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They get a laugh, they get my vote

March 07, 2000

Last week I voted. And then left the country.

There was good reason for this, although the two were not necessarily connected.

I had to vote absentee, since for the month of March I'll be off hiking in the Himalayas in Nepal (I've left you a few columns that will run once a week in my absence so you won't have to wait until I'm back to be bored) and that means I will miss Super Tuesday - in fact, I probably won't find out which candidates have won the de facto nomination in the March 7 "National Primary" until I come out of the mountains near April.

This saddens me greatly, but somehow I believe I will be able to get along without knowing.

Voting has always been traumatic for me because I have always been uncomfortable taking sides. As I've explained before, I always put the needs of my column ahead of the needs of my country and consequently end up voting for the most amusing candidate - which explains my perfect voting record for Roscoe Bartlett and William Donald Schaefer.

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But being an independent, I wasn't used to voting in a primary. This year was different, because the Republican Party generously decided to allow independents to "cross over" and vote in their primary.

The GOP may want to rethink this strategy. Republicans, as I understand it, were looking to broaden their base, to attract a new generation of younger, independent, forward-looking, reform-minded, intelligent thinkers into the fold. And look what happened. They bagged me instead.

That can't be what they had in mind. I edged into the Washington County Elections Board, which I am convinced is staffed by the most wonderful group of women in or out of government. They tried to make me feel at home as best they could.

But still the words caught in my throat: "I want to vote - Republican." (I've been gargling with Top Job to try to get THAT taste out of my mouth, to no avail). They nodded sympathetically and indicated that they understood and that there were certain 12-step programs available if I felt things spinning even further out of control.

So there I was. I had become one of these independent "mischief-makers" that you are reading so much about - the ones who are intruding into the ranks of the GOP faithful and skewing the results by voting as a block against the establishment's hand-picked candidate, George W. Bush.

My how things have changed. Initially the GOP Party message was "We want you to support Republicans." The updated party message is "We want you to support Republicans - but not now."

Instead, we are supposed to wait until the true Republicans TELL us who we should support and then vote for that candidate in the fall. Obviously, that decidedly un-independent strategy has backfired among independent voters.

I for one wasn't going to be tethered by such arcane hypocrisy. I wasn't going to be used. Flaunting the GOP establishment, I sat down at the table and with a No. 2 lead pencil in hand and my head held high, I proudly marked my ballot for Alan Keyes.

Well, I'm sorry, but what can I say? His platform - that all Americans should collectively be put over his knee and spanked - carries a sort of Singaporean charm that is missing from today's politics.

Then I voted for Robin Ficker for Senate. He's the guy who for years has obnoxiously tormented opponents at Washington Wizards basketball games. You've got to admire that quality in a senator. Then I voted for Tim Mayberry for House, simply to "send a message" to Roscoe Bartlett that unless he starts doing more wacky stuff such as piling dead goats on the riverbank, and soon, he can be replaced by someone even more "out there."

All right, that's enough mischief for one month. And remember, all you independents: There's still time to vote for Alan Keyes.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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