I address this to my New Hampshire friends, pro-life and politically active, who are seething over recent and not-so-recent NHGOP festivities, and are on the edge of leaving the party. Readers from other areas, stay with me here. Perhaps you’re in a similar spot.
Don’t threaten to leave the party. Just leave. Register “Undeclared.” The weather’s fine over here. Really. This is a recovering Republican talking. (See Biting the Hand that Fed Me and What I Saw at the Party.) And you know what? In this state, with its open primary, you can pick up a Republican ballot anytime. Political activism and “undeclared” status go together just fine.
Afraid you’ll be dismissed as irrelevant? Tell me: aren’t you feeling that way already, as a pro-life voter? Just go. Some Republicans will genuinely be dismayed at your departure. Some won’t notice or care. Others will want to throw a party to celebrate, and I’m sure some Democrats would chip in. You won’t get invited to some dinners and briefings and meetings. Get over it.
Worried about the platform? The platform votes by delegates at the state GOP gathering a few months ago were encouraging. Good for the delegates. To anyone who wants to be part of that process, I say go for it. I had enough of that process myself twenty years ago. When you get to that point, throw your money and volunteer efforts to candidates who back your values – and to organizations that know how to collect voter data and use it appropriately. You can always back any candidate without being a party member yourself. The candidates will welcome you.
“But…but…we won’t have a seat at the table!!!” Excuse me – what table are you talking about? The one where the decision is made to delay posting a newly-adopted platform with strong pro-life language? The one where putting the right to life ahead of jobsandtheeconomy (it’s all one word; trust me on this) is considered bad form or counterproductive or antithetical to the Big Tent? Please. If you want to build the Big Tent, build it. Some fine people are doing that. To other fine people, who are musing over whether the GOP is worth the effort: every minute you spend worrying about your party registration is a minute you’re not spending building a pro-life community.
You think I’m stating the obvious? I only wish it were obvious. Every time I hear someone agonizing over a party, the “obvious” is on vacation. Ask yourself this: is your involvement with the party – meetings and donations and so forth – advancing your pro-life work, hindering it, or not affecting it one way or the other? When I got to the point that I could no longer say “advancing,” going independent was – you’ll excuse the phrase – the obvious choice. And remember, party affiliation can be situational and tactical, therefore temporary. I’ve never known a candidate or a party to turn away voters just because they’re registered as Undeclared.
(I’ve always disliked New Hampshire’s description of a voter’s status as “Undeclared.” Choosing not to affiliate with one of the major parties is certainly a declaration. “Independent” is more accurate, even if such a voter leans hard towards a party.)
I know plenty of people who remain lifelong Republicans solely out of habit. If that’s what works for them, fine. It’s not my party, so I won’t snipe too much. Besides, it’s no crime to use a party label to get ahead. Elected officials know this. I can think of some House members who really like being addressed as “Honorable” and who run as R or D only because a majority of their town’s voters are emotionally attached to one label or the other. That’s shrewd. That also demonstrates the folly of depending on a party label to tell me what a candidate believes.
To my friends who are struggling with a party, I say be a pro-life indie or a pro-life Republican or even a pro-life Democrat (rare as albino moose, but there are still a few out there). Just don’t agonize over your party affiliation or how some inside-baseball shenanigans in a Speaker’s race left you reeling. Speakers come and go, you know. Don’t even worry about some of your pro-life Republican friends calling you a quitter. It’s survivable. Those Republicans will come after you with open arms as soon as they need your vote on something.
Pro-life first. If the party is driving you crazy, leave it in peace and get on with your work.