What’s it like to be a Democrat? I’ll soon find out.
A few months ago I moved to a district with no serious Republican contenders for any office, in a state, Maryland, with a closed primary. There’s plenty of reason why I’d like to vote in the Democratic primary, and little reason not to.
If you don’t have a contested Republican primary to vote in, you might consider making your voice heard, too. First make sure your state’s primary is on or before March 2; the likelihood that the nomination will still be contested very long after that date is small enough that you needn’t bother worrying about this. If you’re registered to vote in South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, or Vermont, you simply need to show up and ask for a Democratic ballot; in Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota you get both parties’ ballots automatically, and your choice is private.
It’ll take a little more work in other states. You’ll have to register as a Democrat by a certain deadline in Connecticut and (of course) Maryland; in New Hampshire, Arizona, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, you don’t need to directly affiliate yourself with the Party of McAuliffe to influence it — you can vote in the Democratic primary if you register as an independent. (In New York and Delaware, the deadline has already passed, and New Hampshire Republicans had better hurry — you have only until tomorrow.)
If you do decide to cross over, for whom should you vote?
If you’re a fan of President Bush, you might be tempted to vote for a candidate that starts with an electoral disadvantage — too liberal, too Northeastern, etc. But that’s folly. The American electorate is very narrowly divided, and politics is volatile; anyone who can get a major party nomination has a serious shot at becoming the president.
Much better, then, to vote for someone you could actually live with for president. I won’t attempt to argue for a particular candidate; since there are now disagreements on almost everything within the broadly defined Right (by which I mean conservatives and libertarians of every stripe), one could hardly expect non-Democrats to agree on which of the nine dwarves is least offensive. If he’s still in the race, I’ll vote for Joe Lieberman — he’s serious on foreign policy, a free trader, and less vehement than his rivals about raising taxes. But some dovish libertarians might prefer Howard Dean, and at least one dovish conservative has had nice things to say about Wesley Clark. That’s fine. The point is simply that the Democratic nominee is too important to be picked by the Democratic base that cheers at Al Sharpton’s one-liners in debates.
Do we infiltrators really have a chance to swing the nomination? Only toward a candidate who makes strong inroads among genuine Democrats. John McCain’s 2000 campaign for the Republican nomination, which relied heavily on independents and liberals (especially sycophantic ones with press passes), ultimately failed. But if you plan to vote in the general election, and you live in a state that is a safe win for one party or the other, you already cast a vote that won’t swing anything. Clearly, you find some civic satisfaction in doing so. There’s no reason that that sentiment shouldn’t extend to a party’s Presidential Primary — whether or not you happen to like the given party very much.
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