I am not in the habit of saying anything should be more like organized religion. I’m one of those people everyone hates who says that organized religion should be kept far away from all other aspects of life, culture, politics, the world, the universe, and everything. But I think there may be a lesson in organized religion for organized politics. Religions want you to try them out. They send people to your doors, they hand out literature, they offer free e-meter evaluations.
Some may keep official records, and most expect financial contributions from their members, but for the most part everyone is welcome to the meetings, in the hopes that more people will align themselves with the religion, and make those meetings a regular part of their lives. Anyone can show up, from any previous affiliation, at any time, and participate, with some limits. Political party affiliation should be more like this.
Far be it from me to claim any kind of expertise about the inner workings of religious organizations, but I have attended my fair share of services, sometimes more than one in a single day. I, an atheist Jew, have attended Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Christian Science, Jewish, Muslim, and other houses of worship, mostly as a guest or spectator, sometimes as a singer.
I usually strongly dislike what I see, but that is beside the point: I am welcome there. Sure, they want me to declare myself one of them, give them a percentage of my income to support what they do, and then do my part to recruit more people to give them a chance, and on and on it goes, but they are so friendly about it. They want to be inclusive.
Not so of so many state political parties. I remember when a neighbor, someone I had known for many years, told me, when I was excited to be voting in my first political primary, she could not vote in the primary because she was a registered Independent. I thought that was ridiculous, and that Independents should be able to vote in party primaries if they didn’t have any primaries of their own to vote in. If Independents could weigh in, I thought, it would work against fringe or extremist candidates, and bring forth candidates who better represented the American public, who might be able to attract crossover votes. Independents would make the country more purple, or whatever purple mixed with Green is.
This really started to ring in my ear, though, this spring, when a not so surprising, but quite large number of my friends complained on facebook that they had not reregistered as Democrats, having previously been registered Independents, in time to vote for their candidate of choice in the Democratic primary. Most of them figured out when they got to their polling places that they could vote using an affidavit ballot filled out on the spot, and I worked to spread the word as well when I saw this happening, but many of them just gave up on voting. That is wrong.
People should be able to call themselves, even register as, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, Greens, whatever, the same way they call themselves Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Scientologists, and if they want, they should give money to their organization of choice in hopes that it will prosper and bring better things to the world in the future.
But if a Republican favors a Democratic primary candidate, it should be as easy for him to vote for his candidate of choice in a particular year, without making any official changes to his voter status, as it is for a curious Catholic to walk into a synagogue, and maybe decide to attend for a while in lieu of Catholic services, if he finds the synagogue better suits his needs.
Primary candidates should have to commit to which party they want to run their campaigns with, and maybe ballots would have to be redesigned so that everyone from every party affiliation is on the same ballot, but as long as the rules are still one person, one vote, I doubt this would be a problem, in fact it would probably make things slightly simpler. It should not be difficult to vote for the candidate you want to vote for, there should not be a deadline for signing up for that privilege.
Will this open up the parties to people they may not want interfering with their machinery? Maybe, but then it’s the responsibility of the party to make sure the machinery is kept in good working order. It has been reported that two “third parties” may make inroads this year in ways they never have before. States are automatically signing up licensed drivers to vote. The landscape is changing. Paths need to be cleared for future travelers.