The Ethical Dilemma of Chastizing Unaffiliated Voters

This may start out as another blog post of stating the obvious, so bear with me.

It is known that to make any electoral difference in Montgomery County, you must register as a Democrat.

Maryland in entirety might not quite be a one-party state, but MoCo pretty much is. Most council districts do not have any viable Republicans filing, and the Republicans that do run, outside of perhaps Ed Amatetti in District 2, elicit responses of “Oh, that’s cute!” or “LMFAO!” (The latter would be for County Executive candidate Robin Ficker). Needless to say, our closed primary system means that state and local officials in Montgomery County are chosen by a paltry minority of residents who are registered Democrats and go out and vote in the Democratic primary. The rest sit at home and complain (or don’t pay attention).

Which brings to attention the “plight of the unaffiliated voter” – of which Pew Research found comprise a plurality of millennials and Hispanic voters.

Judging by the people who I know outside of organized political circles, this is not surprising. Based on my unscientific observation of “friends who aren’t involved in politics,” your average 30-year-old early/mid career advanced degree holder in Silver Spring is registered unaffiliated, votes against Republicans, despises Trump, is rather disinterested in local politics, and cannot name their County-level elected officials. If it isn’t an aversion to all things political in general, it’s a cynical “I don’t like either party.”

In my one public “endorsement” video from last week, (for Marc Elrich, in case you didn’t know) I may have struck a nerve by calling unaffiliated voters “cynical.” In general, I stand by what I said, as I am describing th crowd with the “why bother” sentiment, which I have come across way too often.

I do make exception, however, for those dedicated to a particular third party and are actively taking steps toward making that party and its candidates viable. But I understand it’s an uphill climb.

It’s hard for me to find sympathy for unaffiliated voters who complain about MoCo’s elected officials, despise the Council, and push for measures like term limits.

You could have voted for your own candidates of choice, but you didn’t. You let the general election come down to candidates chosen by a minority, a few thousand voters in a county of over one million.

You stayed home. You didn’t vote. Because you are not a registered Democrat.

See the catch-22 I find myself in, here? I don’t want to be that person to solidify the one-party jurisdiction and tell everyone to fall in line. I also can’t sympathize with those who complain about council members and the like who they didn’t try to vote out of office.

This all being said, I’m not sure whether I’d support open primaries. I’d be interested to find out how much an open primary would be impacted by what I’ll call the “troll vote,” e.g. voting for the worst candidate of he party you normally oppose.

What I do take issue with is the unaffiliated voter that votes for term limits in the general to restrict the choices of a party you don’t even belong to. While I was ambivalent about term limits when it was proposed, in retrospect, I would favor public financing becoming the norm along with rank choice voting instead of term limits to mitigate the disproportionate advantage of incumbents.

All I can say now is this: While I understand the perils of the single-party government, I would strongly advise millennials in MoCo to register as Democrats and vote in the primary. The hard truth is, this is how you can have a say. There are about 30 candidates heading toward the filing deadline for Council at-large (as well as many others for several other open seats). Surely you can find one that doesn’t suck.

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