Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Was I invited to this party?

When I was approaching the age of 18, I was seriously thinking about how I would register myself to vote. I had grown up in a dyed-in-the-wool, old-school Republican household, but my older sister had outed herself to me as a Democrat a few years before. For the most part I found politics to be incredibly dull, but the way my father ranted at the evening news and my sister's passion for debate suggested there was more to it than my teenaged mind could yet comprehend.

Ultimately I opted to join no party, because it seemed like such a Big Deal to join either one. (I don't know if there simply were no other parties at the time, or if I was just ignorant of them; I knew that Anderson had run an impressive third campaign for the Presidency, but it never occurred to me that there were more options to choose from.) Even as a freshman in college I understood that a political party said something about your philosophy, and my own philosophy, that of a young man who hugged trees and hated everything else, didn't seem adequately represented.

I eventually joined a party and was quite content with it until I discovered it had a zillion different agendas that had nothing to do with my environmental positions. It was my fault for checking the box without doing my homework, and it actually served me well until it started fielding major candidates. I decided in the autumn that the party I was registered with had neither the power to accomplish anything of interest, nor the focus to accomplish much that I cared about, so I decided to change my registration to Republican.

Why Republican? Well, blame my father for that one - pretty much all my positive associations with the Republican brand come from him. Dad taught me that you don't solve problems by throwing money at them, that people need to live within their means without expecting a handout, and that we should have learned something from Prohibition before we started the War on Drugs. He believed that it's better to assume people are smart and ethical enough to make good decisions - but that you have to let them make bad decisions, too, without expectation of a handout from the government if you screw your life up.

The Republican party doesn't actually fit my own philosophy any better than the Green did, but it matches in different ways. I think the Green foreign policy platform is just as insane as the Republican energy policy. Truth is, there isn't a party out there that fits how I look at the world perfectly. From what I've read in this very blog, one either picks a party that fits one's philosophy or tries to mold one to that image. The former is impossible for me, and I don't care enough about politics to waste any effort on the latter. As my friends know, I expect to drift from party to party for the next couple of election cycles, seeing what different registrations feel like.

Of course, as long as I stick to New Paltz, my party affiliation is completely irrelevant. In fact, not only is mine irrelevant, I don't really care about anybody else's, either. People who are a party first and person next annoy me to no end. Political parties are a tool, and party loyalists lose track of that fact.

I've been actively lobbying a friend of mine to switch from a smaller party and become a Democrat for a few months now. My reasoning is that if, as I'm told, political decisions only get made in the Democratic caucus, that my friend, a politically active individual, should be in the thick of things trying to make changes. However I don't expect my advice to be heeded, because my friend doesn't wish to offend the head of the party by switching.

I understand that this isn't a big town, and people know each other, but are you going to political meetings to change the world or have drinks with friends? This is a college town - there are plenty of chances to have a drink with friends. I don't understand why someone would care about politics, and then associate emotions with it. Political activity is a tool that can accomplish many things, but so is a drill press - and I don't have a drink with my drill press.

Bill Mulcahy's letters to the editor suggest that so much is wrong in New Paltz because the Democrats control Town Hall. I sometimes agree with Bill's assessment of the problems, but I think it's because we elected five individuals that don't represent our interests. I don't care about their party affiliation, I care about who they are and what they do in the job. Yes, a party can suggest something about how a person would do a job if elected, but until I meet an honest politician I will think that party affiliation is an awfully speculative method of choosing a candidate.

I like the way the Village does it - parties really don't matter in those elections as much. I liked the last town council election even more - you can bet that every vote had thought put into it, if only to remember how to spell the candidate's name. I wonder if we can abolish petitions entirely in the Village and make all races entirely write-in campaigns? Sure would make the candidates work for every vote.

I know, if we did that we wouldn't get as many candidates that open doors for people, but hey, that's politics.


kt said...

such a wallflower...

Brittany Turner said...

Parties don't have anything to do with Village elections? Come on... I know you're not that naive.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud to be a Green because I vote with my heart. The two major parties not only do not fit my values, they have become increasingly heartless and mindless ---both locally and nationally.

I guess I'm silly and irrational and naive (Democrats are always saying so, so it must be true), but I have this insane idea that my political party should actually represent my values.

I've never been a member of a major party, because my parents instilled in me the belief that I shouldn't join groups that don't share my core values of justice, peace, and ecology. When I turned 18 I became a Green, and I have never looked back. I have watched with much sadness the two party system implode on itself and have seen what damage a two party system has caused my beloved country---without a vibrant third party (and fourth party! and fifth party!)---to shake things up and keep them in check, the two corporate-dominated parties seem to be competing to see who can hit ever-lower depths of ethical, fiscal and environmental depravity.

Why would a thinking person want to be a part of that scene? I'll never get it.

I certainly do not go to political meetings to have drinks with friends--my friends mostly do not go to political meetings. In fact, I don't go to have drinks with friends at all (I invite them to my house!). I don't know of any political parties who have meetings in bars-- though I have had great campaign meetings in bars.

I go to Green Party meetings because we live in an insane, pathetic world and my mission is to make my life an arrow pointing toward a better way of being.

Terence, could you please explain why in your view "the Green foreign policy platform is just as insane as the Republican energy policy"? I'd be interested to hear.

I invite all registered Greens (and guests!) to tonight's GP meeting: 7:30 at Village Hall. Come be a part of a real political party---one not beholden to corporate interests or wishy-wishy 2-party politics!

Anonymous said...

So many people in New Paltz complain about taxes and issues and then stick their heads in the ground. Politics is the process set up in this country to help make things happen with sensitivity to the public. Why is it that so many of our local elected officials lack substance? Think about it. Many in our community ignore the political process except for criticizing the leaders and few competent people want to step up to the plate because they know they can't please everyone and the abuse of the community is so strong that only the incompetents want to serve. They remain blissfully (or arrogantly )out of touch. When we get a good leader elected, we should give that person some slack. The county supervisor and two town board positions are up in November. Will someone competent please step forward and will everyone else please cut that person a little slack if elected. Ya can't always please everyone-- Hope you Green Party members in particular are paying attention.

rachel lagodka said...

OK I’m the friend. And I really do appreciate Terence. And he did nearly convince me 
But he’s got a few misconceptions I suppose I should lay straight lest anyone whose opinion I care about figures out it’s me and thinks I’m on crack.

First of all, I choose my vote with my brain, not my heart

If I was so worried about offending our party chair Lagusta I would have supported the last minute spoiler campaign this last election instead of running to Pennsylvania to campaign for Obama (as if that weren’t offensive enough). I just didn’t want to stand next to her with a sign for a different candidate after sitting at a table with her (not drinking but discussing policy). I’ve been participating with the New Paltz Green party consistently now for 9 years. You can’t expect that I would have no emotional attachment. And it is about the ideals because really only a few of them are my friends. Some of them publicly snub me and have seriously undermined my work for the environment! Also, they don’t invite me out to drink much and besides I’m not much of a drinker can’t afford to do that too often anyhow. I have no idea how Terene got that idea about me, though it does seem to be common (and perhaps necessary) for Greens to drink a lot on campaigns. And while there are some Greens to whose companionship I would prefer a drill press, there are others I truly admire and appreciate. I told you him I admired Lagusta as our party chair. She’s a vegan with a green vegan business. I wish it were more common that Greens, including me, lived out their ideals more concretely as individuals in addition to advocating change to society as a whole. I wish all the Greens were vegans, or at least vegetarians like me. If you stop eating meat it saves an acre of trees per year. There are some things about the New Paltz Greens I’m proud of and others I’m not, but on the whole, in the long run, I think that the New Paltz Greens have had a positive effect on the community.

Brittany Turner said...

I'm not familiar with a last-minute GP spoiler campaign in this last election, or any other for that matter.

Terence said...


What I don't care for in the Green platform on foreign policy is the desire to broker a better peace between Israel and Palestine. I think it's got one of the same problems as the Republican energy policy - it keeps us in the Middle East. We don't belong there, we risk our national security by being there, and we're not particularly wanted there. This country needs to focus on removing itself from that region entirely.

One of the side benefits of switching to a non-petroleum energy system in this country would be that the price of oil would drop so far and so fast that no one would have any money to spend attacking Israel anyway. Hard to focus on building a better suicide bomb if your biggest export is sand.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Terence and Rachel. Terence, It is my understanding that the national Green Party wishes to help bring a more lasting peace in the Middle East as a sort of humanitarian mission, not as a way to keep our fingers in the pie. I agree (as do most Greens, I suspect) that we do not belong there. I could also be totally wrong about the position of the national GP, as that is not where I focus my efforts.

And of course, Brittany, good point.