The Amend Corner

Of parties, principles and primaries

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I suppose many of you readers of this column have been wondering why I have failed to pontificate on Wyoming’s primary election, which happens next Tuesday. Or maybe it hasn’t crossed your minds. Anyway, I rather doubt that anyone has been waiting to see who I am planning to vote for before making his or her own decision.

If you have been such a voter, you’re out of luck, because I would have to be writing it right now for it to appear in one of this week’s editions, and next week would be too late.

The truth is, I actually made a semi-intentional decision not to share my thoughts on the primary candidates a couple of weeks ago. I was planning to write a column about who I would vote for, but I ran into a problem that made doing so rather difficult — well, actually impossible: I just couldn’t decide what to write.

It’s not that I have no opinions regarding the plethora of people begging to be my governor for the next four years, let alone those seeking the lengthy list of candidates running for the numerous state and local offices. I have definitely eliminated most of them from consideration, but I still have preferences. In most cases, I have at least one candidate I might consider voting for, because that candidate’s positions on issues are congruent with mine, or at least not drastically different from my positions.

In addition, I have to decide which primary to vote in. I’m actually not sure what party I’m registered in at present, and I might want to change before I vote — something that is entirely permissible under Wyoming law.

Now I know there are people out there who think such switching of parties before voting is dishonest, unethical and maybe even criminal. But those people are, in a word, deceived. I’m a citizen of Wyoming and the USA, so I have the freedom to make such a choice. Despite the philosophical fundamentalism of some purists, there is no political pope, bishop, preacher, imam, rabbi, shaman or Wiccan priestess with the power to determine my qualifications to belong to any party I want. If I want to become a Republican next week instead of a Democrat, or vice-versa, nobody can legally stop me.

The fact is, I have been straying across the dividing line that is supposed to exist between the two parties for years. In 1976, for example, I was a voting delegate at the Big Horn County Republican Party caucus. About a quarter century later, in 2000, I was a delegate to the Wyoming State Democratic convention. That’s because in 2000, I decided to run for the Wyoming House of Representatives, and I couldn’t in good conscience run as a Republican. Besides, the advantage of being a Democrat was that I was committed to spending most of July on a trip to Africa, and would be unable to campaign. As a Democrat, I would have no opposition in the primary, and I could save my money — what little there was of it — and use it to run against the incumbent Republican. My campaigning as a Democrat didn’t bother a number of Republicans, including a couple of office holders, who supported and voted for me. In fact, my vote total was three times the number of registered Democrats in the district, but unfortunately, there weren’t nearly enough such Republicans for me to win.

In truth, I do not fit neatly into anybody’s notion of what a Republican or a Democrat is supposed to be and I’m a little suspicious of anyone who claims that either of the parties is an exact fit for his own philosophy. A person who claims to be the personification of the ideal Republican or the perfect Democrat probably should dig a little deeper into what he believes and what those who are arrogant enough to believe they are perfect liberals or conservatives say he should believe.

It wasn’t that long ago, for instance, that Wyomingites had to choose between two candidates for governor. One was a Democrat who happened to be pro-life, the other a Republican who was pro-choice. Personally, I have Democratic friends who belong to the NRA — and know of Republicans who talk of regulating firearms.

When it comes right down to it, both political parties, no matter what their true believers say, have one overriding aim: to take control of the government and run it the way they want it run, and sometimes principles are at odds with that goal.

This does not mean that Republicans and Democrats have no principles, because they do, or at least think they do. Some of them even believe their own principles came straight from God. But principles have always been a bit squishy, changing as events demand.

That’s especially true now, when there is a mismatch between the Republican Party’s traditional support of free trade and the party’s president, who wants to fight trade wars, and when Democrats are divided between the far left’s flirtation with socialism and those who only want to place “reasonable” limits on unbridled capitalism.

Well, I know this column won’t help any of you choose your candidates next week. I’m having enough trouble making my own decisions, so you are on your own.

Let’s hope we all — or at least more than half of us — make the right choices.

The Amend Corner

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