel like I'm in a train station with people very anxious to go this way or that, and very angry at those traveling in a direction different from their own. There's a lot of yelling and moving and boarding, but no tracks lead where I want to go. Some are closer than others, and those trains look enticing, but I know the farther I ride them, the more they will diverge from my own destination. Is it worth riding a train going even a bit the wrong way because it is easy and offers ready companionship? Is the "affiliation" with people of similar but different goals a good compromise? I used to think so. I used to think that going somewhere was better than going nowhere. I thought the options were pick a train or stay in the station, vote for the one you disagree with least or sit out and give up your right to chose. I'm beginning to change my mind, though. I don't think I will continue to accept the premise of the two-party system. I think I'm leaving the station all together and setting out the way I chose on foot, alone if need be. There's no tracks, not even a road, but there's a path laid down by John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and others, even non-politicians like Walt Disney (he didn't accept any premises either). It may be overgrown and it may take me a lot of effort to find it and the going will be much slower than the trains steaming off to November 6, 2012. My answer won't be found there. My guy won't win that day because I have no guy. But I think that maybe if I keep at it, maybe I can find a way beyond the lesser of two evils. I owe it to my son to try, it's his future I'm looking for.
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