Why I won’t vote in the Texas Primary
by David Goodloe

Last month, I wrote that I have turned my back on a lifetime as a Democrat and now consider myself an independent.

poiopiuopiuopiu.pngHere in Texas, we have open primaries, which means there is no official party registration. I can go to my polling place and simply declare in which party primary I wish to participate. I voted in the Democratic primary in 2008. This year, I could walk into my polling place and tell them I wanted to vote in the Republican primary and I would be allowed to do so. No questions would be asked.

Now, if it turned out that the primary in which I did not vote produced a high–profile runoff, I could not participate in the runoff. Texas isn’t that liberal (actually, Texas isn’t “liberal” about most things).

It was a different situation when I lived in Oklahoma. When I registered to vote there, I had to declare my party allegiance. If my allegiance changed, I had to go through the procedure of re–registering. It was possible to register as an independent, but, unless the independents held their own primary, you couldn’t participate in a state primary if you were registered as one.

It is interesting that many people who have known me most or all of my life — and therefore know that I have been a Democrat all my life — have asked me, upon learning that I now regard myself as an independent, if I am going to vote in the Republican primary or if I support Republicans for various offices.

I can only wonder when being an independent became synonymous with being a member of either political party. Perhaps it has to do with one’s disenchantment with one’s original party. If it does, then maybe the logic — as twisted as it is — is, well, he’s not a Democrat, anymore, so he must be a Republican.

Maybe that would be true of some people today, but I believe I am honest enough (with myself, at least, if not with others as well) to acknowledge if I am actually switching parties. And that is not what I did. I am now an independent.

There was a time, not so long ago, when independents were seen as allies of Democrats. In recent months, though, they have been increasingly seen as friendly to Republicans.

But the reason I am an independent — and the main reason why I will not vote in the Texas primary on Tuesday — is because I am disgusted with both parties.

As I mentioned last month, politicians will have to earn my support by demonstrating satisfactorily that they are acting in my best interest. And I am simply not convinced that any of the candidates on either party’s ballot is acting in my best interest.

For awhile, I did think about voting in the Republican primary — but only because Gov. Rick Perry is on the ballot and I loathe him so much that I wanted to vote against him.

Perry was the lieutenant governor when George W. Bush was governor, and Perry became governor when Bush resigned to go to Washington. I think of it as Texas’ version of Dumb and Dumber.

If the polls are to be believed, I may get the chance to vote against Perry in November if I want to (I’ve done that before, though, and it hasn’t helped). He’s being challenged in Tuesday’s primary by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was, at one time, a bigger vote–getter than Bush in Texas. In 2000, more than 4 million Texans voted for her when she ran for a second full term as a U.S. senator. She outpolled Bush, who was running for president that year, by more than 200,000 votes in Texas.

But Hutchison may turn out to be the Martha Coakley of Texas. When she entered the race last year, many polls showed her leading Perry, although her leads were never as impressive as I thought they should be. I heard many political observers speak of her as the inevitable nominee, although I was never convinced that she was inevitable. And, indeed, it seems that lead has disappeared, and Rasmussen Reports says Perry is close to majority support in his bid for the Republican nomination.

Close, but not there yet.

Modern polling techniques are usually pretty reliable so a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment doesn’t really seem likely here, but it’s possible that recent polls could be wrong. If they are right, then Perry is a couple of percentage points away from a majority, with Hutchison more than 20 points behind him.

What’s more, nearly one out of every 10 Republicans hasn’t decided how to vote, Rasmussen says. If the poll is right, Perry still has time to win enough support from the undecided group to secure a majority — and, hence, the nomination — without having to make a pitch for Hutchison’s supporters.

Or the supporters of the third candidate, Debra Medina. She’s kind of like Texas’ Sarah Palin — except she hasn’t been elected governor yet and, from the looks of things, won’t be the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee this year. Probably the less said about her, the better.

For awhile, she seemed to have some momentum, and it looked like she might make this a genuine three–way race. But she started making controversial comments about alleged 9/11 insider conspiracies, and the momentum went away.

I thought about voting for Hutchison and perhaps helping to force Perry into a runoff that he might lose, but I decided that voting against is not something I want to do anymore. I want to vote for someone. I don’t see any real difference between Hutchison and Perry so the best reason I could have for voting for Hutchison would be that she isn’t Perry. And that isn’t enough for me.

The movement from Medina seems to have gone in Perry’s direction, and there is a lesson in that for incumbents across the country who have been anticipating an anti–incumbent mood in this midterm election year. Such a fervor does not seem to be evident within either party, except in certain cases, so there isn’t likely to be much evidence of an anti–incumbent wave during the spring/summer primary season. Where that is likely to be encountered is in the general election this fall, when independents are thrown into the mix.

Of course, independents can vote in either primary here — and in several other places as well. I could vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, but the front–runner, the former mayor of Houston, is far ahead of his opponent.

So I’ve decided to be merely an interested bystander this spring, then I’ll see if either nominee persuades me this fall that he/she is concerned about my best interests. If neither one does, I’ll sit that one out, too.

As a bystander, I will say that I find it curious that, regardless of the lead Perry apparently has in the primary, his lead over the presumed Democratic nominee is smaller than Hutchison’s. But neither seems to have a majority — yet — in this state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office in 20 years.

My vote might yet matter to both sides in the fall. It probably means a lot to the candidates in the primaries on Tuesday. But no one has met my standard.

I put too much value on my vote to just give it away to the one who comes closest to living up to my standards. That seems to be one of the problems in America. We seldom get good options, but, because somebody has to win, we give to whichever candidate the voters decide is the “lesser of two evils.”

Well, I have voted for the lesser of two evils far more often than I care to remember, and I have decided I simply will not just give my vote away to someone who just partially meets my requirements.

I want an exact match.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

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  • dmf

    personally, i’m of the opinion that it’s ridiculous for the general public to “belong” to a political party, and all primaries should be open. i have never, and will never “belong” to a party. it seems to me to be both pointless and counterproductive.

    secondly… looking for an “exact match” to vote for is a pipe dream. i mean, come on. if you really meant that you’d never vote for anyone except to write in yourself.

    • David_Goodloe

      OK, I’ll give you that one. No one’s going to be perfect.

      But do they ALL have to miss perfection by so much?

  • The_Ohioan

    During the Vietnam years we often heard “What if they had a war and nobody came?”

    I’ve sometimes fantasized about what would happen if no one registered or voted. Do you think the pols would get the idea that we’re all fed up? What would the electors do? It’s an interesting (if irrelevant) constitutional question.

  • New Cat

    I understand where you are coming from for I too was a strict party line voting Democrat for forty years. Last years primary caused me to reconsider my allegiance and so I re-registered as an Independent. It was probably the best decision I ever made politically. It feels so free to be able to decide on issues or candidates based on facts not on blind party loyalty. I probably will re-register as a Republican for this years primary because I want to support a particular congressional candidate that I like. But I will probably switch back to Independent at some point.