Michael: Carol West Decides to Ditch the Parties: Or Have the Parties Ditched Her?Councilperson Carol West is now where she belongs; in the vast unnamable political landscape we just call Independent, for lack of any better term. She wasnt the most reliable Democrat, but she certainly was one. I've moaned and groaned about her votes occasionally. But despite that, I am sad to see her jump ship. Her colleagues could count on her to try to counter the smashmouth partisan brawling that has become too commonplace in city politics. Really, Wests leaving the party is all for the better, it wont hurt her support, nor cause her to reconsider her ethics, beliefs, truths, or loyalties in the community. We knew West to be of an independent turn of mind before her making it official. People, Including me, have faulted her on that; sometimes justly, sometimes otherwise. But when it comes down to it, it is unlikely to change the way she governs one whit.
What does concern me is that West going independent may be a sign that we are thinning our own herd of the 'weak' and fractious in an effort to be more like the GOP in policy orthodoxy. Perceived ideological weaknesses of our officials are often used by the GOP agenda to scare or enrage the herd; so we think we must become strong and homogeneous to withstand such assaults. All too frequently, the rhetorical attacks fo the Right force us to destroy, or hide all the diversity and independence of mind which are what's best about us. West, for instane, grew up on a horse ranch and was a Republican until she decided Democratic ideals where closer to her own while teaching Hispanic children. That sort of revelation is not commonplace, yet even as we need stories like West's badly to make connections with voters outside the liberal base, Carol is taking her story away from the Democrats because we haven't used it well.
Carol renouncing her party affiliation should be for Democrats much more than a chance to revile the independents as standing for nothing, or blasting Carol as a traitor, but rather a chance to begin to understand what it was in Wests heart that finally separated her from her political home of 33 years. I really want know, because I'm not confident that we will continue to win elections in Arizona without independent voters responding to stories like Carol's. A new ruling coatition will never consist of GOP and Dems working together; it will be Dems working with independents, or the GOP doing so. Winning means growing the party, opening the tent, and telling the best stories. One of ours just left the tent, and we need to pay heed to that fact.