I used to be a card-carrying Republican.
I paid dues and for my trouble I got a little membership card, a computer-generated photo and letter from W., and several times a month the GOP begged me for money to help fight the scourge of the Democratic Party.
One day I sliced that little card to pieces. Then I took one of those envelopes I was supposed to fill with money and I returned it with a letter explaining in minute detail why I felt the Republicans no longer represented me.
And no, I did not switch teams. I flirted briefly with the Libertarians, but I believe we have to have some laws. I don’t want to live in the Wild West. After that, I simply went off the reservation. To steal a phrase from the doofus hockey mama bear, I went rogue.
I became an independent, one of those voters both sides court so enthusiastically. And though they beckon with every tool in their trick bag, I have never felt so alone.
Who speaks for me now? Republicans want big business to be in charge of my life. Democrats want big government to be in charge of my life. Neither is interested in me being in charge of anything.
So for the past several years I’ve felt left out. I’ve watched both sides appeal to our greed and our fears, one side telling me that if I don’t let them do whatever they want the terrorists and a lack of millionaires will kill us all, the other telling me the thing I should be most afraid of is my own too-rich country.
I believe neither of these things to be true, of course. I know al-Qaida wants to kill me, but the NSA doesn’t have to listen to my phone calls and read my e-mails to make sure that doesn’t happen. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google “NSA and AT&T.”) And while America has surely made some messes, it is not the scapegoat for every single tragedy and injustice in the universe.
Neither side wants me to believe or say these things out loud. Each wants me just to go on thinking security is more important than liberty, that only their side knows what’s best for me, and that I have to choose their side, which is wholly and righteously right on every single issue.
The problem, of course, is neither is right on every issue. And both have diverged so far from the middle — where the common ground is — that choosing a side means choosing a radical side.
Well, what if you don’t want a radical government? What if you want a limited government, tempered with common sense?
Yeah, I know. It seems like a fairy tale.
This year’s crop of Republicans wants me to think it’s not though. These GOP hopefuls use all the right buzzwords — smaller government, constitutional conservatism, lower taxes — in their attempt to draw us center-right rogues back into the fold.
But why should I believe them? What will they do to make me think they are men and women of their word and not just more shills for corporate masters?
Meanwhile, Democrats continue with their contradictory populist manifesto, shouting “Power to the people!” — as long as those people are them.
They’re all full of it. Which means I have become a full-fledged cynic, and I hate that because the next step after cynicism is a sense of futility, and I am not ready to throw in the towel on my country.
We independents desire leadership. We crave statesmanship. Don’t just tell us of what to be afraid, tell us of possibilities. Quit ruling by fear and catering to greed.
In short, represent us. All of us.
Do that, and I’ll click the box next to your name, no matter what capital letter you put after it.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.