I’m a political conscientious objector in the sense that contrary to widespread belief, there is no Constitutional sanction for the two-party system, and consequently, I refuse to accept a dual monopoly that I perceive as being consistently detrimental to the American public interest.
Apologists praise the two-party system for its supposed tendency to filter extremism and hew to the centrist middle ground – and I scoff at it for the same reason. To paraphrase the newly rehabilitated Barry Goldwater, extremism in pursuit of progress sometimes is no vice.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve neither the rampant warm fuzzies for the tribal allegiances therein, nor great affection for the implicit and explicit divisions of power maintained by the status quo that both parties have an obvious vested interest in maintaining.
That said, it is undeniable that I’ve voted Democratic far more often than not, reserving my periodic third-party (or no party) protest votes for those situations where the conceptual futility of the two-party system is so patently obvious, but the outcome of the race sufficiently preordained, that my protest vote is not wasted.
That’s because philosophically and temperamentally, there is nothing in conservatism or fundamentalism for me, as witnessed by a recent Economist observation that nine of ten born-again whites support the war in Iraq. For reasons like this and other personal considerations, the pragmatic choice generally has been the Democratic candidate.
There have been exceptions, and so it goes … but not happily.
Regular readers of NA Confidential know that my periodic outbursts of anguish at the renewed prospect of trudging to the polls to vote “against” the greater of two mediocre frauds rather than “for” a genuinely principled platform have grown more frequent with advancing age. I’m increasingly resentful of an institutionalized monopoly of power that cannot, by its very nature, provide a reasonable outlet for my beliefs and for the beliefs of numerous others like me.
You’ve witnessed abundant proof of my disaffection during the past week.
Like Lear on the storm-tossed heath, I’ve bellowed and raged at a Democratic congressional challenger whose apparent eagerness to occupy political ground firmly to the right of center encourages me in absolutely no way whatsoever – and the concurrent knowledge that the incumbent Mike Sodrel’s political world view is even more antithetical to my personal beliefs leads yet again to the numbing realization that I inhabit an inhospitable climate dedicated to providing me with little or no political choice – except once again to vote against Sodrel by voting for the only candidate with a realistic chance of beating him.
And that’s Baron Hill.
These perfectly legitimate qualms aside, it of course remains true that the enemy of my enemy is indeed my friend, and by this logic, I’ve persisted in believing that a sense of satisfaction might yet derive from “fellow traveler” status with relation to the local branch of the Democratic Party, and that perhaps local independents might yet partake of some measure of political sustenance accordingly … and yet it is this perhaps forlorn hope that has been the most cruelly dashed of all.
Even an educated, youthful and reformist local Democratic leadership slate has been unable or unwilling to stand on specifics, instead allowing the traditional vacuum of ideas to persist and to preserve the local political party as little more than a fraternal club, one devoid of stated platform, coherent principle or any real plan beyond a willingness to draw the requisite number of paychecks once in office.
And just look where long decades of that variety of planning has taken New Albany. 3rd District councilman Steve Price may be a nonentity, but he didn’t create the mess. He inherited it, and not unexpectedly, hasn’t the slightest clue as to how it might be improved.
But don’t give me the knee-jerk objection that local Republicans would do much better. They, too, have ample opportunity to stand for some doctrine applicable to the street where you live, and they, too, steadfastly refuse to provide local vision in comprehensible form.
Over the long post-war era of underachievement, Republican officials have failed as spectacularly as Democrats, and like their opponents, they’ve been rewarded for non-accomplishment by continuing to participate in the division of spoils made possible by the two-party system – truly the devil we know, but bringing us to a juncture where meritocracy might as well be a discredited Balkan feudal system of government.
Oddly, and tellingly, the personal and professional achievements of the sitting Democratic leadership slate powerfully refute the oft-repeated notion that local politics is somehow immune from the organization, planning and vision that are required of all of us in everyday life. You can bet that Randy Stumler, a teacher, conducts class with a carefully prepared lesson plan. Tony Toran’s church sermons are anything but streams of random consciousness without ultimate purpose. Marcey Wisman’s heroic work with insufficient resources as city clerk is the stuff of systemization legend.
All we independents and contrarians ask is that these same obvious and admirable skills be put to the task of transforming their party into a thinking entity with vision, one capable of slightly more than the bare minimum required to win elections – namely, a party capable of performing at a higher and more relevant level of skill and achievement once in office.
For those proceeding to the seemingly reasonable argument that a tactical alliance with independent non-Democrats holds no electoral benefit for the Democratic Party itself, need I point to the steadily growing Republican sentiment in Floyd County, something that inevitably is leaking into previously unassailable Democratic bastions in New Albany, themselves increasingly filled with rental properties that do not house reliable voters? Verily, the old realities are yielding to the new … and the new are requiring a different bedside manner than good old boy network that previously sufficed, and which continues to cough up Coffeyesque demagogues like so many feline hairballs.
To repeat, it is my earnest wish to be able to vote for the Democrats, and not merely against the Republicans, and I suspect there is a small and growing cadre of urban independents who agree.
But we must be given a bone in the shape of something strategic – it need not be everything, at least at first – to indicate a Democratic pulse, to show Democratic vision, and to display Democratic leadership, and lacking such a sign, it’s worth remembering that although it is probably unlikely (yet not impossible) that the city’s independents will soon defect en masse to the Republican Party, the days of the lock-step are going quickly … and the prospect of sitting on our hands on Election Day becomes ever brighter.
Previously in NA Confidential: Bluegill’s Meet The New Boss…