First a disclaimer.  I am a DPG State Committee member, though one whose law school exams will likely put a damper on his voting ability come December.  That having been said, I have heard arguments on both sides of the coin (some of which I will expound upon below), and I understand everything that people are saying.  Frankly, at the moment, I’m undecided, because the plan that I personally think is the best is one that will likely not be adopted (again, below).  So, having said all of that, I expect a friendly, respectful debate to occur.

For those of you that are just tuning in, there is a proposal on the table that would allow County Parties (and possibly individual State Committee members?) to endorse in Democratic primaries.  This plan has evidently been handed down by the DNC, and has gotten both praise and consternation.  I’m sort of in the middle.  I think the idea behind the plan is good, but the implementation could be a disaster.  Rather than try to wow you all with my impeccable prose, I’ll just list the pros and cons, as I see them.

Pros

  1. Given that, both nationally and locally, we have seen an influx of “fake Democrats” running, which requires both more effort and money on the part of good, real Democrats, endorsements may be able to help weed out the fakes from the reals
  2. Our State Committee and County Party members may be empowered with some real power
  3. Though we love our incumbents, there are surely some of them who are neither active in the community nor with the county party.  This sort of plan will force incumbents to stay active, rather than relying on the (i) next to their name to carry them to the next victory.

Cons

  1. This could and likely would allow for endorsements in races between two “good Democrats,” which would likely cause infighting unnecessarily, and possibly turn a non-endorsed winning Democrat against the party
  2. Unfortunately, there are some people who may not make smart endorsements, and the weeding out of the fake/bad Democrats may be for naught
  3. Do we State Committee members really want to have candidates calling us constantly for our endorsements?

So, all of that having been said, I’ve been musing on how we can solve the pros by avoiding the cons.  The idea I spit out isn’t exactly user-friendly, and frankly there are problems with them.  But ultimately, to me, we do need to have a mechanism in place to ensure that fake Democrats are SOL from the start.  The fact is, having the “real Democrat” put on a mailer “Johnny Republican isn’t a real Democrat!  He’s an SR on Votebuilder!” will probably not resonate with a single voter, less us nerds that know what Votebuilder is.  Having the County Parties be able to publicly support the true blue Democrat is necessary, in my opinion.

Basically my plan is as follows (rationale is in italics):

  • Only County Parties, and not individual State Committee members, will have the ability to endorse in inter-party primaries.  That having been said, individual State Committee members can endorse the same individual as their County Party, if they so choose, assuming that the County Party makes an endorsement.  A SC member may opt not to endorse as well, but he or she may not endorse someone that their County Party does not (note: this does not except a County Party from endorsing more than one candidate).  This will prevent a “rogue State Committee member” from simply making an endorsement, especially against the better judgment of the majority of the Democratic Party.
  • The means by which a County Party may endorse is by a 4/5 vote of the voting body (however that may be defined in the individual county).  All State Committee members from that county must have the opportunity to vote.    This would allow for endorsements only in situations as described above, where a “fake Democrat” is running, or that one of the candidates is so egregious (perhaps someone with severe past criminal or ethical conduct) that they should be distinguished from the other, better candidate.  Such a high threshold will ensure that endorsements are only made in such situations.
  • County Parties may only make endorsements in local, non-federal races.  In other words, County Parties may not endorse for President, Senator, any statewide races (such as Governor), or Congress.  However, if the Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Committee so allows (by means of a majority vote), a County Party may endorse a Congressional candidate.  The State Party, however, may make endorsements in such races, through similar methods.  We want to avoid, at all costs, messy, inter-party fighting.  Normally, when we see primaries in any of the above-listed offices, there are at least two qualified Democrats running.  The last thing we want to see is a County Party, its leadership, or its members fight because they rightfully disagree on their personal choice for one of those offices.  Furthermore, statewide offices should be the propriety of the State Party, so if the State Party does not want to endorse, it should not be allowable for County Parties to endorse.
 

23 Responses to Musings on the Endorsement Proposal

  1. Skyler Akins says:

    I cannot begin to tell you how terrible of an idea it is for local party’s to be allowed to endorse candidates for office. I see the problem that you all have identified, but the solution is getting the base fired up, giving them a reason to show up, not giving local party’s the power to endorse. The base of our party tends to be [naturally] more to the left, and I can already see the base turning on moderate or conservative democrats at the sake of a general election defeat of the democrat. I’ve ran so many campaigns that a county party didn’t support in the primary, but won the primary/general with large numbers. We need to keep the current non-partial system. The Democratic Party of Georgia, and local county party’s, have MUCH bigger fish to fry than worrying about such petty things like this. The party is having trouble electing a Democratic dog catcher, and while I am not throwing stones at all, we have MUCH, MUCH bigger things to worry about!

  2. ire says:

    FWIW steve when i said “misrepresent” that was a bad word choice on my end. The implication of that is not what I was going for.

    At any rate as I pointed out last night, if we truly have a divisive primary, if we can endorse isn’t going to keep us from drawing knives, or new knives for that matter on ourselves. We’re going to do that regardless and endorsements aren’t going to matter to a hill of beans.

    Now, it it is also worth noticing that both parties at all levels throughout the country endorse and they aren’t hurt by that at all. Just saying.

  3. JMPrince says:

    Perhaps Steve, but the situation described is a bit more complicated than imagined. And it’s telling that for much of the time, with the exception of the ‘ringer’ scenario where they/we are truly dealing with someone acting in ‘bad faith’ who is no Dem? There’s likely no endorsement possible. Which may argue for a far simpler rule to deal with that limited (but important) circumstance. But as I mentioned, such things do continue and have happened in the past, for various reasons. It’s usually asking for trouble though, and needlessly so. JMP

  4. Holmes says:

    The biggest argument against authorizing state committee members and county parties to endorse in primaries would be the mess going on in Macon:

    Leader of Bibb Democratic Party is calling it quits.

    “Last month, a group of Democrats, including former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis, drew up a list of grievances against Morton and signed a petition seeking his removal. Among the complaints were that Morton and his wife, Amy, had backed particular Democratic candidates, including Robert Reichert, during this summer’s primary election. Reichert subsequently defeated Ellis in the Democratic mayoral runoff.

    Ellis said Morton’s actions were not right. Morton should have stayed neutral during the primary and not chosen sides, he said.”

    • Steve says:

      I disagree that it’s an argument against endorsement, but rather argue that it’s a reason to look at a plan similar to what I outlined above. First, part of the problem is that Mr. Morton apparently endorsed someone when he was not supposed to (I’m just going off what the article says). Secondly, a plan like what I outlined above would likely result in two things in this sort of situation:

      1) In such a divisive primary, I doubt they would be able to get such a threshold to endorse an individual. Given that, no candidate would come out with an endorsement.

      2) If no candidate was endorsed by the County Party, then no individual could use their title to make an endorsement.

      So basically, the above plan would have also prevented this.

  5. JMPrince says:

    I think Steve did a decent job here outlining some of the issues involved in the proposed change. Despite assuming a quasi Zoroastrian pose for an avatar. Be that as it may, I think it may well invite a fair amount of potential mischief and trouble. SSDD. Let’s relate a story here.
    (Sorry in advance for the length, just read the last bits for speed perhaps). [The shorter version? Let the voters decide it].

    Some time ago at an event for one of our ‘affiliates’ I was talking to one of the better regular donors to our campaign efforts. She had an interesting criteria for giving. She told me that she only donated to ‘excellent candidates with good prospects of winning’. And then asked me if I knew any more than the ones she was already supporting. I thought on that a bit, and averred that using her rigorous criteria, there were likely no more than perhaps a dozen such candidates in the state in any given cycle, if we were being perfectly honest to each other.

    And sadly this is the experience of many each cycle. Worse this is only part of the dimensions of our usual and typical campaign ‘issues’. Many try and help solid good candidates who are unwilling or unable to ‘take direction’, to adequately fundraise, give up their day jobs and/or devote the needed time, resources or thought to campaigns that are almost always underfunded, understaffed, and fraught with any number of internal organizational issues.

    And those are the passably good candidates. In the decade or more I’ve been chair/VC of my smallish exurban county, I’ve seen and worked with perhaps a grand total of 2-3 ‘decent-good’ candidates who were slightly better funded, worked well, understood the process, and were doing more or less everything they should have to try and get elected. The training academies have helped here greatly, but none of my recent candidates have sought to avail themselves of these opportunities, (despite repeated entreaties), for whatever reasons. And that brings us to the bottom line. (What, so Early?!)

    As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, I really can’t choose between the differing brands of crazy. To a certain extent we have to take the candidates who qualify & try to work with them and help them where we can. There’s this persistent ‘rationality problem’ I encounter when I try to recruit candidates too. Most of the likely ‘good prospects’ are well aware of the difficulties of the process and the likely prospect for winning against better funded entrenched incumbents, and are ever more reluctant to get involved. Which leaves us with the usual heedless, reckless ‘self motivators’ with the typical cognitive dissonance issues. And the rank crazies, and every grade in between. And in many cycles, that’s all that many us have to work with.

    This said, some of this ‘favoritism’ is already going on & has been seen in many areas. Some candidates are clearly more popular and favored by local party establishments. Me? I’ve rarely had the chance to express such biases, and I’m not inclined to. Again, my judgement on who might make it to the post in a primary is likely to be flawed by any number of biases, some useful, some not. For some, nepotism & frankly cronyism comes into play here, and that’s unfortunate as it’s likely severely counterproductive today.

    I like to take the stance that I’ll help out any Dem who comes to me and asks for help. If you’re the first to do so, you’ll get whatever assistance I can render earlier. Some of these folks are known to me, some not. If they meet some minimum criteria for running, I’m not going to do a full blown detailed investigation to see if ‘they’ve always been Dems’ or if they believe in all/most/some of our platform, such that it is. I can have favorites, but I try to play and work with each candidate fairly, and support them equally. I’ll let the voters decide who they prefer best in the primaries. That I think is the better part of wisdom.

    I also do not see how or if this process might be limited to only non federal candidates either. That’s pretty confusing too. And I’ll count as at least one of the better candidates I personally recruited as a former Repug too. Since our locals have all made the ‘switch’ I figured turn about was fair play. Again, that’s not at all uncommon here in Ga. & elsewhere.

    Thanks again for your thoughts. JMP

  6. Jen B. says:

    Cranky 30 year old checking in.

    I’m really tired of the “fake” [Democrat/Republican] argument. We live in a two-party system.* In order to have a vote that counts, you must vote for one or other. Can anyone here say that they completely with the Democratic Party platform (including omissions)? The answer is no. just because YOU don’t agree with someone doesn’t make that person a “fake” Democrat. It means you have a difference of opinions in this big tent world.

    * Unfortunately, no one in power really gives a shit about democracy or they would make it easier for independent / third party candidates to run.

    • Jen B. says:

      And while I have lots of opinions on the topic at hand, I feel it’s not really my place to comment on the inner-workings of DPG since I haven’t been active in the party in six years.

    • Masked Liberal says:

      Jen, I think you’ve misunderstood the “fake Dem” argument.

      They don’t mean as in “John Doe is a fake Democrat, he only agrees with 96.2% of the party platform, kill him!”

      They mean as in “John Doe is a solid Republican voter who spends his Wednesdays yelling at college kids about sex and abortion who entered a Democratic primary because the actual Democrat is named Jon Doe and he’s trying to screw up the system so that we end up with two Republicans in the general election.”

      • Steve says:

        ML- correct. Jen, I’m sorry if I was unclear. I am talking “fake Dem” in the paradigm of Wisconsin, where “real Dems” wasted thousands of dollars and much effort defeating Republicans posing as Democrats. This, given the intel that we have, will likely be a new tactic by the GOP, and I expect it to make its way to Georgia eventually.

        • JMPrince says:

          What I’ve said below does not apply to this unique situation described here, and I’d happily ‘out’ and work against any ‘fake Dem’ whose acting in bad faith against our collective interests. I’m uncertain of how common this might become, but it’s a definite possibility and something to think about. JMP

  7. ire says:

    I think also, you’re kind of mis-representing or not explaining fully some of the pros and cons. That doesn’t really matter but it there are several salient points that you’ve missed.

    Also, who the hell is running for DNC Woman? If there’s supposed to be a vote nobody has asked me for their vote. Just, FWIW.

    • Steve says:

      Which points have I misrepresented or omitted? Frankly, I think that what I wrote is completely true, but I never said it was complete. There are probably plenty of other reasons out there.

      I have heard there are 7 people running. I don’t know I can name one of them.

      • ire says:

        Don’t really care to type them out but there are a number of concerns w/r/t smaller counties and some others I’ve also forgotten.

        I think I will impose a cutoff of Nov. 19 as the last day to contact me and hope to secure my vote.

        • Jules says:

          I’ve only heard from one person, very early in the game. Liz Johnson emailed me, the others…not so much.

          I like your cut off rule.. I seriously don’t want to hear from folks over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Seriously.

          • ire says:

            Well I’m working over the “holiday weekend” so that’s not really a big deal.

            For me its also kind of just a matter of respect.

            I mean, seriously, you have all the contacts and names of every voter in your race. It isn’t a huge list. It takes you literally months to contact them? You can’t plug the Excel sheet with our emails into a mail server? Sorry I don’t want to give you my vote which is pretty powerful in a small election if you can’t even do a slight courtesy of, you know, saying you’re running.

  8. Jamie says:

    I think individual SC members should be able to endorse. If what we are truly wanting people to do is get involved in their local parties – having to work to get the endorsement of multiple people within the community (and county party establishment) is the best way to do it.

    If a rouge state committee member makes a dumb endorsement – then it will be just a rouge state committee member. However, if a candidate can rack up 10 or 20 state committee members, it shows true strength.

    • Steve says:

      SC members will have a voice by voting within the County Party. I just fundamentally disagree that individual SC members should be able to endorse. With doing that, we hit a slippery slope that I can get into later, but suffice it to say that the pros are far outweighed by the cons.

      • Jules says:

        I know a number of SC members who are not active in their county parties, or the county parties are not active.

        Anyone can support a candidate as an individual, nothing stops folks from doing that now. Really how hard would it be to cross ref that against the state committee list that is public on the DPG website? Um all of three minutes.

  9. Juliana says:

    I’d rather see us discuss endorsing in non-partisan races. That’s where most folks need help understanding the players on the field.

  10. Steve says:

    For what it’s worth, I added another “pro” above:

    “Though we love our incumbents, there are surely some of them who are neither active in the community nor with the county party. This sort of plan will force incumbents to stay active, rather than relying on the (i) next to their name to carry them to the next victory.”

    Few responsive points. From what I understand, this will be discussed, but not voted on, in December. The text itself has not been made public yet, hence why there will definitely not be a vote anytime soon.

    I understand your points, and this should not be the only mechanism. But ultimately it is A mechanism, and we shouldn’t shy away from it. A discussion needs to be had, and concerns need to be aired out.

  11. Juliana says:

    Steve,

    I’m not sure this will even come up at the Dec 3rd meeting. I say that because unless my dog is eating my email, I’ve not seen a formal bylaws proposal to the effect of granting the endorsement process to proceed at a county party level.

    All bylaws changes are required to be submitted to the voting body 30 days in advance of the vote, and like I said I haven’t seen something.

    We have a DNC member to vote for and whatever other business, if anything this will only be discussed and can not be voted on this year. I do not relish that discussion, and if it comes after the DNC vote has concluded, I will leave the meeting.

    I frankly think this issue should be tabled until 2013. 2012 isn’t the year to try and roll out this kind of change, to do it right, it will time time and energy we haven’t got away from other clear priorities.

    This “fake dems” meme is aggravating, since it’s not as if “real” Dems haven’t gotten elected by us and then switched. Seriously, if a rash of folks can infiltrate our party and get elected, well then shame on us. We haven’t built much of an organization if that can happen. I personally think this is the wrong solution to the problem.

    I’d rather see the same energy spent making sure that county parties are in compliance and have competent leadership than get all spun up with “endorsement” power plays.

    Besides, it’s not like someone still can’t get elected from outside of our tent anyways.

    Its’ still up to the voters (cough) to decide.