This may not mean anything to anybody, but today, I officially changed my voter registration from “Democrat” to “Unaffiliated.” So, for the first time since I registered to vote nearly 18 years ago, I am a man without a party. This day has been inevitable since Hillary Clinton lost in November, but it has been reinforced based on what I see from Democrats these days, on both the state and national level.
The Democrats just can’t seem to put the events of 2016 behind them. Discussions of pre-selecting candidates before conventions/primaries/caucuses to try and get the “best candidate” on the ballot seems kind of shady to me. The constant back and forth between the supporters of Bernie Sanders (whom I voted for in our caucus last year) and Hillary Clinton (whom I voted for in November) is preventing the party from focusing on what they really need to focus on: competing against Republicans at all levels.
Instead, the focus is on infighting and trying to litigate the 2016 election between Sanders and Clinton. Or pushing Democrats to register as Republicans to “get a voice” in Utah politics. Or nominating a terrible candidate because they have a “big war chest” and “campaign infrastructure.” We currently have one of the least popular presidents of the modern era, with a looming mid-term election next year, elections that tend to be very bad for the party in power – does nobody remember what happened to the Democrats in 2010? It seems that the Democrats have, at least based on their behavior over the past year or so.
So instead of constantly wondering if I am even a Democrat anymore – it feels like you need to answer the Bernie v. Hillary question for someone to decide if you are or not – I’ve decided to stop identifying as one. I’m still left of center on nearly every issue, and will continue to vote for candidates that align with me in that way. I remain hopeful that the party will find its way sooner rather than later, and that it can unite to #FliptheHouse and maybe get to a tie in the Senate in 2018, in preparation of taking back the White House in 2020. It was only nine years ago that President Obama received the most votes of any presidential candidate in American history, and that was long before the current administration decided to turn our democracy into legalized grift.
I had high hopes for the Democratic Party here in Utah as well, that they could finally find a strategy to start chipping away at the GOP super-majority that exists in our state. Instead, factions fight against each other, uniting for and against certain people and continuing to fight on Facebook about leadership races that were settled months ago. They should be focusing on building a bench by running a Democrat in every state race next year. However, the first question seems to be “are you establishment or progressive?” when someone decides they want to enter the fray, instead of providing them with the support that is needed to run an uphill campaign as a liberal in Utah. Running a campaign is hard; running one without the support of your nominal party is even harder.
I don’t know how long I will remain unaffiliated; living in Utah currently allows me to be unaffiliated but still vote in Democratic primaries and/or caucuses. And should I end somewhere else in the future, I’m sure I’ll register as a Democrat if that means participating in the party-based elections in that place. But for now, I plan instead on focusing on the merits of each individual candidate instead of the letter by their name (which I mostly do anyway) and hope that the party that I “joined” in December 1998 finds its way before too long.
Until next time…