I have chosen to write about party politics for my first post because it is something I have been spending a lot of time pondering these last few months.
Before I begin, I must write, in full disclosure, that I am a registered Republican. So… for those who wish to stop reading now because of that, I would challenge you to read on… as you might just find yourself pondering party politics as well.
This past year, I ran for county commissioner. For those who do not know the process, in Florida, a candidate can pay a filing fee or get a set number of petitions signed. The petition method is one many candidate choose; it requires a registered voter in the district or area to print their name, enter their date of birth or voter registration number, address, signature and date. It is nonpartisan as the only requirement is the person completing the petition be a registered voter in the district or area – in my case, it was Santa Rosa County.
So away I went, attending events and going door-to-door to get petitions signed.
One Saturday morning, I walked a small neighborhood and came to a nice house. Before I could push the door bell, a man of about 55 answered the door. This startled me and the man laughed when he saw my expression.
“I saw you walk up,” he said.
I thought this was a good start since he seemed to be in a good mood. I laughed and began my introduction.
“Hi, my name is Yvonne Harper and I’m running for District 4 County Commissioner and if you are a registered voter, would you sign a petition for me. It’s doesn’t mean you will vote for me, only that my name can be put on the ballot.”
“Are you a Republican?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
“You’re a liar!” he harshly said.
At that moment I was taken aback because we had never met. I knew nothing of him and he knew nothing of me, yet there he stood, calling me a liar.
“No, I’m not,” I offered.
“You’re a Republican and you’re all liars,” he shot back.
“Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do not lie,” said I.
This did not nothing to assuage his passion and he stated, with conviction, that the most liberal person ever wrote the Constitution. I could tell this conversation was going to get interesting and as I love discussing America’s Founding Fathers, I thought that maybe there was hope for this conversation and the dialogue would be one of exchanging ideas. I replied, “And who would that be?”
“James Madison,” he said, as if I was the biggest idiot on the planet.
I can never resist correcting people who think this, so I calmly stated, “James Madison did not write the Constitution as there were 55 men at the Constitutional Convention. He drafted it because he was the Secretary and kept impeccable notes. However, he wasn’t the only one with input. Also, Gouverneur Morris wrote the preamble.”
“No! James Madison wrote it and he was a liberal!,” he said.
Trying to get on the same page, I asked him to explain what he meant by “liberal” and he replied that Madison favored a big federal government.
“Well, actually, according to the Federalist Papers, of which he wrote many, (“I know, I’ve read them,” he interjected) then you know while he favored a stronger federal government, he believed it should be limited in scope and nature and that it would rely on the people, not that the people would rely on the government. And this is what I believe. I believe government should be limited and first and foremost exists to protect our liberties.”
To this he replied that I didn’t know what I was talking about and then he began a tirade about how evil Republicans are and how corrupt they are in Washington. I attempted to tell him that as county commissioner, I would not be responsible for federal law and that is as far as I got, because at that point, my husband walked up and he spat out,
“I’m not signing that damn thing!”
With that he walked into his house and slammed the door.
Well, so much for that, I thought.
Now before you get too upset, it must be noted that there were many people whose first question was, “Are you a Republican? Because if you’re not, I’m not signing it.”
Over the months, leading up to the Primary, I was blessed to meet many wonderful people, but sadly, many considered my party affiliation over more important matters, such as the kind of person I am, what I believed or what I thought was important for the county.
After the primary, I found that I could not support the winner. For those who do not know, Florida has a closed primary system, meaning only registered Republicans could vote for the six Republican candidates. Now if anyone other than the the winner had won, I could’ve supported the candidate, but I couldn’t not support the winner. The reasons at this point are not relevant.
Well, because I believe in standing for what is right and supporting the best candidate, I supported the Libertarian candidate for the General Election. Again, another conversation took place that left me wondering just what country I lived in.
At a Republican meeting, I was told by a woman, “If you can’t vote for the Republican candidate, then don’t vote.”
Not sure if I correctly heard her, I asked, “So what you’re telling me is that if I can’t vote for the Republican, I should not vote at all?”
“Yes,” she said, without the slightest hesitation.
I stood there, stunned into silence – which at that time was a good thing – that I would be told not to vote if I couldn’t vote “Republican.” It didn’t matter that the Libertarian candidate was ethical and had a history of working hard and holding local government officials accountable – all that matter was she wasn’t a Republican.
Fast forward to election day. As I stood outside one of the polls supporting another candidate, several voters came out and asked me about the candidate whose shirt I wore.
Having to remind myself that I was representing this great candidate, I told them about her. In my head I was thinking, “What?!? Are you kidding?!? You just voted – what difference does it make now?”
However, I kept it professional and after telling the person about the candidate, I asked, “So who did you vote for?”
“I don’t know, I voted straight Republican.”
Wow!!! In other words, the voters who said this didn’t know who they voted for, they merely looked at party affiliation and voted accordingly. Now, before you think, “Yeah, just like a Republican,” unfortunately this happens in both parties. The one deciding factor when it comes to voting for a person, the one that tops all others, is party affiliation.
My next post will attempt to explain why this way of voting is bad for our country, but for now, I will leave you with words from a man who understood human nature and warned against dividing ourselves into party.
“Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally…
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; And sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
…the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it…
It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection…
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.”
– George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
Until next post… happy thinking.