Friday, March 7, 2008

No Time for a Party

I’m going to let you in on a secret I've lived with for over 20 years. This is a secret so dire that it could eliminate me from any consideration for any public office in Collin County. My closest friends know, but most of them are polite enough to overlook it. I’ve had enough of living in the shadows, so here goes…

I’m a Democrat.

Okay… there it is. I feel much better now. But before you run off to sharpen the knives and pitchforks, let’s take a look at what this cathartic revelation of mine really means. First of all, I’m really not interested in prying the guns from your cold, dead hands. I don’t kill babies during full moons, or any other time of month. And while I have been known to hug a tree now and then, it’s likely because I was trying to get away from the maniacal, wild pigs I was hunting.

So really, I’m not much different than most of my fellow Frisco residents. Sure, I have some wacky ideas about national health care and our involvement in Middle East nation-building (for one, against the other). And I often find myself championing unpopular positions in political discussions with my more conservative friends. However, in most cases, we end up discovering that our ideas are really not too different. (Well, there is the anarchist I play poker with, but that’s another story altogether.)

This year, of course, Texas Democrats are crawling out of the woodwork. For the first time in recent memory, Texans actually have a say in a presidential primary election. I’ve been surprised at the number of folks that were actively debating whether they would vote for Hillary or Barack earlier this week. Of course, some of them were basing their vote on which candidate would most likely lose to the Republican in the fall. And at my polling location, despite all the press calling for a huge Democratic Party turnout, they had twice as many voting booths on the Republican side of the room. It was a clear reminder that there were more races to be decided than who will occupy the White House. Lest we forget, Collin County is still the reddest of red strongholds.

And that’s a major problem. We’ve become a nation of Reds and Blues. There’s no room for shades of purple in between. And greens, yellows and silver need not even apply. You see, even though I identify myself as a Democrat, I don’t necessarily agree with all of the planks in the Democratic Party Platform. I’m all for safety nets in our economy, for example, but I draw the line when the net becomes the floor. And then there are some Red ideas that make a lot of sense to me (flat tax anyone?).

I recently took an online survey designed to match me up with my ideal candidate. After selecting from multiple choice questions and weighting the issues I thought were most important (health care and tax reform, by the way) I was dumbfounded to find myself tracking closest to Mike Huckabee! After some additional research, I quickly discovered that the match had a lot to do with how the questions were worded. But I was in happy to know that I could likely have a conversation with the Arkansas Governor and that we could find common ground. And that’s something that’s been missing from our national political debate for too long.

Luckily, our city elections are non-partisan. I say “luckily” because I hold out hope that we can have a real exchange of ideas between the mayoral or city council candidates without falling into the stereotypical roles dictated by party platforms. As we debate our local elections, I hope we can refrain from trying to paint the candidates with the broad strokes of national party brushes. Instead, we should encourage the candidates to eschew the traditional left and right debate. Let’s start with the solutions that are right for Frisco. If it turns out these ideas fall on one side or other of the spectrum, so be it. But it’s far more important to debate the merits of the concept than which side of the aisle it comes from.

Now, I’m going to run down to the hardware store and make sure I’ve got some extra plywood and nails. I think I can hear the mobs forming in the distance.

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