It’s very appropriate that I did a certain action today just a few hours before the start of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Today I did something that I once considered unthinkable and it’s also the sort of thing that will shock some members of my family when they learn this: I have joined the #DEMEXIT movement by changing my voter registration from Democrat to Independent. This is the first time I have ever changed my party affiliation in my life and I’m now glad I did it. In a way I felt I had to after seeing the horrible shenanigans on the part of the Democratic National Convention and Hillary Clinton that had been going on for many months and it came to a crescendo in Philadelphia just a few months ago.

I have followed in the footsteps of other longtime Democrats by quitting the party entirely such as this person and that person.

In some ways it’s sad that it has come to this for me. When I was 18 my high school held a special assembly that was only for students who were either already 18 or who will turn 18 before Election Day that November. The assembly was led by two women who were from the local elections board and they were there to register us as new voters. We were given voter registration forms that we could fill out then return to the two women. I registered my name and address. When it came time to check party affiliation, I chose the Democrat Party. It was a no-brainer for me. I lived in a heavily Democratic state (Maryland) and I come from a long line of mostly Democrats, especially on my mother’s side of the family.

In fact I had a distant cousin named Harry Banahan, Sr., who was devoted to Democratic politics. I don’t remember whether my Grandfather Banahan was also Harry’s uncle or cousin but Harry was definitely my cousin on my mother’s side of the family. Grandfather Banahan died a few years before I was born and I was never in contact with the other members of his family when I was growing up. (For some reason that have become lost in time since most of the people directly involved are now deceased, the members of my grandfather’s family decided to cease most contact with my grandmother after my grandfather died.) I didn’t meet Harry until after I was an adult and I only saw him in person twice—once when my Grandmother Banahan died and once when my aunt (my mother’s older sister) died a few years later. Both times were little more than a brief meeting at the funeral and I had never gotten into any in-depth conversations with him. (He was a few decades older than me. I remember he socialized mostly with my mother and other people who were either her age or older.) We never called each other or exchanged letters or anything like that. To me he was just a distant relative whom I only met twice in my life but had no other contact with him.

Harry Banahan, Sr. died back in February at the ripe old age of 98. I only learned this because one of my other cousins said that she had found his obituary in The Baltimore Sun. (For the record I didn’t go to his funeral because I didn’t know about his death until a couple of months after he was laid to rest.) Reading his obituary online, it was no mystery as to why he was a loyal Democrat his entire life. At 16 he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was one of the many New Deal programs that Franklin D. Roosevelt created to help those who were burdened by the Great Depression. He left the CCC to serve a machinist apprenticeship at the B&O Railroad’s Mount Clare Shop but later returned to the CCC when he was furloughed. He was called back to the railroad but he later went on to serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war he owned and operated a couple of sporting goods stores and he also was a purchasing director at the Baltimore Civic Center (now known as the Royal Farms Arena).

According to family lore (which I haven’t been able to independently verify) he ran as a candidate for the Baltimore City Council a few times in the 1950’s but he lost every election he ever ran in. He most likely ran as a Democrat because Baltimore was—and still is—heavily dominated in local politics by the Democratic establishment. Despite those defeats, he still kept tabs on local politics. His obituary mentioned that William Donald Schaefer (who was both former Baltimore Mayor and former Maryland Governor) was a friend. Harry Banahan was mentioned in this 2007 Baltimore Sun article where, at the ripe age of 90, he spoke with then-Governor Martin O’Malley about how he strongly supported the erection of a statue dedicated to Schaefer. Cousin Harry was probably thrilled when he got his wish because one can now find William Donald Schaefer’s statue in Baltimore at the Inner Harbor between Harborplace and the Maryland Science Center (both of which were built and opened during his days as Mayor).

It’s easy to understand why Harry Banahan was loyal to the Democrat Party his entire life. He benefitted directly from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program at a time when he needed the work. Thanks to that start from the CCC, he eventually became a successful businessman while supporting his wife and children with no help from anyone else. He was even able to spend the last years of his long life with complete dignity. There’s a charming story on the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Martin’s Baltimore website about how, at the age of 95, he was crowned the King of Valentine’s Day. Harry’s wife had passed away by then so an older woman was selected to be his Queen: 101-year-old Florence Curtis.

While Harry Banahan, Sr. was personally and professionally well-served by the Democrat Party throughout his life, unfortunately I can’t say the same for myself. Despite my own lifelong loyalty to the Democrat Party, that party hadn’t done much to benefit me personally. In fact that party seemed to have gone out of its way to alienate me. It started when I was a student at the University of Maryland. I was a Journalism major while minoring in Government and Politics. I was looking for a potential summer internship when I saw a notice through the College of Journalism where the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was looking to hire a few interns for the summer. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. I was a registered Democrat and that internship would have tapped into both my major and my minor so I applied.

I received a callback where they wanted to talk to me and we were trying to set up an appointment where I would meet with someone for a face to face interview. I was trying to schedule a time where it wouldn’t conflict with classes, especially if there was an important exam being held that day. While we were trying to figure out an appointment time that would work for the both of us, the woman I spoke with suddenly blurted out, “You don’t really want this internship, do you?” That was totally out of the blue because I don’t recall giving any kind of vibes of not being interested. (Hell, if I wasn’t interested, I would never have applied in the first place.) I protested that I really did want that internship. We finally settled on a date and time. But then the DNC called either a few hours later or a few days later (I don’t remember which) and found that, for some reason I don’t remember, we had to reschedule my interview. Again while we were trying to figure out schedules I got the same “You don’t really want this internship, do you?” question over the phone. I felt like I was being discouraged from even trying to get this internship, which made me more insistent that I get an interview for this internship just so I could show those people that I could do the work.

I managed to get an appointment that worked for everyone concerned. On that day I used public transportation (I didn’t have a car at the time) to go to the DNC’s offices in downtown DC and did a few interviews with the various departments that were looking for interns but I didn’t get an internship. But I still remember that “You don’t really want this internship, do you?” sudden jab all those years later and I especially started to remember it even more in recent months given how I’ve seen the DNC behaved. I’m at the point where the DNC thinks of rank and file members like me as riffraff who don’t really matter because we aren’t the 1% with incredibly deep financial pockets and I really don’t want to belong to an organization who doesn’t really want me around. This recent link I found has a headline that says it all about the current Democrat Party’s attitudes about its own members who aren’t powerful and wealthy: Liberal Elites Hate the Left.

Despite that early disappointment regarding not getting that internship at the DNC, I still remained a loyal Democrat for many years. As time went on I discovered that my relationship with the Democratic Party was becoming more and more one-sided. It was like a woman who falls in love with a conceited yet charismatic man who frequently ignores her while screwing around with several other women at the same time (and he might even be already married to someone else). Yet when he says a few kind words to her (and maybe even give her a single red rose) that are little more than throwing a bone, she starts to hang on those words while thinking “He likes me! He really, really likes me!” She continues to remain loyal to that cad while he continues to screw around behind her back. I never wanted to be in that situation in my private life so why should I expect similar treatment in from my affiliated political party?

Ever since Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 elections to Ronald Reagan I’ve seen the Democrat Party shoot itself in the foot over and over again.

In 1984 Ronald Reagan was running for re-election while running those now-classic “It’s Morning in America” ads, which definitely resonated with a lot of people. Gary Hart had thrown his hat in the race in the Democratic primary yet the establishment wanted former Vice President Walter Mondale to be the nominee. Gary Hart won the first few primaries, which would echo Bernie Sanders’ primary wins a few decades later, and I remember those victories freaked out the establishment in the DNC who really wanted Mondale. I started seeing results in later primaries where, in a close race, the DNC enabled Walter Mondale would get the lion’s share of the delegates even though the popular vote was tied. Despite the DNC’s love for Walter Mondale, I remember seeing footage of the two on the campaign trail and, to be blunt, Gary Hart performed way better than Mondale. And he had the charisma that matched Regan’s and, well, Mondale just didn’t resonate with a lot of people despite the DNC’s insistence that Mondale be its nominee. While I can’t say for sure whether Gary Hart would’ve defeated Ronald Reagan in 1984, I’d like to believe that he would’ve come much closer to Reagan than Mondale’s dismal results on Election Day.

In 1988, when Reagan was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third presidential term and Gary Hart decided to try running for president as a Democrat again, the DNC decided that Michael Dukakis was the man who would beat Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush. This time Gary Hart’s campaign was done in by a scandal of his own making (remember the ship Monkey Business?) so the DNC got its way again by having Dukakis as its candidate. I remember Dukakis was just as timid on the campaign trail as Mondale was. Whenever Bush or any other Republican tried to pin the dreaded “L” word (liberal) he would go to great lengths to avoid discussing being a liberal. Then there was that idiotic photo he did of himself in a tank while wearing military gear, which earned him total ridicule nationwide. I remember reading in The Washington Post about two or three days before the election where Michael Dukakis said that, yes, he’s a liberal in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. It was a lovely rebuttal that would’ve been awesome had he uttered it months earlier. Sadly that rebuttal was too little, too late and George H.W. Bush became the next president.

In 2000 Bill Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, ran against George W. Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush. It was also the year that Ralph Nader received a lot of attention because he decided to run for office on the Green Party ticket. For years I’ve heard loyal Democrats blame Nader for splitting the Democratic vote and ensuring the reality of a President George W. Bush. At one point I believed this. Recently there have been web pages debunking the idea that Nader was the spoiler in that election, such as this one. And there are my memories of Gore as a campaigner. I remember he came across as stiff and cautious on the campaign trail. He seemed like he was literally afraid of taking any kind of risks. I remember when I watched An Inconvenient Truth a number of years later and I saw a different Al Gore who was arguing passionately on why the U.S. needs to focus on climate change right now before it’s too late. It was too bad that Al Gore didn’t show that passionate side of him when he was on the campaign trail because he probably would’ve ended up in the White House by a more decisive margin that wouldn’t needed the intervention of the Supreme Court.

In 2004 John Kerry ran against incumbent George W. Bush but he ran a totally lackluster campaign. I remember when the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth challenged John Kerry on his Vietnam War record and John Kerry didn’t even respond at all. In fact I remember when he seemed to make himself scarce after the Democratic Convention and there were no calls for volunteers to help on his campaign. He did perform brilliantly in the debates against George W. Bush but that was about it. It was no wonder he lost that year.

Even when the Democrats win the White House they turned out to be disappointing. In 1992 the economy was going through a recession and the Democrats had a chance to regain the White House for the first time since 1980. Bill Clinton was elected president and he proceeded to act so cautiously to the point where he supported the Defense of Marriage Act (which was a big “FUCK YOU!” to LGBTQ persons who wanted the legal right to marry their partners) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which was also a big “FUCK YOU!” to LGBTQ people who wanted to serve their country in the military). He championed NAFTA by calling it the best thing for American jobs when, in reality, it hastened the corporations sending well paying jobs outside the U.S. because they could pay impoverished Mexicans less money while not being required to care about such things as occupational safety. Despite his cautious nature, his siding with corporations who wanted to ship American jobs overseas, and willingness to constantly appease the Republicans (especially those who really loathed him and were out to get him) I voted for him again in 1996 because I fell into the whole “we must unite to re-elect Clinton because Bob Dole is far worse and he’ll outlaw legal abortion and destroy the country if Clinton is defeated” argument and, besides, I was still a loyal Democrat at this point. I even remained a loyal Democrat when Bill Clinton was impeached during his second term because he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. (It says it all when the Republicans have been trying to find something on the scandal-prone Clintons that could hold up in a legal setting—ranging from Whitewater to the Rose Law Firm—and the only thing they could make stick is that Clinton lied under oath about getting blowjobs from Monica Lewinsky. And even that didn’t last long since Clinton ultimately prevailed and he stayed in his President job until his second term ended.)

In 2008 I chose Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the primaries because he was promising hope and change. Given the economic crisis when Wall Street literally tanked the economy I felt that a latter-day Franklin Delano Roosevelt is what this country needed and Obama talked like he was FDR reincarnated. I didn’t even care about the color of his skin—he could’ve had blue or purple skin and I still would’ve voted for him because I loved what he was saying at the time. But once he was elected he started putting in Wall Street types like Tim Geithner in prominent positions in his administration. Even his primary rival, Hillary Clinton, was given the position of Secretary of State. I’ve written in the past about how let down I felt about President Obama (especially when he did this compromise with the Republicans where the wages of federal employees like my ex-husband has been frozen for the last few years just so he could prove that, yes, he’s not a stereotypical “tax and spend liberal”). Despite my disappointment I voted for him again in 2012 mainly because the Republicans had put Mitt Romney as its candidate and this is the guy who loved to say stuff like “I like being able to fire people.” Plus I heard the message from Democrats saying that “we need to vote blue, no matter who, because the alternative is worse” and I believed it enough to help reelect President Obama. But it turned out to be all for naught because it ended up being the same old thing as before. At that point I declared myself as being through with supporting President Obama.

Over the years I didn’t just vote Democrat. When I was married my husband and I used to donate to Democrats running in various races, especially on the state and local level. (I haven’t made a financial donation to any political candidate or campaign mainly because of tight finances stemming from my divorce.) I even did some volunteer work on a few campaigns for Democratic candidates (most recently for Bernie Sanders during this year’s primary). But, in the end, the Democrats only did a few token things that I approved of (such as keeping abortion and birth control legal) while not doing much to help average people getting back on their feet, especially after the 2008 economic collapse.

Things really came to a head this year with the primaries and I finally came to my senses and decided that enough is enough. I decided to support Bernie Sanders because he was someone who had long fought for the underdog in the Senate and he felt that this country needed an ambitious program similar to FDR’s New Deal as a way of revitalizing America one again. He was also determined to run a clean campaign by refusing to accept large donations. Instead he encouraged average people to donate small amounts of money and he managed to raise enough money to be able to take on Hillary Clinton and her benefactors (mainly Wall Street). He remained strong throughout the primaries and he even won several states. But then Hillary Clinton’s campaign did some shenanigans that have really lowered my opinion of her even more than previously.

First there were the reports that the Clinton campaign had hired Internet trolls who went around to various social media sites, write multiple posts praising Clinton while trying to start fights with Bernie Sanders supporters. But starting online social media fights weren’t enough. These people tried to shut down pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook groups and one troll was accused of posting child pornography in some of those groups then report those same groups to Facebook for having child pornography that he posted online.

One result of these professional Internet trolls is that I no longer take any pro-Hillary posts seriously on social media because I have no way of knowing whether he/she is really a genuine Hillary Clinton supporter or if that person is really a professional troll who was hired by the campaign to post favorable stuff while bashing Bernie Sanders. I tend to ignore whatever argument that supporter makes regarding how favorable Hillary Clinton is because there’s always the possibility that this person is just a paid plant who really doesn’t really believe what he/she posts. The downside is that real Hillary Clinton supporters (the ones who really believe in her candidacy and who aren’t being paid by her campaign) are now unfairly lumped in with the paid trolls and their arguments get dismissed by myself and many other people as well. I know it’s not fair to the true believers but that’s on the campaign for hiring these professional trolls in the first place instead of cultivating voters to their campaign and electrifying them in a way that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have done.

But the one thing that has made me resolve to never vote for her is that Hillary Clinton has her own election scandal. There have been reports of frequent voter fraud in favor of Hillary Clinton in places like IllinoisMassachusettsKentuckyArizonaNew YorkCalifornia, and Nevada. In addition a hacker known as Guccifer2 has been hacking into the DNC’s servers while providing plenty of data dumps on how tight Hillary Clinton is with the DNC and the mainstream media. Then there is the recent Wikileaks release (which happened just days before the start of the Democratic Convention) of some previously confidential emails from the DNC that pretty much proves that the primary elections were rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton from the very beginning at the expense of other candidates (especially Bernie Sanders).

As a woman I would love to see a woman occupy the Oval Office in my lifetime. But just having breasts and a vagina isn’t enough for me. The woman who deserves to be known as the first woman president would have to represent the vested interests of the 99% instead of the 1% and, based on that alone, Hillary Clinton is ill-suited for such a historic first given her close Wall Street ties while showing little interest in any kind of reforms (such as reinstating the Glass-Steagal Act that was originally passed during the Great Depression in order to regulate the financial industry and was repealed during her husband’s administration). If she does get elected she will have way too much baggage to be an effective leader, as this next link puts it:

A Hillary Clinton presidency, then, would face a national majority of citizens in open rebellion. Either intuitively or consciously they are incensed with the dominance of corporate political power. This is the template of governance Ms. Clinton helped create, the one in which she is historically and demonstrably comfortable, and the one which finances her campaigns for elected office.  Wed to those donors, and locked into this mindset of the New Democratic Party, her presidency could not and would not alter significantly the status quo. Proudly she claims as much: “Let’s not start from scratch,” she says.  Corporate dominance would remain unchallenged, the rebellion ignored.

Rebellion scorned will escalate; first to spirited demonstrations we have already seen, conceivably to violence.  Only substantive reform can accommodate it.

Reform is neither difficult nor unprecedented.  Our history displays a number of means of subordinating corporate interests to the welfare of the American people. More than a century ago—in the “Gilded Age”—the nation faced a similar crisis and dealt with it successfully.  And a century before that, effective mechanisms were in place to restrain corporate dominion, even though the threat of it was already visible.

If all that isn’t enough, Hillary (and her husband, Bill, for that matter) just can’t avoid getting involved in some scandal. Starting with Bill Clinton’s days as Arkansas Governor, there has been one scandal after another that resulted in investigations of the sort that would have ended other people’s political careers a long time ago. The Clintons seem to be the type of people who just can’t avoid getting into trouble. Sure sexism (involving Hillary’s gender) and classism (regarding Bill growing up in a poor family) may have something to do with it but crying sexism and classism can only get you very far before people conclude that you’re crying “Wolf!” way too many times. And then there is the one common denominator to all of these scandals: a Clinton was involved (either Bill or Hillary or both).

If Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who had issues, it would be bad enough. But it seems like the entire Democrat Party is out of step with its traditional supporters (workers). A few weeks before the convention in Philadelphia the party decided against adding a platform that would’ve opposed the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, a multi-nation trade agreement that was negotiated completely in secret and it would not only have a negative impact on workers but it could also affect the environment as well as national sovereignty. (The TPP has been derided as “NAFTA on steroids.”)

The biggest irony is that had ex-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and other neoliberals had been dominant in the Democrat Party back when my cousin Harry Banahan was 16, there would have been no CCC or any other New Deal program available for him and it’s most likely that he would have lived the bulk of his life in poverty instead of the long and fruitful life he actually lived. It’s also possible that he would not have lived as long as he did since poor people generally tend to have less access to things like healthy food and medical care. And I seriously doubt that he would’ve been as loyal to the Democrats as he actually was.

Right now I’m registered as an Independent. I might have converted to the Republican Party had they not gone off the deep end years ago by catering to fundamentalist Christian extremists, white Southern men who pine for a return of the Confederate States of America, and devotees of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. The Republican downward spiral started with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and I think it may be on the verge of hitting rock bottom. The fact that a total buffoon like Donald Trump became the official nominee on the Republican Party while channeling both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini by saying all kinds of outrageous hateful stuff against everyone except heterosexual white Christian men with no disabilities says it all about the GOP these days and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. (The only good thing I can say about the Republican National Committee is that at least they provided equal resources to all 17 candidates who ran under their banner and there were no reports of election rigging to favor one candidate. In other words, Donald Trump got his nomination the old fashioned way—he earned them in totally fair and clean primaries.)

Even though I will probably vote for Jill Stein on the Green party ticket because I agree with nearly everything on the Green party platform, I decided against registering as a Green. That’s because I had a brief encounter with them back in the 1980’s when I was still in college and they were then-known in the U.S. as the Citizens Party and I soon became unimpressed because they had organizational problems back then. Basically they would field a candidate for the presidential elections then you wouldn’t hear from then until the next elections. While some of the organizers talked about needing to field candidates on the state and local levels in order to build a genuine grassroots movement from the ground up, they frequently didn’t follow through. Had they done so starting in 1984 (when they fielded excommunicated Mormon and feminist Sonia Johnson as their presidential candidate), they probably would be a real force to be reckoned with today instead of a being a marginal party that is rarely taken seriously by many people.

I know my friends on Facebook are begging people to not vote for a third party candidate because of the threat of a potential fascist Donald Trump Administration. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m now 99% convinced that those rumors of Trump running a fake campaign to both destroy the Republican Party and elect Hillary Clinton to the White House are actually true, I might have held my nose and voted for Clinton in an effort to thwart a modern day Hitler or Mussolini. But those back and forth exchanges between Trump and Clinton seemed so forced and scripted that I’ve seen the children in my church act more convincingly in special plays that are held during the annual Religious Exploration Sunday service each spring. That’s why I’m convinced that this year’s race is totally fake. Sadly this is something that some mainstream media outlet could’ve uncovered a la Watergate in the 1970’s if it weren’t for the fact that much of the mainstream media is dominated by just five or six corporations—with nearly all of them making donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

In any case I refuse to take part in a fake campaign by voting for either Trump or Clinton and I am looking forward to voting for my first woman for president—Jill Stein. I will also vote for the people running for lower offices as long as they are people whom I respect, regardless of whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or some other party. To me a vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would be rewarding them for unethical behavior that is probably illegal as well and I refuse to do it. My friends can beg me or cajole me either on social media or real life but I’m not going to budge on this. If I end up losing friends over this, so be it. I’d rather follow my conscience and be at peace with my decision than to give in to peer pressure and do something I’ll end up regretting years later.

I’m sure my late cousin and loyal Democrat Harry Banahan would’ve been disappointed to hear that a member of his extended family had left the party. But I’d like to believe that he would’ve understood had I spoken to him about how I feel that today’s Democrat Party is not the same Democrat Party as the one that gave Harry a job in the CCC when he was 16 and I had been getting increasingly alienated from my own party because of it. In some ways, I feel like the Democrat Party had left average people like me a long time ago and I doubt that they’ll miss me at all.