Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Republican Dilemma

I joined the Republican party a couple of years ago. I wasn't satisfied with my previous registration, largely due to my own ignorance about that party's positions, and I decided to start shopping around for one that fit me better.  I don't subscribe to the idea that political parties are inherited on faith like religions (okay, I don't subscribe to that idea for religions, either), but I opted to join the party of my parents to make an informed decision.  The fact that Republicans have a reputation for villainy also factored in, because whenever it becomes socially acceptable to bash a group, I want to know more.

So last year I went to the New Paltz Republican caucus for the first time, and it was suggested that I nominate Mike Nielson for Highway Superintendent.  He didn't take the line, but his actions since would make any fiscal conservative proud, especially considering that one longtime member told me afterwards, "Let's see if your boy Nielson can do the work with his full-time job in Kingston."  It was certainly a splashy way to enter into party politics.

Nevertheless, I regret doing it, and I won't do it again.

As I told Nielson recently, if we're going to have party politics, let's have party politics.  Although my nomination failed, at least two registered Democrats ran on the Republican line for town positions last year.  I don't think that's right.

There are good reasons for a candidate to want his or her name on more than one line.  And with the timing of local caucuses - this year both are expected to be in August - it makes sense to try for as many as possible, to avoid that awkward feeling when your own party gives the nod to someone else.  It's legal and it's appropriate.

It also undermines democracy.

In college, I made it a habit of running for the main leadership role of a club I belonged to every year.  I never wanted the position, but it bothered me that only one candidate was willing to step up. That's not democracy by any measure I understand, even if it works in countries like China and Russia.  Democracy is about choice, and not just the choice of which line to vote for Toni Hokanson on.

I'm a thinking voter, and I do my best to choose a candidate based on qualifications.  I've never voted a party line in my life.  Many people do vote their party line, though, and don't care about choices, because they only see their preferred row.  These folks are also done a disservice, because in their ignorance they can cast a vote for someone who isn't a member of their own party.

So my dilemma is that there are some good candidates in this town who I may vote for in November, but whom I won't be supporting come the caucus because they belong to another party, and in my mind belong on another line.  But New Paltz is a town virtually run by a cabal which excludes not only Republicans, but many Democrats and virtually all members of other parties.

In short, there's no qualified Republicans willing to step up.  No one willing to help me, to help us have a choice.

To curtail any suggestions to the contrary, I have a career I love which requires me to be out of town when most local meetings are held.  That alone makes me an inappropriate candidate for any local elected office, so I can't step up and put my money where my mouth is.

I'd like to shake the trees, though, and help find some willing citizens to take a stab at civic duty.  New Paltz has too long been bereft of choice on Election Day, and I for one would very much like to help solve that problem at the Republican caucus by casting a vote for a GOP candidate or two.

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