Friday, December 14, 2007

Montgomery County Democrats Vote to Suppress Democracy -- Just Like The Republicans

Big meeting last night at the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s headquarters in downtown Dayton. The party endorsed primary candidates for the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate. At a previous meeting, my motion to discontinue the practice of making early endorsements was soundly defeated, so this action by the party last night, though depressing, was not surprising.

I’m sort of a newcomer to all this -- I was elected to the Central Committee in 2006 -- I’ve had a lot to learn about how the party actually works. I’m learning that the Selection Committee is the key committee of the county party organization. All of the key people in the party are members of the Selection Committee and it is this committee that actually chooses candidates to be endorsed. I’ve never seen any decision by the Selection Committee be overturned.

At every monthly meeting, the Executive Committee meets at 7:00 PM and reviews the evening’s agenda and, by vote, makes specific recommendations to the Central Committee which meets at 7:30 PM. The Central Committee, the official legislative body of the group, always agrees with the Executive Committee. It is an organizational structure that would have pleased Joe Stalin, because control of important decisions is condensed to only a few people. And of those few people, one person, the chairperson, usually has disproportionate power.

At the Executive Committee Meeting, I repeated a motion that had been defeated at our previous meeting in October. I moved that the endorsements for primary candidates be delayed one month until the January meeting so that the endorsements would be made after the filing deadline for primary candidates, which is January 4.

My argument to the Executive Committee to delay endorsement was the same as before -- when, at the previous meeting, it was defeated. I knew it was too late to change the inevitable, but I felt it important to present a dissenting view. I said that the Democratic Party should take no actions that would give the appearance that it in any way wanted to suppress democracy. I reminded the group that the Republican Party had made endorsements in July and had been roundly ridiculed for their antidemocratic action by the Dayton Daily News in an editorial illustrated by noted cartoonist, Mike Peters. (I made a post on The Limb in July, “Montgomery County Republicans Take Action That Effectively Suppresses Grassroots Democracy,” that told of this action.)

I said that the hallmark of the Democratic Party should be the fact that we are the party of the people, that we are the party of democracy, and that waiting another month to make endorsements would probably not impact who the endorsed candidate would be anyway.

My argument would have made a lot of sense if, in fact, endorsement was the issue. But endorsement is not the issue. The reason the Executive Committee would not delay its endorsements until our next meeting is the fact that the central issue is not who to endorse. The central issue is how to suppress the primary process. If endorsement was delayed until after the filing deadline then all interested candidates would have necessarily already filed and their names would necessarily already be printed on the primary ballot. As it is, even though some would-be candidates have already circulated petitions, because of the party’s action last night, most un-endorsed candidates simply will not return their petitions and will simply not make an effort to run as an un-endorsed primary candidate.

In discussion during the Executive Meeting, the Democratic chairman made clear that the whole point of the endorsement process is not the endorsement itself. The main point is to discourage competition so that, hopefully, only one Democrat will appear for each office on the Democratic primary ballot that will be held in March. The idea is to save resources for the general election.

I said that I felt strongly that taking such action to suppress primary activity was against the values that most Democrats believe in, and that if we were to act as a representative body we needed to take those actions that would represent the values of most Democrats. I said I was trying to speak up for -- as Dean had said -- “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

After all, most of the Executive Committee members attending the meeting are also members of the Selection Committee and were involved in making the endorsement choices. Of course, my motion went nowhere; there were several tepid “Ayes” voting with me and a roaring “No” voting to reject.

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