I Don’t Know If I Want to Be a Democrat

Photo by thom masat on Unsplash

So I’ve been dealing with the paperwork to change my ID over from California to Nevada, and part of that is giving me the opportunity to fill out my voter registration. And I’ve been sitting here with the paperwork, mostly filled out, except for one field.

I don’t know what to put for my political party.

It’s a tough call. Not between the two major parties, God no. I voted Republican exactly once in my life, during the first election I could vote in, and I regret that immensely. But I was a different person back in 2008: still an evangelical, still a few years from coming out of the closet, still under the close mentorship of a religious figure that influenced my every word, every thought, feeling, and belief.

I thought voting for John McCain was doing Jesus a solid. I was so stupid back fffffffthen.

But, let’s jump forward 10 years, to now, and my current predicament. What do I do? Do I check the Democrat box, or do I write in Democratic Socialist?

It’s a trade off: on one hand, the Democratic Socialist platform has a lot more in line with what I believe: Universal Medical Care, Free & Improved Education, Removing Big Money from politics, providing a Universal Basic Income, using the strong arm of the government to stave off the greatest evils of capitalism without going too far the other way and turning America into Chairman Mao’s Happy Time Work Camp.

On the other hand, it’s just not practical: this is a two-horse game, and it’s down to the Ds and the Rs.

Do I wish it was otherwise? Absolutely. But the reality is that, to some extent, American politics is a zero sum game. Anything other than voting for one party will directly hurt it.

So that makes it easy, right? I should just call myself a Democrat, right?

Well. That’s not so easy.

First of all, even though the Democratic Party likes to play itself as a Lefty Lucy, it still dances pretty close to the center line, and even flirts with the right. Obama liked his drones, after all. And over the last few decades, not nearly enough Democrats have stood up and talked about scaling back the military.

I get it. They’ve got to appease everybody, and the US of A is a pretty military-happy country. But we could cut back our spending by 70% and still be outspending every other country in the world. It’s overkill. We do not need overkill. This country likes to pull out an A1M1 where a flyswatter will suffice.

And that money could be doing so many better things. It can be funding more schools, giving teachers better salaries, putting poor kids through college, putting poor people in houses, taking care of our veterans, retrofitting Flint, MI so they can finally have some clean water. There are a huge variety of things that we can spend that money on, do we really need that 11th aircraft carrier? Or the 12th? Really?

But my disagreements go beyond the military, too. I don’t think the DNC does enough to curb the influence of big money. They kow-tow to banks and all other big businesses in order to get money for reelection campaigns.

John Oliver, some time ago, did a big expose on how congressmembers fundraise, and it’s disgusting. They spend several hours a week sitting in a cubicle, cold-calling rich people and business owners for money, instead of doing their actual jobs. When you take the money from rich people, you become beholden to the rich people. You take care of what they need taken care of. And the poor schmuck wiping asses for $8.75 an hour gets overlooked.

And Debbie Wasserman Shultz, in a stunning revelation that has still gone unpunished to this day, was taking money from predatory lenders. You know, the people who charge poor people 200% interest on loans so they can make it to their next payday?

And, let’s not forget about Tim Kaine, our latest VPOTUS nominee, who is, in deed, if not in word, anti-choice. Real progressive planning there, DNC.

The DNC might entertain progressives, but the heart and the soul of the party are these stodgy, old rich white folks who are happy getting their kickbacks from big businesses while being adverse to any kind of real or progressive change.

And their attitude toward bipartisanship is stunning. Congressional Democrats treat bipartisanship like playing a game of chess with the Republican party. The Republicans have thrown the board across the room and set the room on fire, and the Democrats are still at the table trying to win the game.

To my eyes, the only high ground that the Democratic Party has is that they’re better than the Republican party. And that’s fucking sad. Their high point is that they’re better than the party of Treason, Patriarchy, Sexual Assault, and White Supremacy.

Hey, I only cut you off in traffic. At least I didn’t t-bone you.

I’m not expecting the DNC to incarnate the spirit of Les Amis d’ABC, but Jesus Fuck, they have to aim for higher than simply being better than the Republicans. My turds are better people than Congressional Republicans, and, still, they’re only fit to be flushed down the toilet.

I don’t know what the solution is: whether it’s to insist on breaking the two party stranglehold, and support a different party, or to join the Democratic Party and try to effect some kind of meaningful change from within. I don’t think that the DNC is all that open to change, and, honestly, in an ideal world, they could stand as America’s right-wing party.

But I sure as hell resent the idea that I’ve got to choose them, because at least they’re not the Republicans. Being better than Trump isn’t a point of honor. It’s a point of being a decent human being. Honor must come from reaching higher.

Before you ask: Voted Bernie in the primary, Hillary in the general. Volunteered for Hillary’s campaign. Reluctantly. Under duress. And I’m definitely not behind the Bernie2020 idea. So don’t go painting me with the Bernie-bro brush. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-bro? Definitely.

Querying soon? Get my Query Letter, Deconstructed.

Zach J. Payne writes poetry, plays, and young adult fiction. He’s an assistant at Ninja Writers, where he helps new writers find their voice and their tribe. He was the query intern for Pam Victorio at D4EO, and his novel Somehow You’re Sitting Here was selected for Nevada SCBWI’s 2015–16 Mentor Program. He lives in Reno.

(He/They) Ninja Writer. Thespian. Queer. Essayist, poet, novelist. “In Search of Sunflowers” available on Kindle now.

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