When I hear people say, “I’ve been a Registered Republican, Democrat, or Independent for thirty years,” I always feel like I’m missing out on something. Where does one go to register? I’m registered to vote, but no one asked my party. When I vote in a Primary (here in Illinois) I have to ask publicly for a Republican, Democrat, or non-partisan ballot. I think what ballot you get is a matter of public record, but that’s the only official acknowledgement of party affiliation I know of. (It’s obvious to me that this system of closed primaries is corrupt. The parties are in theory private organizations that can choose their candidate however they want. Yeah, well; Theory and practice…) I could ask for a different ballot each time I vote in a primary, or not vote in the primaries at all.
I guess I could call up one of the parties and ask how to formally join. Presumably I’d pay dues and get a card for my wallet. Then I’d be a party member, right comrade? Or I could just start my own party. I could be the Chief Registrar, and after I registered I’d be a registered nitwit.
The problem with joining a party is the same as the problem with joining anything, union, party, denomination, or social club. You gain strength and safety in numbers, and loose some autonomy. Soon I’d find myself trying to defend a position I didn’t agree with, or working to elect some toad because it was his turn, or hanging out with people I didn’t much care for. People like me (note the irony there) say with pride that they’re not joiners, but I’m not sure cranky independence is a course I’d recommend to anyone else. I suppose you can go too far either way.
Here’s a hopeful sign that enough of us may be able to rise above partisanship. Robert Hayes says whether President Bush or Senator Kerry wins, he’ll be My President Either Way. I hope we have a high turnout, a clean election, a clear winner, and an honorable looser. It’s not impossible; it requires that all of us remember that the process is more important than the outcome. It will also require that about half of us stifle our outrage and do what’s best for the country. If you want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women, you’ll have to achieve that through something other than the ballot box.