Becoming a Democrat (again)

I’ve been voting for about a decade now and I’ve almost always voted for Democrats. I was excited for my very first election (a midterm election!) because I could finally vote Rick Santorum out of the Senate for his opposition to birth control and promotion of intelligent design. I was also eager to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary.* Back then, it actually mattered that I was a Democrat because Pennsylvania had closed primaries, meaning that only Democrats could vote for the Democratic candidate.

However, when I moved to San Francisco, I registered to vote without declaring a party preference. This isn’t the same as explicitly declaring yourself Independent; it’s just not having any annotation on your name in the voter rolls. I was just trying to avoid phone calls and paper mail, not totally disavow the party. Over the years, I got used to this status quo, and ended up feeling surprisingly attached to it. Since California’s primaries are only closed for Republicans and not Democrats, I didn’t feel the need to rejoin until now.

In the weeks before an election, you get voter guides in the mail from a bunch of different advocacy groups. I do my best to study multiple guides and compare their reasoning when they differ, but I assume that some voters will vote Democrat all the way down the ticket out of information overload or apathy. After all, I’ve considered doing it myself: I didn’t do enough research before my first election and was surprised by how many offices there were beyond Senator.

Here in San Francisco, the Democratic party totally dominates local and state politics, to the point that people strongly identify with specific factions within it. In San Francisco, this looks like a fight between “progressives” and “moderates” over how to fix the housing crisis (but everyone at least agrees that we have a housing crisis and that it’s hurting existing communities and vulnerable people). When I’m on the fence, I do look to the Democratic party’s endorsements in hopes that party members have done a lot of useful arguing on our behalf and figured out a reasonable compromise.

I’m not sure where I thought those party members came from, but last fall, I learned that some of them are directly elected at Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEMs). So, last weekend, I showed up to the Assembly District 17 election at Local 261, a union hall in the Mission to reregister as a Democrat and vote for San Francisco’s voice in statewide party policy.

The line was several blocks long and the wind and the rain were intense enough that my umbrella snapped in the line of duty, but I made it into the building after an hour and was able to cast my vote. As of this post, official results aren’t out yet, but a preliminary photo on David Chiu’s Facebook page suggests that the margin between the 7th Delegate and the 1st runner-up might only have been a vote or two, which is amazing and makes the wait in the rain feel worthwhile.

* This claim is according to the best of my recollection, but I’m not 100% sure and I’m not going to FOIA my voting record to fact check my own blog post and confirm that I voted. For what it’s worth, I did find a Facebook post from April 2008 where I mentioned Obama.

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