Despite having voted along straight party lines my entire life and never even entertaining the thought of voting for a Republican or Independent, I just switched my registration from Democrat to No Party. Maybe my story can lend some insight into why only 14% say the US is heading in the right direction and even a majority of Democrats agree.
The first election I was eligible to vote in was in 2000 in the state of NY. It was an exciting opportunity to vote for two people who I greatly admire: Al Gore for President and Hillary Clinton for Senate. The country had just experienced almost a decade of prolonged economic expansion as a result of pragmatic policies enacted under Bill Clinton’s leadership and two people who contributed heavily to “building a bridge to the 21st century” were on the ballot. The Republican candidate for President was unapologetic about his ignorance and his performance in each of the debates left me alternating between puzzlement and laughter. I simply could not imagine supporting any candidate who seemed so poorly capable of assuming the reigns of leadership, and seemed to revel in that incompetence.
For the next 8 years, my anger at Bush’s misguided policy decisions left me with the belief that I could never support a Republican candidate, even as I was disappointed with the Democrats for not challenging him on the important issues that would later prove to be so disastrous for our country: massive unaffordable tax cuts, the Bush Doctrine of unilateral action that strained relationships with our allies, the cozy relationships fostered between the regulators and those they were supposed to be regulating, and missing the warning signs of the financial crisis. Since I believed that a vote for an independent with no chance of winning was effectively a lost vote, I voted only for Democrats.
In 2008, I was an enthusiastic Obama supporter. He seemed to emphasize all the right things: the importance of accountability and transparency, the need to repair our relationships with our allies and ensure that even our enemies were afforded the protections they are due under our legal system, and the need to work together, across party lines, to solve the difficult problems we face as a nation. But, there has been almost no accountability for those whose misbehavior precipitated the financial crisis, CIA torturers, or telecommunications companies that illegally wiretapped Americans without warrants. Military tribunals continue and Guantanamo remains open. And, worst of all, our economic problems persist because both parties refuse to make the compromises that are necessary to restore confidence in our ability to bring our fiscal house in order.
It is easy to blame the Republicans and their idiotic “no revenue increases” position for undermining deficit reduction negotiations. But, let’s not forget that Obama’s original bipartisan deficit reduction panel’s recommendations were ignored because it would require entitlement reform, and Democrats have been as dogmatic about protecting entitlement spending as Republicans have been about “no revenue increases.” Would it really be that bad if we reduced Medicare spending by negotiating with drug companies to reduce reimbursements? At times, Democrats seem to be openly calling for class warfare but, for some reason, they think that billionaires need their Social Security checks so badly that means testing is off the table. The reason I am now affiliated with No Party is that I see the grey areas that could lead to acceptable compromises, whereas over 37,000 Democrats have signed Alan Grayson’s “No Cuts” petition and seem resolved to counter Tea Party insanity with their own breed of mental instability (to be honest, I originally thought it was a joke as I have a great deal of respect for Alan Grayson).
As a member of the 86% of America that feel we are headed in the wrong direction, I know that we need to find common ground to solve our nation’s problems and want leaders that can bridge the widening gap between left and right. I’m sure if Daily Kos readers gave it the least bit of thought, they would even find some small common ground with the Tea Party. Anger towards the bailouts and lack of accountability for those responsible for the financial crisis, belief in the need for a domestic energy infrastructure (though they prefer using oil/coal along with renewable sources), and a desire to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and restore civil liberties are just a few of the areas of opportunity for cooperation. If the ACLU can work together with Bob Barr (they were focused on protecting privacy) then surely Democrats could find some common ground with the Tea Party if they wanted to. But, the fact is they DON’T! The government is dysfunctional because both parties seem to prefer it that way. Personally, I prefer solutions to dysfunction even if it means I am no longer a Democrat.