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Chris Campbell Headshot

Today I Left the Democratic Party

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With any relationship, when the bad far outweighs the good, perhaps it's time to move on. Many of us, myself included, hold onto relationships in hopes that things change, and even if they do for a time, in most cases, things revert back to the way they were. And then finally, in time, we muster up the courage to walk away from the security and comfort and start anew.

This is honestly how I've felt for the past few years with the Democratic Party. During the Bush years, I was embarrassed by my party. While Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al stomped on the Constitution and barreled through one egregious act after another, my party basically just sat quietly in the background. During the 2004 election, when John Kerry was attacked by the Swift Boaters, I recall walking around his volunteer office in midtown Manhattan furious that no one was doing anything. "It will blow over," was what I'd hear. And as the days passed, there was one excuse after another as to why Kerry wasn't taking on this group head-on. I know the democrats like civility and the high road, but there are times when a fight's in order. Terry McAuliffe, Kerry and the rest of his advisers saw otherwise. We lost. And the result was a country and world forced to deal with four more years of George W. Bush.

I initially had dreams of Al Gore running in 2008. I even stood in Union Square in San Francisco handing out "Gore in 2008" buttons, despite having no indication whatsoever from Gore that he was even considering a run. But we, along with other volunteers throughout the country, were part of a coalition trying to enlist signatures to convince the former Vice President to run. When this didn't happen, I tossed my support behind Edwards. When his candidacy ran out of gas, and it was down to Obama vs. Clinton, I moved into Barack's corner. I liked his fire, spirit, policy positions and mostly, his role as the "newcomer" to Washington, someone who could potentially really shake things up.

And then he won. And then we took massive advantages in both houses of congress. In my 18 years as a democrat, this was our time. I've yet to have a child, but I imagine the feelings that ran through me in the days following Obama's election were similar to the joy one experiences upon the birth of their first child. Alright, that's major hyperbole, but I was very, very excited. I was well aware that W's eight years of nearly destroying civilization would take a long time to even begin to turnaround, but finally, finally, a government that seemed to represent people who actually wanted to see this country progress. A government that understood the differences amongst us, that would at least recognize the poor, that would take on big insurance, that would look to straighten out the banks and corporations that brought this country to its knees, and nearly sent us into our second great depression. Again, I knew it would take time, and I knew the process might not be as fast as I'd like, but most importantly, I was sure that my party was up for the fight. I mean, they had control of everything.

A few days ago marked the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama. Yes, we have had some victories. The stimulus package, though clearly too small, helped to stabilize the markets and has given assistance to many Americans, whether via extended unemployment benefits, COBRA reductions, and some job creation. He has undoubtedly helped to rebuild our relationships and reputation around the world, though that quick excitement following election, and the end of Bush, seems to be flattening. His selection and ultimate confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor was a win.

All that said, what's been most disappointing about the democratic party as a whole is its lack of fight. With complete control of the executive and legislative branches of government, the democrats act as if they're still in the minority. Bush never had close to the advantages that the democrats have had since last November, yet his party plowed through seemingly whatever came to mind. Iraq War, illegal wiretapping, The Patriot Act, and on and on and on. Right on through. Yet the democrats' top domestic issue, Health Care Reform, has been approached with such caution and trepidation that it's little wonder that the American public has turned on it. I mean, we don't even know what the democrats want in the bill. Is Obama in favor of a public option? Got me. Why did they abandon single payer? Who knows. Will Sanjay Gupta be everyone's doctor? I suppose it's possible. Obama's leadership on Health Care Reform has been downright awful. This was his and he handed it to the likes of Snowe, Lieberman, Nelson, Baucus and the rest. And he waited. And waited. And look where we stand right now. A bill may still get through, but it'll have about as much muscle as I did the day I couldn't muster up one pull-up in 7th grade gym class. And every other major issue, from the wars to the environment and education to just about every social issue, remain gray. I honestly have very little idea where the president stands on any issue. Okay, I know he likes the Chicago White Sox.

One of my favorite songwriters, Jay Farrar, once wrote the simple and unwavering line, "When in doubt, move on, no need to sort it out." I've always been too much of a wimp to take such a quick path and abandon something. It's taken years and years of me begging my party to show some backbone before I finally hit my breaking point. Last night, I put a stamp on that envelope headed for Sacramento, changing my affiliation from democrat to decline to state (independent). I sat at my desk once again feeling unable to make the move. I've been a democrat for 18 years, my entire voting life. I stand with the democrats on a large portion of policy issues. I can't recall the last time I sided with the republicans on anything. As I sat there waffling (just like the party I was about to abandon), my little iPod docket launched into Sam Cooke's "Get Yourself Another Fool." And with that, I walked up the block, stopped at the mailbox and 18 years came to a close.