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An Independent Shut Out Of A Defining Choice


February 14, 2008

I was bummed, envious and embarrassed during last week's Super Tuesday voting. Long before the polls closed and the results were announced, I had to be in the company of many people proudly wearing red, white and blue "I Voted" stickers. I didn't get one. State and party rules don't allow independents like me to vote in the primaries.

This would be OK with me if I thought that next November's election was the most important one. It often isn't. Winning a horse race is sometimes more about picking the right horse than running around the track. Likewise, winning a presidential election is often more about picking the right candidate than campaigning to the bittersweet end. Not being able to vote in the more important election disenfranchises me.

Party insiders claim that I do have a choice, that I am free to choose either donkey or elephant. But what if I'm a moose? What if I like blue and red equally? What if I believe our political system has bipolar disorder, has corrupted the election process more than it's helped it and has rendered third parties nettlesome? What if I believe that independent voters are the best voters because they're least controllable?

What's a columnist to do? You're reading my answer.

When I first moved to Connecticut, I was stunned to realize that in order to vote I had to leave my political independence at the door. I could no more easily leave my skin at the door. If you don't believe that an independent temperament is inborn, just ask the nearest preschool teacher, social psychologist or my own sweet mom. At family reunions, she still tells the story of how I refused any help getting into the high chair, even when I was hungry and it took me five minutes to climb that high. She knows that my habits of mind were formed in her womb and are unlike those of my twin brother.

I understand that if you don't join a club, church or other organization, then you shouldn't be allowed to play a role in shaping its future. But I don't want to shape the future of the Democratic or Republican organizations. I just want to cast my ballot in the defining election, regardless of whether it falls in February or November.

When Joe Lieberman ran as a Democrat during the 2006 Senate primary, I was so motivated to vote against his hawkish, pre-surge stance on the Iraq invasion that I registered as a Democrat to help him lose in what I thought would be the defining election. Joe did just the opposite. Having lost the primary as a Democrat, he ran as an independent to win. Whereas I resigned my temporary party affiliation on my way out of the polling place, Joe retained his independent status, even as he works as a shadow Democrat. It looks like he can have it both ways. I cannot. This is unfair.

This year, I was sorely tempted to register as a Republican so that I could vote against Mike Huckabee. Though I like him as well as I like Joe in general, I believe that his streak of evangelical Christianity would be nearly as great a threat to world peace as isLieberman's stance on Iraq.

Looking from the sidelines, I hope Obama wins the nomination.But if his party picks Hillary, I probably will vote for McCain. Why? Because my vote will be guided by the political distance between any candidate and the ruinous neo-conservative political establishment in Washington today.

Obama's intelligence, idealism and unwavering stance against the invasion stands light years apart from bilateral hemispheres of Bush's brain, namely Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. McCain's distinguished military record stands light-years apart from Bush's pathetic attempt in the armed services. (I believe that the nation has had enough of Iraq to stopMcCain on this issue).

Hillary clearly has presidential timber. She's tough, incredibly experienced, committed to this nation and one of the smartest debaters I've every seen. Unfortunately, she's a galaxy closer to business as usual than her competitors, in part because she voted to allow Bush his horrendous blunder.

I'm looking forward to receiving my red, white and blue sticker in November.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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