Merry Christmas! In our family, we celebrate not just Christmas Day but the twelve days of Christmas—keeping our house decorated and continuing to feast until Jan. 5. Because our Christian faith is central to our lives, we want to celebrate Christmas, not as the one-day culmination of a season of shopping and partying, but as a season for reflection on the outrageous fact that the divine entered human history.
Since it’s still Christmas at our house, I have a Christmas gift for you, Tom. Here’s my gift: I just requested the board of elections to send me a new voting application so that I can change my party registration. I don’t remember what I indicated when I first registered to vote in New York fourteen years ago. I probably said that I was independent if I was required to say anything at all. But I’ve recently decided that I am going to register as a Republican. Merry Christmas!
My friends and family will be surprised by this. I’ve never voted Republican and when I fill out those online quizzes that test which candidate best fits my beliefs and which party’s platform most aligns with what I care about, the results seldom if ever show that I should support a GOP candidate.
But here’s the deal. Our electoral system is messed up. If I think about my ideal political candidate for national office, it would be a moderate person from either party who is willing to get things done by working across the aisle. But our system has devolved in recent years so that there aren’t any moderates left.
For example, if you Tom were to move to the center on any of a variety of issues (say if you started using the language of reforming the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing it or if you admitted that your rural district with a declining population could benefit from immigration), you might find yourself facing a primary challenge from a more conservative candidate. Someone might emerge saying that you weren’t conservative enough, and you might be defeated.
Why wouldn’t people like me, who want more centrist candidates vote to keep you in? Why are there no centrists left in congress? Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican, quit in 2013 because she was so frustrated that there was no one left in the center. One reason we don’t have moderates in congress (from either party) is that moderate voters don’t often vote in the primaries. I’ve never voted in a political primary myself.
So this is your gift. I’m going to register as a Republican and tell all my friends to do so too. For people living in the 23rd district who read my blog, I recommend that we all register as Republicans. Why not register as Democrats if that’s the party that we prefer? Frankly, because our district is not likely to elect a Democrat. I know we came a little close for your comfort this fall, Tom, but you still won with a fairly safe margin. The people of this district generally prefer Republicans. My best bet for getting a centrist candidate as my representative in Washington is to get a centrist Republican. And I’m okay with that.
If you move to the center, Tom, I and as many of my friends as I can convince to join me, will vote for you in the primary. Or, if you don’t move to the center, we will vote for the most moderate candidate who runs. I know that it feels safer to stay on the right. But is that what you really want?
Earlier this year you supported the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency and does things like fund boat inspections to control invasive species. Someone who was very conservative might oppose that kind of thing as promoting more environmental regulation. You, however, said in your May 2 press release that “The boat inspection program has produced positive results and encouraged the control of hydrilla in the Finger Lakes in particular. We are glad we can further these efforts and help protect our lakes.” That sounds pretty moderate, Tom.
I wonder if you wouldn’t mind becoming more of a moderate. Do you admire Amo Houghton, who served this district for 18 years? He was a moderate.
If you do move to the center, I’m ready to go to the polls as a newly registered Republican and do what I can to ensure that you stay in office. Do we have a deal?
I suspect that you’re taking some time off for the holidays since the only new press release on your website is about a plan announced last June. Everyone needs a bit of vacation so I don’t begrudge you that. I wish that you had more time to answer your mail, however. It’s now been seven weeks and I still haven’t heard from you. I’ll be expecting a reply as soon as your office gets working again in the New Year.
Talk to you soon,