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.