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August 31, 2004

Time To Make It "Our Way"

Alan Imhoff

Like many of you I am becoming more and more disillusioned with the manner in which politicians, nationally, statewide or locally, seem to be more interested in posturing for the "party" than for the well-being of all.

Whether it is between the presidential candidates, the governor and speaker of the house or our own Board of County Commissioners and the mayor and Board of Aldermen of Frederick City, it matters little.

The growing perception is that any two entities seem more intent on "their way" instead of trying to find a solution for "our way," meaning all the people they are suppose to represent.

Has our two-party system gotten so entrenched that the extreme elements of both control more than they should? Why is it that each year more and more political party people leave the process, some just plain giving up, but most joining the growing ranks of that unofficial third party, the undeclared voter; neither Democrat nor Republican and, most unfortunate of all, mostly not involved.

As an elections judge in the county for close to 15 years I have witnessed first hand at the very basic level of who votes and, conspicuously by their absence, who doesn't. I have heard many excuses over those 15 years when I question someone who is not voting. But the most frequent answer is that "the party" does not represent my views any more.

Some people change parties hoping for better representation. Most, however, change because they are fed up with the leadership or direction "the party" has taken.

Think back just four years ago when the country as a whole was almost equally divided when voting for president. This year may be just as close. If we are not more Republican than Democrat, or more left than right, maybe subconsciously we are sending a signal for the politicians to move more towards the center. Maybe it is to get away from "their way" and see it "our way."

Maybe it is time to test this theory by developing a newer process at the grass roots level to be more focused on us than focused on the party. Maybe it is time to structure the election process for local races to be geared more to the voter than to "the party."

What I would like to propose is that we take into account the growing number of "undeclared" voters and allow for open primaries. The parties could still run their individuals under the party label; however, the "undeclared" would be allowed to "declare" for that primary election whether they wanted to vote Republican or Democrat.

Imagine the consternation that might cause. Imagine people running for office needing to take into account the rest of us who are not party members and what we want.

Imagine not setting up rigid stances based in part on party objectives or dictates from a small minority within a party. Imagine a movement away from the extreme left or right and finding that elusive center.

Imagine people running for office as opposed to running against an individual or "the other party." Imagine people explaining how they will do something, rather than telling exaggerations about the opponent.

Maybe it is all just wishful thinking to imagine this taking place.

Maybe instead of asking the parties to change their stance of "well that's they way it has always been," we institute an even more novel idea.

Perhaps some of us who believe in governing more towards the center could ban together, no matter which party, and create a campaign slate that can express common goals and objectives. Imagine Democrats, Republicans and maybe even independent candidates talking about achieving things "our way."

The mayor and board of the City of Frederick have begun looking at updating their election process and rules; maybe they could lead the way in finding out if a new way of doing things can replace the old way of doing primary elections.

Who knows, maybe some of those "undecided" voters may come back to voting, some may even decide that joining a party again could be worth it.

It never hurts to try.

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