It’s that time again, when the crazy world of American politics focuses intensely on New Hampshire.  Pollsters and volunteers walk the streets with clipboards and pamphlets, earnestly hoping to sway your opinion.  New Hampshire has held the first Primary in the nation for 100 years.  Back then the Primary was held on March 9th, now it’s February 11th.  New Hampshire moves the date up largely to hold other states at bay.  We’re stubborn that way.  It seems not everyone wants this tiny, mostly white and rural state to have the kind of influence it has.  And frankly I understand that sentiment, but on the other hand, there’s something to be said for tradition.  One bonus of New Hampshire having the first Primary is the relative smallness of the state makes it easy for candidates to bounce from one speaking engagement to another with relative ease.

As with many New Hampshire residents, I’m an Independent, meaning I choose not to affiliate with either the Democrats or the Republicans.  In New Hampshire this gives me the choice to vote in either the Democratic or Republican Primary simply by declaring which ballot I wish to get on election day.  And I’ve voted in both many times over the 25 years I’ve lived in New Hampshire, usually in the race that is most impactful.  This year there’s no point in voting for the incumbent, as he’s guaranteed the nomination.  So why throw away my vote choosing someone who’s guaranteed?  I have strong opinions about the guy in office, but I’m trying to be a gentleman in this blog and won’t say what I think of him.

As an Independent, I’ll walk into the Community Center in my town where they hold the election, get in line to check in based on the alphabet, and tell them my name when it’s my turn.  They confirm it’s me, take a ruler and highlight the line with my name and home address indicating that I’ve checked in (so I can’t vote multiple times), and hand me the ballot.  The ballot is similar to taking a standardized test, where you fill in a circle next to your choice with a marker, staying carefully within the boundaries.  I take this process very seriously and take my time.  I then carry my ballot over to a machine that sucks it in and reads it, and a town official hands me a small sticker that says “I Voted!” and my civic duty is done for another election.

I know who I’m voting for in the Primary.  I made up my mind over the last week, and it’s a shift from the person I originally considered.  As an Independent I have no patience for politicians who stand too far to the left or right.  It’s one thing to have conservative or liberal views, it’s another to blindly parrot the party leadership.  This isn’t a cult, it’s a democracy!  Give me someone who can reach across the aisle and find compromise.  That’s how the real world works, so why shouldn’t it be that way in politics?  Because some zealot screams at you to fall in line?  No, thanks.

Can you guess who I’m voting for?  You can easily guess who I’m NOT voting for – anyone trying to drag us further apart.  And that’s enough information.  The beauty of our electoral process is that my vote is none of your business.  And your vote is none of mine.  But both count just the same.  What matters is that you get out and vote and support democracy.  We’re in an ugly time in American politics, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t get better, it just means that we have to work harder to get it there.  Just as our ancestors did during the darkest days in our country’s history.  I have faith in Americans to roll up our collective sleeves and fix what’s wrong with our country.  And it begins with a vote in the New Hampshire Primary tomorrow morning.