George Washington warned us all that this day would come. When we put party above country, bad things happen. Or, as Washington put it, “the baneful effects of the spirit of party … demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.” When candidates are so desperate to win power that they’ll say or do anything to appeal to the so-called base, those fires are all consuming.
When I moved to Delaware 8 years ago, I was a Democrat. I was young and had a strong desire to make a difference, to help change our county and state for the better. It wasn’t that I thought this was an awful place, but I saw things moving in the wrong direction. On a local and state level those in office at the time were misusing their power. Their actions were for the benefit of a few and not for the advancement of all. Neither party was blameless.
I looked at the Delaware political landscape in 2008 and chose the political party that I thought would help me fix the problems facing us. I saw fiscal ruin in our future if we did not start making some hard choices. It was not an easy decision for me but I thought the Republican Party was the home of fiscal realism. And I thought I would be welcomed into the Republican’s “big tent” even though I didn’t see eye to eye with party hardliners on certain issues. Despite misgivings, I closed my eyes to the hypocrisy of those in the party who complain about the death of personal liberty in America and then make laws that intrude on people’s private lives. I closed my eyes because I believed then, as now, that fiscal realism is what this country desperately needs.
That “Big Tent” didn’t turn out to be so big after all, and it seemed to be getting smaller by the day. But I was determined to stay with my choice and try to make a difference for Delaware. Some welcomed me into the Delaware GOP–center-right and more moderate Republicans, but they were systematically targeted and removed by the most radical elements of the party. The voice of the fringe became the sole voice of the party, and those in the middle were left with no voice at all. The radicalization of the Republicans led Democrats to react with equal bluster. Now both parties spew invective at each other instead of working to fix our State’s problems. We have become more divided than ever and that truly concerns me.
As for the GOP, it appears that no manner of shameful activity is too shameful if it wins power. The interests of the people are placed far below the interests of the party and the wealthy backers who control the purse strings. And it has become so difficult to stomach that those who want to stand in the center have given up. The radical fringe has taken over abetted by cynical big money. No one is left to speak for the people.
I decide that this situation was something I could no longer tolerate. I needed to find a place where my kind of non-extremist, community-minded platform would be heard without judgment. I struggled long and hard with what I needed to do on a personal level to be able to speak up for my neighbors. I knew that my decision would anger some and please others. But I also knew that my husband, my family and close friends in and out of the political world would stand by me no matter what choice I ultimately made.
So, a few days ago I changed my party affiliation back to Democrat, because ultimately I felt the Democratic Party was where I could have a more independent voice. As a registered Democrat, I can be fiscally conservative without being considered a “traitor” and socially tolerant without being called a RINO (Republican in Name Only). I can stand up for equality without people looking down their noses at me indignantly. I know I will be judged by skeptics on both sides of the aisle wondering what my “agenda” really is and what I’m “up too.”
And yeah, I know, “they all do it.” Democrats are no less interested in power than Republicans. Money plays a role on the Democratic side too. But I tried for 4 years to do all I could to make things better for my community and the Republican Party. I was able to make a difference in the community, but not within the Republican Party. During my stint as a Republican, the vision of the “Grand Old Party” has become too myopic. I discovered that I really was a Republican in Name Only. Not because I had betrayed my beliefs but because the party has lost sight of what used to make it great.
In the end, if I could, I would reject both parties and choose the Party of George. Since that’s not possible, I’m just going to have to do the next best thing.