I did something drastic this week. For the first time in my voting life, I am no longer a registered Republican. That’s right, I joined the big D when I updated my voter registration at the DMV. I have to admit, it feels weird to no longer be a “card carrying Republican” after being one since I was 18.
Times change, though, and people tend to change with them. The grand old party, the party of Ronald Reagan, can no longer adequately represent my interests. Of course, I’m not terribly sure the democrats will do any better and if truth be told I really wanted to register as an independent. However, because of California’s closed primaries I would not have been able to be adequately represented in the primaries as an independent so I held my nose and checked the democrat box.
In reality, I think none of the political parties are doing an adequate job. Democrats, once the bastion of the common man, now seem to be entirely too far left and are a haven for out of touch intellectuals who prefer to talk a problem to death. The GOP, once the party of the rich conservative, has turned into a far right haven for big government, big spender types who pay only a passing nod to civil rights and who often leap before they look.
I used to firmly identify as a Republican on several key points… points that at one time were linchpins of the party platform. These points included personal responsibility, smaller government and fiscal responsibility. My viewpoints haven’t changed that much, but the party has shifted well away from these middle of the road values in some sort of attempt to capture fringe voters of every ilk. The Democrats aren’t much better, but at least I can identify a little more closely with some of the compassionate conservatives within the party even if they don’t seem to be leading the parade right now.
Maybe it’s time to rework the whole American political process. The electoral college has already proved it’s inability to adequately represent the popular vote, disenfranchising a lot of people in the process. When a candidate wins a state, they win every single electoral vote in the state without any representation for the losing side. For example, California will most assuredly award all of her electoral votes to Kerry this year, even though a statistically significant number of Republicans will be voting for Bush. Kansas will go the other way, awarding her entire suite to Bush even though there are hundreds of thousands of Democrats voting otherwise.
This ties into our two party system as well, and makes it especially difficult to elect a viable third party candidate. The best a third party candidate can realistically hope for in this day and age is to play “spoiler” to the election, siphoning enough votes from one candidate to allow the other to win. This is widely suspected to be the case in the 2000 election, with Nader siphoning just enough votes to put Bush over the top in some key battlegrounds, giving him the entire electoral basket.
Neither party, in my opinion, adequately represents the hearts and minds of real American voters. On the contrary, most people I’ve talked to either voluntarily disenfranchise themselves (by abstaining from the voting process altogether) or end up holding their nose and voting for the least repugnant candidate, sometimes casting a protest vote against a candidate instead of being able to get behind a candidate they support. This all results in a feeling of disconnection from the political process, a feeling that not only are we not represented but we are actually marginalized and ignored in the process.
No, the present system is in dire need of a complete overhaul. We need a viable multi-party system that can adequately field candidates that truly represent American wishes and ideals. We need a direct popular vote for office instead of an antiquated electoral college that sometimes puts the loser of the popular vote into office. We need politicians that remember who they work for, what they are supposed to accomplish and have a firm commitment to at least attempting to do the right thing.
Most of all, we need fresh ideas, better answers and smarter leaders. The ones we have right now just aren’t cutting it.