By Greg Jackson, Esq.
Question: Did anyone get the memo stating that when you register with a political party you must leave your personal beliefs, morals, common sense and opinions at the door? Well, many Democrats, such as myself, have learned that if you do not agree with the direction, leadership or agenda of the party, it is best that you keep quiet or risk being ostracized by party hardliners who oftentimes are found in leadership at the local level. If you voice an opinion that differs from the party’s, no matter if it is based on credible evidence or common sense, you may even be considered “not-a-real-Democrat.” I have learned that when weak or unethical Democrats, who are supported by party “insiders,” run for elected ofﬁce, you better support them even if their moral and/or ethical shortcomings conﬂict with your own. If you opt, instead to stand on principal, there is a very good likelihood that you will be considered a troublemaker or even worse marked as a Republican, which in Democrat-speak is next to the worst thing on the planet Earth. Admittedly, the scenarios I am describing are typically based on the actions of the hardcore members of the party. For the most part, Democrats (conservative, moderate, etc.) do not agree with everything the party stands for and will seek common ground with members of other parties to get things done. These efforts to work together are actually very healthy for the future growth of the party. However, the unfortunate reality is that for the most part, the hardcore element of the party is typically the most vocal and garner the most attention. (NOTE: I fully recognize that these same sentiments are felt in the Republican, Libertarian, Green Parties, etc.).
As the political landscape changes in Orange County, it is undeniable that the number of Republican voters is declining while Democratic voters’ numbers are inching up slightly. That for the most part is due to the Democratic party spending considerably more time with voter registration. These efforts, help to “pack-the-ﬁeld” with more democratic minded voters who, when called upon, for the most part will go to the polls and vote for a Democrat. However, what cannot be ignored is that the fastest growing political party in Orange County and across the State is arguably N.P.A., which stands for Non-Party Afﬁliates. It appears that as party loyalist seek to make it mandatory for its members to blindly follow but not question, people are looking to go to a party where they can speak and vote freely.
What parties seem to forget is that politics is merely a process, not a deﬁnition of who we are as individuals. In my experience, when people are asked about the things that are most important to them, the order is typically: God, family, country, etc. If they were to become robots of a political party, the list would be: party afﬁliation, party agenda, party elected ofﬁcials, and I think you get where I am going. My point is this, ﬁrst and foremost, in the context of political importance, we are Americans. Our votes, focus and support should, and would be better spent, going with those candidates and ideas that will keep our country at the top of the list of being the greatest country ever to be in existence. Next, parties need to understand that constructive disagreements help us to all become stronger, as a party and as a nation. In the midst of disagreement there is always a happy median, a place where we can work together to better our communities. Next, speaking against the position of a candidate or elected ofﬁcial in your own party is actually healthy and can result in better leadership and support. That is because the ability to recognize shortcomings and honestly addressing those things lends credibility to the party. Instead of being seen as a robot or puppet, you will be viewed as a fair-minded person people can trust to give honest assessments and opinions. Interestingly, Community leaders are always encouraging people “if you see something, say something.” That same concept should be encouraged in politics to help ensure that we get candidates and elected ofﬁcials who will best serve our communities and collective interest, which is important to the survival and betterment of our nation
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.
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