Saturday, April 22, 2006

Independence Day

Updating my voter registration was the last concrete step to officially relocate The Home Office. Having to fill out the forms required by the People’s Republic of Maryland presented an opportunity too good to pass up, so I didn’t just change my address, I changed my philosophy.

I’ve been a registered Democrat for thirty years. Even back in those halcyon pre-red and blue days, before “Republican” came to mean “hypocritically conservative” and “Democrat” meant “anything you want it to mean as long as you don’t call me liberal,” the Democrats seemed to more closely share my outlook on life, conveying to me (accurately or not) that we were all in this together and might as well help each other out. Republicans seemed to me more concerned with keeping what they had.

Crossover was permitted in those days. Southern Democrats, even the ones not standing in the schoolhouse door with an axe handle to keep the Nigruh children out, were often conservative. I still mourn the day Sam Nunn left the Senate. Republicans were sometimes liberal; can anyone imagine Nelson Rockefeller being a Republican today?

Times change, philosophies evolve, not always for the better. Today there are black men in this country who might rather be called “Nigruh” than “Democrat.” Democrats would almost rather be called “liberal” again than “Republican.” (Almost.) The comity that allowed political combatants to share a cold beverage after a long day of legislation is gone. Each party sees the other’s name a notch above al-Qaeda on the Vermin-meter.

I sincerely believe the Republicans started this domestic Cold War, but the Dems were not blameless. The hubris derived from being in power since what Archie Bunker would call “The Big One – WW2” (Archie not being a Roman numerals kind of guy) led to the Republican bunker mentality personified by Newt Gingrich during the GOP’s congressional takeover in 1994. Now even Newt is appalled by the tactics and ethics used by his party.

I feel the hackles of my Republican friends rising. Calm down. This is where the Democrats get theirs.

For years they let Republicans come up with ideas, basing long political careers on not offending anyone. Vision and ideas aren’t something you go to some out-of-the-way store in Utica and buy when you want them. Vision and ideas are nurtured and fertilized for years, which the Republicans had to do of necessity. The Democrats watched the Republicans get their act together and let them do it, confident in the misplaced belief the Democratic coalition of interests would keep them in power.

It’s easy to see in retrospect how wrong this was, not just strategically, but morally. Democratic vision shriveled to tinkering with the same programs that hadn’t worked all that well in the first place. The Republican vision may have been unwise and unjust, but they at least had one. When faced with a choice between a party that wanted to do something, anything, and one that just wanted to putz around rephrasing Franklin Roosevelt, people voted for action.

The Democrats have produced “leaders” no more visionary or smarter than the Gephardt/Daschle group that brought the house down around them. The new group thinks that being strident is the same as being tough. They’re saying the same things as before, but louder.

Dubya has given them every opportunity to make hay; Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean can’t do anything with it. I’m old enough to remember Democrats like Sam Rayburn, Mike Mansfield, Carl Albert, San Ervin, and Tip O’Neil. Even my flesh crawls at the thought of reading “Speaker Pelosi.”

The locals are no better, sending me endless questionnaires to fill out so they can show how much alike we think after compiling the results. The recent hijacking of the election process reeks. Current ads for County Executive consist of saying things aren’t so good under the current guy, so elect me. No indication is given of what the challenger will do differently or better.

All of this led to me listing myself as an Independent when I submitted my form today. This was not without sacrifice. Independents can’t vote in Maryland primaries. The current governor notwithstanding, Maryland is such a one-party state the primary is often the only election that matters. Here in Prince George’s County, Jesus Christ Himself could run for County Executive and lose, if He ran as a Republican.

I’ll get over it. If they’re going to insist in acting abhorrently, they can’t have my name associated with them anymore. I’m sure they’ll get over it, too. I emailed the party about the recent manipulation of polling hours and got no reply. I returned the survey sent out by my state senator with a note asking for his positions before I gave him mine. No response.

Fine. Earn my vote, then. Start from scratch with everyone else. It may sound like the height of egotism for me to spend a thousand words or so on this, but that’s all I have. An election of a hundred million votes is really a hundred million discrete acts. This was mine. All I’m asking is for you to think that much about how the people who claim to represent actually do represent you, and respond according to your conscience.

It’s more than most of them will ever do.

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