The other, other big election.

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Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash.

If you are a registered voter unable to participate in your local primaries due to your insistence as registering as an “Independent”, “Green” or “Libertarian”, ’tis the campaign season to reconsider your dedication to ideological purity and pick a side.

Here is a little known fact outside of partisan circles; neither all Democrats, nor all Republicans, agree on everything all the time.

On the contrary.

Members of the same political party, be they Republicans, Whigs, or Other, disagree, diverge and split ideological hairs on any number of important social issues, if not all of them.

For every incumbent Republican and Democrat currently arguing for term-limits, there are a dozen others arguing against it. Both sides have a point. On one hand, who can’t see the appeal of term limits? On the other, seniority on committees in Congress is the primary driver of getting things done in Washington.

Everything starts on a committee. That is why internal congressional campaigns for top spots on important committees are as competitive as any general election for high office, if not more.

Further complicating the issue, term limits would be set on a state by state basis. Some states would never, ever do it, putting any states electing to do so at a distinct disadvantage.

Any state that would trade its veteran congresspeople and senators every few years for a crop of freshmen starting in what amounts to the congressional mail room would be mad to do so.

Nancy Pelosi isn’t the most powerful woman in Washington because she is the Speaker of the House; she is the Speaker of the House because she is the most powerful woman in Washington.

Few have been in the game longer; few have more relevant experience when it comes to passing legislation in Washington. It takes time to get to the top; contacts, position, status, relationships. It takes brains and a pugilist’s jaw.

Term limits are one of a million issues on which you’d find a spectrum of opinions on right and left, plus plenty of Republican and Democrat voters who don’t really care much either way. Sure, term limits might be nice, a ban on congressional stock trading might be sensible, too- speaking of things that aren’t likely to happen.

But for many voters, probably most, things like term limits and congressional stock trading don’t approach other issues in order of importance. Voters are far more worried about things like higher prices on food, gas and rent, war, healthcare costs and unemployment.

When a Democratic Party voter, or a Republican Party voter, abandons the party for a third party- be it more progressive or conservative- they leave behind an important bargaining chip in the poker game of politics.

The ability to vote in the primary is one of the main reasons Republicans stay Republicans and Democrats stay Democrats, no matter how disappointed/angry/upset they are with current leadership.

Primary season is where the real action happens. During the primary is when a party’s voters get to decide who will best represent the party’s interests.

Republicans who left the Republican Party after Donald Trump abandoned Republicanism to the tender mercies of Trump supporters.

Republicans who left the party to be Libertarians or Independents before Donald Trump contributed just as much to his triumph in the 2016 Republican primary as much as Jeff Zucker, probably more.

Voters who stay with the party, however much they disagree with certain aspects of it, do so in order to influence the collective in a more positive direction as they see it.

During the primary.

Even progressive icon Sen. Bernie Sanders had to eventually join the Democratic Party, at least in all but name. While Sanders still maintains his independence by the thinnest sliver, running twice for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and agreeing in advance not to run as an independent should he lose, as indeed he did, is close enough.

If you’re a former-Democrat-registered-Independent who wishes the Democratic Party would move in a more progressive direction, come back to the party and vote in the primary.

If you’re a former-Republican-turned-Libertarian who doesn’t want the see the Republican Party fall under the spell of Donald Trump, return to the party and vote in the primary.

Vote your conscience. Democracy, like any other effective self-help program, only works if you work it. Every adult in America, registered voter or not, has many ways to express their approval or condemnation of the current state of politics in America, voting in the general election once every two years is only one of those ways.

People vote with their dollars, vote with their feet. Yes, voting in a Presidential election is important. Voting in a national election, even in a mid-term year is very important.

But these aren’t the only votes people get in our democracy. How people vote in the primaries is as important as how they vote in the general election, if not more. Far fewer people vote in the primaries than in the general election, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Democrats who stay Democrats and Republicans who stay Republicans, rather than abandoning both for a third party, often do so not in spite of the disagreements they have with fellow party members, but because of them. Abandoning your position in the Republican or Democratic Party leaves more field for the opposition to stretch out, entrench, build support.

Ideologically, many registered Democratic Party voters probably identify more with the Green Party or the Independents. They stay Democrats because they want their vote to count; and it counts double if they are able to vote in the primary.

Another party’s voters can’t choose the candidate they would most like their candidate to run against, that wouldn’t strengthen democracy. Attempts by media corporations like CNN to hijack another party’s primary to install the candidate they thought Hillary Clinton could most easily beat, backfired badly and led to the election of Donald Trump.

Trump did not, in fact, turn out to be a weaker candidate than Jeb! Bush, though Trump was undoubtably better for network news ratings.

Republicans voting for Republicans and Democrats voting for Democrats in the primaries leads to the best candidates each party has to offer. If both major parties send their very best, due to robust registrations and turnouts during the primary, democracy is strengthened.

Rendering yourself unable to vote in the major primaries because of attachment or aversion to labels like “libertarian,” “independent,” “Republican,” or, “Democrat,” is limiting your ability to make a real difference in the direction of the country.

Most voters who leave the Republican or Democratic Party do so because of the hyper-progressive or hyper-conservative extremists in the party. Abandoning one of the major parties to those elements, moderates are increasingly finding homes in third-parties. By doing so, they are diluting the true power of the moderate vote.

Double your impact; double your vote: Vote in the primaries.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)