Monday, March 3, 2008

Slating on my nerves!

People react to slating the same way they react to Britney Spears. Some hate it, some love it, but all feel sorry for everyone associated with it publicly.

The process is undoubtedly subject to abuse, but this is only because the party's premier candidates fail to draw citizens into the ranks. Permit me to explain.

At the Marion County slating convention in February, critics claimed that Mary Ann Sullivan won HD 97 by virtue of putting "new people" who never worked for the party in vacant slots. It is conceivable that people without long-term interest in the party were given votes (although one would assume they will work long enough to get Mary Ann elected, and are, therefore, a welcome addition). Only time will tell.

However, how strongly can you take a complaint of "hijacking" from candidates who can prevent it every time and don't.

The committeepersons who vote on slating are either elected to serve in the precinct in which they live, or are appointed by the county chair when no elected committeeperson serves.

If I were an elected official, my people would spend time on recruitment to ensure that as many people elected to commiteeperson slots favor me. If there were vacancies, I would make sure to get as many names to the chairman as early as possible. As long as the county chairman appointed everyone I recommended, wouldn't my complaint of hijacking be griping about being outworked? Moreover, in situations where the chair makes his/her own picks, isn't there is a check and balance? If a county chair veers too wildly toward a candidate, he will be held to account in his own election, and ultimately, his precinct folks may revolt and leave the party or dump him/her.

In contrast, taking away the slating vote would be like refusing to pay the $10 to the neighborhood kid who cut your lawn in 100 degree heat. Though many precinct people are worthless props, many do voter registration and GOTV, and their only reward is "bottom up" say in who the parties' favored candidates will be. Take that away, and your party will become as well kept as your lawn.

While I support slating generally, there IS room for reform. It's unseemly that slating turns our judges into full-time pols before slating. And it's natural to fear a system that might turn the guy who tells the best jokes at the chicken dinners, sends out the nicest Christmas cards, or hires a clerk who is related to the most precinct committeepersons into a gavel holder. But until we move to an "appointment based" system, the Marion County Democratic Party needs to dump the incumbent protection slating method currently in effect.

Unlike the Republican Party, which let everyone run against everyone (8 slots to be filled by an untold number of candidates), the Democratic Party had 6 "incumbent" slots and two "open slots." Each new candidate had two options: (1) run "head-to-head" against an incumbent (which is another way of saying "play political russian roulette with an automatic"), or (2) run in one of two opens slots. Amazingly, no Democrat ran against an incumbent. (Feign shock here).

Some Democrats might tell you that this process "works great." (By "some Democrats," I refer mostly to incumbent Democrat judges*). These judges point out that had Democrats done it the Republican way, our party might have ended up losing two long-time incumbents as well (R Judges Gary Miller and Ken Johnson, departing). Based on the untold number of interviews I conducted on this point, I am highly confident the collective response from the precinct committeepersons in attendance would have been, "And your point is?!?"

This is one of those times when my party leaders (and any judges who pushed for this) need to look in the mirror. Just because things CAN be easy for you doesn't mean you should use the party process to make it so. It is just wrong. What will be next? The same plan for our at-large council seats (once we get them back)? Of course, maybe my feelings would be different were I not so optimistic about my precinct committeeperson peers. I truly believe an open process would have resulted in all of our good judges being kept this time on their own merits.

If you are a judge, ask any precinct committeeperson not employed by you what they thought about this system. I would say you would be surprised, but I'm sure you already know.


1 comment:

Exit 465 said...

How do you get a neighborhood kid to cut the lawn for just ten bucks?! Mine is $20 and inconsistant.