Over the last decade, I have lost most of my affinity with the Democratic Party. I no longer feel that the solution to most problems is to regulate and spend. Then again, I have no love for the Republican view of the world either. The first priority of government should not be to coddle big business (at the expense of the environment, labor, or foreign sovereignty). So, by definition, I guess that makes me an Independent.
When we moved to New Hampshire four and a half years ago, I found that I could be an Independent and not feel completely powerless. In most states, if you do not have a party affiliation, you cannot vote in election primaries. In NH, Independents could declare a party affiliation on the day of the election, and change their affiliation back to Independent after they voted. Some politicians sneered at this situation "saying the current system allows people who want to disrupt party business a free hand."
Perhaps that is true. However, NH politics is pretty skewed. New Hampshirites are not party-loyal, by any stretch of the imagination. It is not atypical for voters to elect representatives from one party to go to Washington, D.C., and another party to run things locally. So, depending on which issues are the hottest during primary season, a New Hampshirite could choose to vote as a Democrat in one primary and as a Republican in the next. Another deciding factor in a New Hampshire Independent's primary day party choice is the slate of competitors being offered by each party.
For example, in the most recent primary, there was little real difference, or even competition, between the major Republican candidates for either Federal or local offices in New Hampshire. The outcome was pretty clear a long time before election day. So, many Independents voted as Democrats on primary day. And, even though Kerry, a Democrat, won New Hampshire in the general election, I would wager that a lot of people who voted for Bush had voted in the Democratic primary months before.
In addition, as a testament to how fickle New Hampshire can vote, note this. When I moved to New Hampshire in 2000, the governor was a Democrat, who was voted out for a Republican. In 2004, that Republican was voted out for a Democrat. It just so happens that in both elections, the state's choice in Presidential candidate followed suit. This is not always the case.
I suspect that all that is about to change. The New Hampshire legislature just passed a bill which would make if more difficult for Independents who declared a party for a primary to switch back to their Independent status. (see: http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_showa.html?article=50672 ) While this may not seem like a big deal, and may not seem to matter to most people since folks have at least a year before the next party-based primary-style elections are held. Recall what I said earlier. New Hampshirites are not loyalists. Most are from the "what have you done for me lately" school. And most will not like being pigeon holed as a member of one party or another.
While the state legislature will make it more inconvenient for most of us to change our party affiliations, New Hampshirites are a stubborn group. While I will probably be registered as a Democrat more often than not, I still plan to change my party affiliation back to Independent at the first opportunity. I doubt I'll be alone. After all, our state motto is "Live Free or Die!"