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Friday, December 09, 2005

Party Pooping

After reading Burnt Orange Report's post concerning speculation that Carole Strayhorn might abandon the Republican party (as she once abandoned the Democratic party) to run for Texas governor as an independent, I half-facetiously commented with this:
I like the idea of someone who has officially rejected both parties considering that joining a party seems to be the first step towards political corruption. Perhaps people who join parties ought to be stripped of their right to run for office. We should still let them vote though, I suppose.
Thinking about it a day later, I like the idea even more.

It seems to me that someone who has officially quit both parties isn't as likely to be told what to do by outside interests. I've always felt that people who believe that one party is more or less corrupt than the other are only kidding themselves. The basic problem is that once politicians get entangled in a party, their loyalties shift from their constituents to the party they rely upon for coin. This seems, more often than not, the root of a number of political problems that we see today ranging from the crooked financial dealing being exposed in congress to Bush family cronyism to actions that hover in the gray world between political revenge and treason.

I have no problem when people say that they are liberal, conservative, libertarian (with a lowercase l), moderate, whatever. I am deeply suspicious, though, of anyone who says he or she is a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or anything with a capital letter. Now, I'm not saying that everyone who joins a party is a crook or a traitor, but I do think that people who run as a member of a party have taken the first step on that road.

A local example. In 2003, the Texas GOP, under the influence of Tom DeLay, launched an apparently crooked mid-decade redistricting effort that split my home county of Travis into three districts in an effort to eliminate Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat. Incidentally, this is why DeLay now believes he can't get a fair trial in Austin. Doggett kept his seat, but the effort managed to add several GOP congress-stooges to the US House, all of whom, naturally, owe everything to DeLay and the GOP machine that put them there and very little to the people who actually voted for them.

The most appalling thing, though, was the behavior of several members of the Texas House who went against the interests of their Travis county constituents and voted to spilt Travis County into three congressional districts in such a way that the city of Austin now has no US Congressional representative to call its own. I engaged in a thoughtful and interesting email discussion with my local house member, and the bottom line for him was that he had to stand with his "friends" (Tom DeLay) who had helped elect him. In the 2004 elections, the voters of Travis County wisely threw this guy out.

However, to say that corruption is a Republican problem is a fool's paradise. This is why I won't join a party, and will even support a competent candidate who is loyal to his or her constituents over a disloyal or incompetent one, regardless of either hypothetical politician's party affiliation. I usually vote towards the left and since I live in the real world, I find I usually support Democrats over independents. I hate it, but there it is. Joining a party makes one an enabler, so when voting for either party, I'm hurting the state or the country. Of course, voting for independents seems to help Republicans, which in these times hurts us more. The best situation would be the total and simultaneous collapse of both parties, but that doesn't seem likely.

Ultimately, I don't know who I'll support for Texas Governor except that it won't be Rick Perry. I will also sit out the 2006 primaries so that I can sign Kinky Friedman's petition to be added to the ballot as an independent. At least he's trying. If Strayhorn decides to prove just how tough a grandma she is by going indy, that's even better.

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Blogger Jessica said...

I'm in an argumentative mood, bear with me. Aren't politics (whether good or bad) all about relationships with people? I understand your point about people who get sucked into the undertow of strongarm tactics and sleezy party bosses (cough, DeLay). I think refusing to join any party, though, isn't necessarily a sign of free-thinking and loyalty to constituents. It might be a sign of "Does not play well with others."

I like parties because I know I can count on people within my party to have certain leanings in their decisions. They should have the strength and quality of character to buck their party now and then and to buck the popular (or constituent) opinion now and then.

Take Jesse Ventura, my former governor. There's a free spirit who even split off from the Independents. He had great ideas (education funding aside), but he was terrible at winning supporters. The end result was that he accomplished very little.

3:44 PM  
Blogger James said...

Jessica, nothing wrong with feeling argumentative.

Your point about being willing to buck the party and/or the constituents now and then is well taken, and I agree that being independent is not automatically a sign of free-thinking (and it certainly doesn't automatically signify competence) plus the difficulty of accomplishing things when both parties don't want to play is certainly a problem.

Here in Texas, we have a lack of leadership, independent thinking, substantive debate, or accomplishent in any significant area. The R's run the show, but the D's let them get away with it.

As to the two candidates I mentioned in my post, I think Friedman plays nice with others, as you put it, whereas Strayhorn does not.

Having said that, I think staying out of the parties (and in Texas that's easy to do since you don't have to join a party to vote in a primary) can, in an ideal world anyway, force candidates to win votes on the strength of their own ideas and vision rather than a shared party loyalty. That's a trait I admire.

I guess that's way I don't join, but still wind up being a de-facto Democrat, which sometimes annoys me and sparks long posts.

Thanks for reading.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

My pleasure.

5:48 PM  

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