When you turn 18 and register to vote, they ask you if you have a party affiliation. I know a lot of people who choose “independent” because they want to be able to vote however they want. They’re making a mistake. That is not what they are really asking. They are asking you what party you want to help shape.
Now, I understand that some people are cautious about voting along party lines all the time. They want to keep their options open and vote for the candidate they feel is the best in any given election and not simply the person their party puts up. And other people don’t feel like they belong specifically to one party or another. They feel like they are somewhere in the middle. Again, they’re making a mistake. You don’t need to be on the outside looking in. You can actually be inside, helping to mold and shape a party to be the things you want and need it to be in order to vote in that direction.
I’m not just saying this because I am a staunch Republican. I’m saying this because I care about democracy. Do you know the real reason why they ask for party affiliation when you register to vote? It’s for one reason, and one reason only: primaries.
If you don’t already know, a primary is like an election, only it is within the same party. Instead of voting someone in to a specific office the way you would in a general election, you are selecting the candidate you feel will best represent your interests and your party in the actual election. In other words, you’re choosing the horse you want to run in the race. Do you realize how important that is? All those people who were complaining in the last Presidential election about how both choices were terrible should have voted in the primary for a particular party. They could have brought a different candidate to the table. Primaries are the first step toward getting a viable candidate to run on the things you believe in. And the good news is that come the actual election, you’re still not obligated to vote for anyone. You can vote however you want.
The other good thing about picking a party is that you are more aware of things that go on and are in more contact with your elected officials. Being part of the College Republicans has allowed me to meet politicians on the local and state level. I’ve done meet and greets and dinners. I’ve volunteered to do canvassing and put up campaign signs. I’ve helped with mailings and donation calls. None of that would have been possible without the Republican party knowing which side I am on.
So think about it. It’s never too late to switch your affiliation from Independent to a party, and it is pretty easy to switch parties as well. You are never locked in to a single thing and always have the right to change your mind. There really is no downside to choosing a side, and there’s a whole lot of upside.