I became a political junkie in 2008 because I was excited by having a black candidate for president and a female candidate for president (both Dems). It’s not the most noble of reasons, but I don’t think it’s a bad selfish reason. I’ve been a Democrat since I’ve been able to vote*, but it was more de facto than with any enthusiasm. I knew the Republicans didn’t have anything to offer me, and what’s more, they actively didn’t want me in their party. I chose the Dems by default because at least nominally, they gave lip service to diversity and caring about the underdog. Mind you, I knew it was mostly cosmetic and superficial, but it was better than being told I was an abomination on a daily basis.
In other words, I wasn’t enthusiastic about being a Democrat, but I knew it was the better of the two unappealing options. My first vote for president was for Nader in 1996 (NOT 2000), and it was a protest vote. Even then, I didn’t like the fact that we had two parties, and I really didn’t like Bill Clinton for several reasons. So, I waited until I was sure he’d won Minnesota before voting for Nader. My next presidential candidates were Al Gore and John Kerry, two of the most boring, non-charismatic candidates to win the primary. Listening to them speak was painfully dull, but I knew I wasn’t voting for the Republican candidate (W. both times), so I didn’t pay any attention as I voted straight D. Both Gore and Kerry were good men, but they were very much quintessential politicians who didn’t excite me at all.
Side note: I understand why people want to vote third party. As I noted, my first presidential vote was for a third party candidate. I do think there are problems that come with being long-term establishment politicians. Most politicians who have been in their positions for decades have been changed by the job, rather than them changing the job, even if that was their intent to begin with. I remember how idealistic Paul Wellstone was when he was first elected. He vowed he would only serve for two terms because he had the same reservations about lifelong politicians. Near the end of his second term, however, he changed his mind and said he was running again because he was still needed. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with his change of mind because he did a lot of good for Minnesotans** and has been one of our most progressive congresspeople, I just shook my head at the time because it’s easy to see how seductive a life in politics can be–even for someone as idealistic as Wellstone. Again, he did it for lofty reasons, but there was still a sense of ego that only he could do the work. Regardless, I would have voted from him again in a heartbeat if he hadn’t died in a tragic plane crash. He was a politician whom I believed was doing what he truly thought was best, even when I disagreed with him.