Homo Erectus- The Evolution of Us: Ghosting Out of the Party

By : Steve Yacovelli
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Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli

I have a confession to make … I’m not a Democrat.

But then again, I’m not a Republican either. I’m a registered Independent voter. And as an Independent voter living in the I-4 Corridor it’s been an interesting past few weeks: between the robo-calls, the forest of political flyers, the knocks on the door … I feel more popular than a muscled 24-year-old on Grindr. When our phone rings, my husband doesn’t hesitate to say to me “it’s for you” when the robos callers come a-callin’.

I haven’t always been an Independent voter, but the non-conformity along the party lines has been a part of me since I could vote. In college I was a registered Republican (after all—my young logic went—Reagan was in Tau Kappa Epsilon, and as a TKE it seemed like the right party for me).

But when Clinton came onto the scene I really liked his views, so I “cheated” on my party and voted for the charismatic Southern Democrat.

Years later, after I came out, I changed to the Democratic party since they seemed to embrace who I was a heck of a lot more than the Republicans party seemed to. During elections I’d keep my eye both candidates but mainly voted down the Democrat party line … until one of them Bushes ran: and I cheated again. No, not W, but his brother Jeb. I remember thinking: “Huh, this guys seems pretty competent … much more so than any of his family members. Yet he’s a Republican: I can’t vote for him!”

But truth be told I did cast my vote for the smart Bush. Did I like all of his policies? No. But do I think overall he was a decent leader with integrity? Yes. And that’s kinda what’s governed my decision-making and led me to finally shed the shackles of a specific party affiliation. I was tired of feeling guilty for voting my conscience and picking the candidate that seemed to—at the time—be the best person for the job.

But I’m not alone here: a 2013 Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans identified as Independents. Research suggests that Independent voters are more diverse in age, race, gender and income than Republican and Democratic voters (Washington Post, 2012). And, 60 percent of Independents say they aren’t affiliated with either party mainly because they align with Democrats on social issues but with Republicans on issues such as national security and the economy.

And yup: that’s me. I found my party by not being apart of one.

I like being an Independent voter. I feel that I can approach an election and a candidate without bias or wearing party-coated blinders. I can have conversations with friends from both parties without them looking at me with what I call “party-bias.” Going against “type,” (“All gays are Democrats!” “All religious people are Republicans!”) feels pretty good and, well, American. I’m not put in a box or someone that the political pundits can easily label.

Yes, I am socially liberal, and that is a value system that I honor so candidates with similar views tend to get more of my attention. However, I try to keep an open mind to all the issues at hand and vote for the best one for the job—or sometimes for the lesser of the two evils. I’ve come to accept that no one candidate, regardless of the size of the office, is going to be the perfect leader for me. But you pick the best with what you’ve got and be sure to be part of the process.

Am I advocating everyone turn away from her or his party affiliation? No. But I do encourage every voter (which should be every reader!) to really look at the candidates and decide where and how they align with your own personal values.

If you can’t clearly articulate your own values, quick Google search on “determine my own values” will yield a heap of great resources. Of particular interest is a 2013 Inc. article: http://bit.ly/inc_values.

I think so many of us—including my LGBT brothers and sisters—sometimes focus on one party or the other or one issue or another and blindly vote down the part lines. Do I look at candidates that support marriage equality and protecting the rights of the LGBT community? Absol-freakin-lutely. But do I also consider fiscal conservatism and being good stewards of our resources?

Sure do.

Be careful about not being a one-issue voter. Get educated about the candidates from various (read: non-biased) sources on both sides of the fence and make a decision about a candidate based upon your own personal values, not those of a party, a specific endorsement, or any other “easy” way to cast your vote.

After all, once you enter that voting booth or fill out that absentee ballot in the privacy of your own home, we’re all Independent voters … regardless of party affiliation.

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