I have been a Democrat most of my life. Not once have I voted for a Republican candidate for President, and very seldom have I voted anything other than a straight D punch. There have been a few times that I may have felt it necessary to hold my nose while voting, but I “did my duty” and cast my vote for the Party if not the individual.
My sister calls me a “Dyed-in-the-Wool Democrat.” I have preferred the term “Yellow Dog Democrat” – meaning that if a yellow dog was running on the Democratic ticket, I’d have been inclined to vote for him.
But not this year. Here’s why.
On the national level, both parties have become so corrupted by the influence of big money that it’s impossible to trust either of them to do what’s right. For example, the healthcare reform bill that was signed into law by President Obama in 2010 was a massive gift to the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, having been largely shaped and molded by their lobbying efforts. If one of the defining achievements of the Democrats under Obama’s leadership is so tainted, how can one have faith in the rest of their policies? I won’t even start on the cozy relationship between the Obama Administration and the banksters, the revolving door between the government and Monsanto, the extrajudicial execution of American citizens, the codifying into law of indefinite detention. This is what the Democrats have to offer. None of it is acceptable to me.
Yes. Yes, I know. Of course the Republicans “are worse” – both in measure and in kind. So have we come to a lesser of two evils as default? Is that truly the only choice left to us?
Let’s turn to the local level. In my state, Democratic governor Pat Quinn has announced his intention to make deep cuts in Medicaid and human services and in the state’s pension programs. The result of these cuts will be increased misery for working people, children, the poor and the elderly. Protecting the most vulnerable among us from the ravages of poverty, and ensuring that there are opportunities for everyone in our society to advance in life is at the very core of what it has meant to be a Democrat for nearly a century. It is painfully evident that such is no longer the case.
Yes. Yes, I know. “Somebody has to make these hard choices. Somebody has to be the grownup in the room. Somebody has to deal with these shortfalls.” Again, of course the Republicans are worse. They offer no solutions, except even further cuts to essential programs, plus the prospects of further tax cuts that will make the problems even more acute. Does the obvious fact that the Republicans offer no viable alternative relieve the Dems of their obligation to offer principled solutions? I, for one, think not. How about ending giveaways to the Chicago Board of Trade, Sears, the Mercantile Exchange, et al, before we start hammering the piss out of the poor?
The examples cited above barely scratch the surface. To catalog the entire range of egregious sins of the Democrats in our day (both nationally and locally) would take more time than I care to offer, and I suspect that I’m boring you already.
It should be noted that I do not come happily to a decision to leave my Party this year. I was an early and ardent supporter of President Obama (and I still hope against hope that he will surprise us in a second term and lead us beyond the rocky ground). I was the coordinator in my county for Governor Quinn’s election campaign last time (though I now fear that he is beyond redemption). I still serve as treasurer of the Coles County Democratic Party, and plan to complete my term (a few more weeks). I wish the Democrats every success. I cannot, however, support them with my vote nor my contributions until their conscience has been found.
In the meantime, I’m a man without a party. I will not vote in the Primary Election in Illinois this year for the first time since 1976. I have not yet decided whether to vote in the Fall of 2012. That will depend on whether or not there is a candidate and a platform outside of the two major parties that reflect my convictions.
Godspeed the day when we face better choices once again.