I Am No Longer a Democrat.

Last week, as I obtained my Nevada driver’s license, I registered to vote in Nevada. As I went to check the box for political party affiliation…I decided to switch parties.

Being an unaffiliated voter is not how I roll. While political parties and partisanship can be among the most frustrating and annoying aspects of politics, parties are an essential element of a healthy democracy. While our parties might have major problems, not having political parties is not the answer.

Before anyone gets too excited, I should be specific. Last Tuesday, I joined the Green Party.

That I am still not a Republican, will disappoint two groups of people. The first group are my former conservative students and friends from my youth who are hoping that I will see the light and return to my Republican roots. Yeah, y’all know that is not going to happen.

The second group is liberals in Wyoming and elsewhere who were convinced during my campaign that I was a Republican in sheep’s clothing. Yeah, you had no clue! If you think being a Democrat in a red state makes you a radical, you are overly impressed with yourself.

Our political and economic institutions are flawed at best. It is more accurate to call them unjust and immoral. Both major parties are the benefactors of both our political and economic systems. Why would they bite the hand that feeds them? Well, neither party has shown any interest in seriously doing so.

Wait! Isn’t the Democratic Party better than the Republican Party? Well, yes it is. But that is a pretty low threshold. I think much good can be done within the Democratic Party and by Democrats. I admire many of them. I admire President Obama. My political hero is the late Paul Wellstone who was a Democratic U.S. Senator. I am sure that I will still mostly vote for Dems because there are few alternatives on the ballot. Such is life.

However, the Democratic Party will never make the radical changes that our political system needs. Why would they? They are doing quite well under the current system. Without those needed changes to our political system, we will never see any serious changes to the crisis of economic inequality in our nation and world. Indeed, it will continue to grow.

What are the problems with our political system? There are many! They range from the Senate filibuster and money in politics to the Electoral College and the (un)representative structure of the Congress. I will take a look at them in further detail here at Approaching Justice in the future.

As a political scientist, I recognize that third parties like the Green Party face major obstacles in terms of having an impact on the political system. There are many reasons for this. One is that the rules are set by those who have thrived within the two-party system. Additionally, we really do live in a two-party system. In the past, I have largely just treated that as a political reality that cannot be changed. I can no longer do so.

The Green Party is not particularly strong here in Nevada from what I can tell. However, I have had particularly positive interactions over the years with Green Party activists from around the country. There is work to be done and I am excited about it!

As a political philosopher and moral theologian, I can no longer go along with either of the two major parties. I am not a utopian. Instead, I am refusing to pretend that the dystopia we live in is something that it is not. The American political system is not quaint. It is a cancer.

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  • Early

    So you’re not a Republican, just a person who helps get Republicans elected.

    • aicram62

      We understand your fear. It was like that back in the days when we formed a union. People were afraid to join and go on strike. They thought they’d lose their jobs. Well we’re about to lose our constitution/country. We’re supposed to have the right to address our grievances, but how can you without any privacy? Don’t worry Early we’ll do the hard work for you. we’ll stand strong and fight the good fight until you’re finally not afraid to do what you know is right, and vote for no corporations, caring for the environment, equal treatment under the law, healthcare for all, and privacy.

  • Russell Arben Fox

    I’ll make the comment I already made to Chris on another list:

    As a mostly unrepentant two-time Nader (1996 and 2000) and one-time Jill Stein (2012) voter, I can’t help but think fondly of the Greens. The Green party has no formal organization in Kansas, though, which is where I live, and as I think it’s important to contribute to building actual political structures, so I can’t identify myself as such. (The Democratic Socialists of America are at least on the ground here, and that matters.) The way I see it, voting is, in some senses, the most expressive of any of our actions as citizens, and so in that regard, depending on the context, I’m entirely supportive of voting your pure conscience and going Green or Democratic Socialist or Libertarian or whatever. I’ve done it and continue to do so, obviously. (That context is important, of course; there’s almost
    no way I would have voted Stein rather than Obama if I’d lived in Ohio.) Aside
    from voting, though, I think there are all the other ways in which our party
    identification, volunteering, money, etc., is crucial to building governing majorities, and in that regard, unlike voting, committing yourself to an organizational fiction which you know won’t actually give you any purchase on
    responsible government is a bit of a dodge, I suspect. So I continue to donate
    to the local Democratic party, and I’ll no doubt involve myself in Democratic
    state representative Paul Davis’s probably hopeless but still much needed run
    against Republican Governor Brownback next fall. I show up and wear my DSA button and identify myself when asked, but I’m not going to wave some flyer for an impossible alternative, not when I know that my work for a Democrat in this
    context might actually matter.

    • aicram62

      What differences are there in platform or views between the Democratic Socialists and the Green Party?

      • Zach Baker

        The DSA is not a political party and thus do not run candidates. Also, the DSA is a little more left-wing, I guess. Social democracy (GP) vs. democratic socialism (DSA).

    • Zach Baker

      I’m a Green and DSA member in Kansas, too. Wish there was a state GP here. I’d start one, but I have no clue how to go about doing so, and I’m not very organized, so I don’t know if I’d be a good starter, lol.

  • Matt J Stannard

    Well done, Chris. Don’t let Democrats tell you you’re helping Republicans get elected (Democrats are helping Republicans get elected by running weak, watered-down campaigns and candidates). You’re helping to build a new world. The status quo is unsustainable, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have solutions.

  • davedd233

    Alright! A fellow Mormon Nevadan who chose to be unaffiliated but leans green! Good to know there is at least one more of us out here. Too bad Jill Stein didn’t even make the ballot here.

  • David_Naas

    Disgust with the wired-in victories of the Plutocracy Party (Red or Blue branch) usually leads to either despair or a willing co-option into the System.

    For what it’s worth, I do wonder if one can stay passionate and keep a healthy cynicism? Especially when everybody knows what’s going on.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUfS8LyeUyM

  • Lance Fitzsimmons

    Chris, I ask this in all sincerity. Why do you admire President Obama? From what I see in what he has said in the past versus what he says at any given moment are contradictory at the least and his foreign policy is a nightmare. It also seems to me that he is entirely self serving. Between all of the golfing and vacations, he doesn’t seem to have much time to be President. I hope that people will refrain from calling me names just for asking like they do on Facebook. I am trying to find a way to understand why people adore him.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      “Between all of the golfing and vacations…” That might explain why you invoke the name-calling on Facebook. Just a tip.

      I generally like most people. Seems like the kind of guy I would enjoy hanging out with…though I hate golf…so not on the golf course. I do not dislike too many public officials or too many people in general. Just not my style. I disagree with pretty much all public officials. I cannot afford the energy to dislike all of them. Do I hate some people. Yep. I save that for people who have personally wronged me and/or my family.


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