The elections of 2018 and 2020 are going to be the most consequential that we have had since Johnson bombed Goldwater in ’64. It has rarely been as important as it is right now for a man to know where he stands, what he believes, and what flag he is willing to fight under. It is supposed to mean something to carry a flag. When a man stands under a flag he is telling the world a lot about himself without saying a word. Just ask those guys born and bred in the United States of America who insist on flying the stars and bars of the Confederacy- the vanquished, treasonous, traitorous, white supremacist insurrection of the slave-holding southern states.
They understand quite well what it means to wave a flag and they use it to great effect. And the same applies to the flag of political parties. The party you belong to and claim in public is the flag you fly. From my perspective, if I can’t fly that flag high and proud then I don’t fly it at all. That is why DVH, Esquire is an independent and the only flag I fly is the flag of our nation- the flag that my forefathers fought under in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam- all during times when they did not enjoy equal rights as citizens or the equal protection under the laws as they were Constitutionally entitled to.
After more than 25 years of active voting and political engagement, no party has earned my allegiance even though one of them has consistently won my vote. As a man who came of age in the 90’s, that party is the Democratic party. And unless the Republican Party undergoes a change equal to or greater than the one they had during the Civil Rights Movement, you can bet your check it’ll stay that way. I’m serious about my political affiliation because I am deadly serious about my politics. And right now, we are in deadly serious times- so much so that serious people have given strong consideration and reassessment of the flag they carry. So the Democrats can have my support and my vote but my allegiance will cost more than just being a superior choice to the Republicans- which is getting easier and easier to do.
That is the reason why lifelong Republicans like George Will and Joe Scarborough formally withdrew themselves from the Republican Party when they realized what it would mean to be a Republican under the leadership of Donald Trump. Award winning conservative stalwart columnist David Brooks recently published a column in the New York Times describing himself as “politically homeless.” Has the platform changed that much under Trump? Of course not. The same talking points about limited government, low taxes, a strong military and restricting abortion still apply. So why did these guys ditch the flag of the party that had served them so very well for so very long?
Because politics matter as much as policy matters and Trump’s politics became untenable for them. It is noteworthy that each of these men switched their formal registration to “Independent,” joining DVH, Esquire in that often misunderstood and unfairly assailed group of Americans.
They left the Republican Party because they didn’t like what that flag might say about them if they carried it in public- and because in our system of free speech and free elections they could. They left because they did not want that leadership to represent them in public settings- even if the likelihood that they would vote for a Democratic ticket was remote. A man has to decide how he is going to represent himself and if he cannot be at peace with carrying a particular flag he is betraying himself by doing so. Frankly, he is sacrificing his birthright as an American if he does so. It is an act of cowardice to join a political party because you feel powerless standing alone, speaking for yourself and voting your conscience. American politics may be rough but it is not like an American prison where you have to affiliate with a large and powerful group right away or risk unspeakable suffering during your incarceration. When you are a free man, you should act like a free man.
And for the record, sometimes the greatest fighters on the battlefield are those that are putting it all on the line for principle and NOT for party. There is no greater illustration of this point than a poignant scene in the great 1989 Civil War epic Glory for which Denzel Washington won his first Oscar. In this scene, his character Tripp, a runaway slave turned Union soldier, explains to his commanding officer Col. Robert Shaw, why he does not want to accept the honor of bearing the regiment’s flag despite the high honor it bestows. Take it away, Denzel
This man is all in for the cause. He is as committed as anybody else on that battlefield- more even. But he does not feel that the flag represents him and the fire that fuels his fight. But he’s there. I cannot speak for anybody else, but that captures my ethos quite well. And I doubt that I am alone.
The Progressive Express is run out of Atlanta, Georgia- one of the largest and most progressive cities in the country. And earlier this week the final vote count was certified in the mayoral election and Democratic candidate Keisha Bottoms defeated her opponent Mary Norwood by the slim margin of 382 votes. Mary Norwood was a registered Independent. Right now, we have two sitting U.S. Senators who were elected as Independents, Angus King and Bernie Sanders- both of whom caucus with the Democrats. In the 2016 general election the “3rd party” vote count was just under 5% but that small slice of the electorate was highly consequential as both Michigan and Pennsylvania reflected that Trump’s margin of victory was less than the total “3rd party” vote count. So there is something to be said about the power and impact of voters who are not formally affiliated with a major party.
Those precious few must understand their value and their power as the political stakes continue to escalate. Independents have an opportunity to grow right now and move the debate like never before. Just because somebody can get your vote does not mean that they get to have your voice. And until somebody really earns it- and only you get to decide what the price is- continue to vote your principles and don’t burden yourself carrying the flag for any party.