My son Harry sure got everyone’s attention at dinner the other night. “I’m a Republican,” he declared, causing my daughter to almost drop her fork. By all rights, Harry should be a Democrat. He is, after all, a college sophomore from the Northeast with liberal or libertarian positions on most issues. His last haircut was on Dec. 6, 2006. Yet on his first voter registration form, he proudly checked the box for the Grand Old Party. I figured he was just messing around, but after listening to his explanation, I now believe those recent surveys showing that the left-right partisan divide that has long animated the baby boomer generation is losing its potency with Generation Y. I also wonder whether the two-party system is in trouble.
Harry is merely trying to maximize his influence. He’s happy with the Democratic front-runners, but can’t say the same for the GOP field. So he plans to vote in the New York Republican primary for his top Republican choice (McCain, currently), figuring he can still vote Democratic in the general election. Besides, he cares far more about issues than party affiliation; he took a hard look at Ron Paul before thinking better of it, and is keeping an eye on Michael Bloomberg’s flirtation with an independent run. Harry hardly thinks the parties are interchangeable. But he says neither speaks directly to his values or interests, and he thinks the two-party system stifles bold ideas and results in too few electoral choices. This may explain his rather subversive proposal: Since anybody can register for either party, why don’t liberals become Republicans and conservatives become Democrats? “It would be chaos,” he says with a grin. How naïve. How brilliant. - Eric Effron