top banner

 

The Old Lyme RTC works to promote our brand throughout the year – not just at election time. The committee also holds its elected officials responsible to the voters. We welcome those in the community to join us in shaping and promoting our message.

The following Opinion piece appeared a few years ago in a newspaper print edition delivered by The Day Publishing Company.
It appears here unedited from its original version.  We are certain that it will inspire you to come forth and join our efforts.

 

Unaffiliated vs. Independent They are not the Same

BY CLAIRE SAUER

"I'm not registered in a political party--I'm independent."

How often have you heard those words-or, heaven forbid, said them yourself? Oftentimes, they are said with smug satisfaction and an air of superiority.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization, but we encourage voters to enroll in the political party of their choice. As a member of the League, when I hear someone boast about being "independent," I try to remain civil, but I tend to want to shout, "You are not independent! You are unaffiliated."

There is a difference-a big difference.

  • Unaffiliated means you have given up your right to vote in primaries and to influence a political party.
  • Independent means you use your judgment when you go into the voting booth. All responsible people are independent. A person who has never crossed a party line is a person who has just saved himself or herself the trouble of thinking.
  • Don't think you are superior because you are "above party politics." Politics can be messy business sometimes, but removing yourself from the democratic process doesn't improve the situation-it simply creates a vacuum for others to fill.
  • Many people consider themselves "centrists," and don't want to associate with either of the major parties. They consider the Democratic Party too liberal and the Republican Party too conservative, so they remove themselves from the process. They are then dismayed at the "extremism" of the parties. What do you think is going to happen to the parties when the moderates refuse to participate?
  • Because of Connecticut's minority representation law, boards and commissions cannot be made up of members of just one political party. While unaffiliated voters may serve, candidates are usually chosen from the political parties. So if you want to be involved in town government, register with one of the political parties.

Statistics regarding party enrollment paint a dismal picture. In recent years (since 1996) there have been more unaffiliated voters in Connecticut than those registered in either of the major political parties. More distressing is that the percentage of unaffiliated voters in Connecticut is increasing. Twenty years ago, 33 percent of registered voters were unaffiliated, compared with 42 percent last year- despite that in 2008 most of the more than 300,000 newly registered voters were affiliated with the Democratic Party. In 2007, 44 percent of Connecticut voters were unaffiliated.

There is much talk about changing the political climate in America. To do this, every one of us has to assume some responsibility. We should all ask ourselves, "What am I doing to promote good government?" A simple first step is to enroll in a political party. Then take responsibility for being informed on issues and letting your elected representatives know your stand on issues.

Let us put behind us the old easy way of evading responsibility by taking the attitude that all politicians are crooks and that we will just ignore the whole mess. The word "politician" should not be pejorative. What makes our country so special is that we are a democracy and we have the privilege of electing people to represent us. If they are not the best and the brightest, it is our fault for not doing a better job of participating in our democracy.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz put it well when she said, "Whatever your political leanings, the fact remains that when more people become involved in the democratic process, we all win. The results really do impact our everyday lives. America is best served when all eligible voters cast their ballots. It's our right, our duty, and our future: affiliate and participate."

The League of Women Voters once had a pamphlet titled "Don't be Half a Voter," which eloquently set forth the case for registering in a political party. It is now out of print and copies are unavailable, but I hope that this article will give those of you who are unaffiliated (not independent) something to think about.

Claire Sauer of Lyme is a former state representative and member of the League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut. The League, a nonpartisan organization of men and women, is dedicated to the principles of self-government established by the US. Constitution.