If all the candidates from both major parties were lined up and I rated them, 10 being “I’m very enthusiastic,” and 1 being “I have no enthusiasm,” no one would score a very high number. But there are some GOP candidates where I would be asking, “Can I use a negative number?”
It’s something most of my friends don’t know about me, but it’s true: I was raised by Republicans.
When I was old enough to ask why they were Republican, my parents told me that Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility, not like those tax-and-spend Democrats. For them, it was all about the Benjamins. But when I became of voting age, I didn’t have a lot of Benjamins, and I pretty much thought the idea of affiliating oneself with a political party was (and I think this is a direct quote from my younger self) “stupid.” So I registered as an Independent.
As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, I began to hear some dissatisfaction from my parents about the GOP. In my weekly phone calls to them, I heard comments about certain politicians “sticking their nose into people’s private business.” My mother, an Anatomy professor, was increasingly annoyed at attempts to legislate on social issues such as (but not limited to) abortion. My father pointed out attempts to blur the separation-of-church-and-state line. The more I listened, the more I agreed with them. Soon I was mad as a wet hen. But was there anything I could do, beyond voting, to send my message of dissatisfaction to Washington?
And then it occurred to me: I could change my party affiliation from Independent to Democrat. It wasn’t that I was enthusiastic about the Democrats. My message was that I wasn’t pleased with the direction of the other party. It took a few years, but I eventually convinced my parents to become registered Democrats too, and I assumed that was the last I would think about my party affiliation. And it was.
Until this year.
If all the candidates from both major parties were lined up and I rated them, 10 being “I’m very enthusiastic,” and 1 being “I have no enthusiasm,” no one would score a very high number. But there are some GOP candidates where I would be asking, “Can I use a negative number?” In other words, I may be voting against a candidate in the general election rather than for one. And deciding in November which lever to pull (well, it’s actually a felt tip pen on a piece of paper in our town) will probably be a very easy decision. The more complicated decision is what to do about the primary.
In primaries past, I’ve focused on which Democrat I want to win so that I can vote for them in the general election. But now I find myself caring less about who is on the Democratic ticket (weirdly so, since the two major candidates are so different) and caring more about who that Democrat will be running against. Among my friends here in our very blue state of residence, there are two camps: 1) Bring on the crazy front-runner Republicans, because that’s a sure win for the Democratic ticket, and 2) I’m really, really scared. I fall into the latter category, and the former category is shrinking fast.
So I once again find myself asking, what can I do about my unhappiness with the Republican party? And I once again find my answer in party affiliation.
This week, I went online and changed my party affiliation from Democrat back to Independent. I did this so that I can vote in the Republican primary. Who will I vote for? I’m not entirely sure. All I know is a handful of Republicans I will NOT be voting for.
The casting of this single primary vote won’t change anything. But I need to know I did everything I could to prevent certain Republican candidates from winning that primary. And I hope that perhaps by writing this, I can inspire others to do the same if it helps them get the candidates they want in the general election. And by “others”, I also mean Republicans. If they see a Democratic candidate that makes them as scared as I am, by all means, they should vote in that primary. We all have a right to vote in any one primary of our choosing. And no one should have to walk into the voting booth in November, look at the choice of candidates, and feel fear.
Connie Hertzberg Mayo is a longtime resident of the Boston area. Her debut novel,The Island of Worthy Boys, was published by She Writes Press in October 2015. Find out more at www.conniemayo.com.