Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Problem with Slating In a Democratic Country

My thanks to Paul Ogden for filling in so many blanks in my understanding of slating and how it is limited to Marion County, Indiana. That alone should give Democrats and Republicans pause in supporting the process. For those who don't know, Paul has an excellent blog that I highly recommend. (Ogden On Politics)

The ultimate goal is to elect the best candidates possible for every office in the Country. To do that you really need a process that encourages participation by the electorate as well as a vigorous debate about the issues. Mud-slinging is not an effectively substitute for a discussion of different approaches to challenges, philosophies and visions for the future of any community. And one name on a primary ballot does not a choice constitute. If only one person wants to run in a primary for a particular office, well then, what an unlucky turn of events for the voters. But, if only one person gets to run in a primary for a particular office, well then, that's bad for a thriving democracy.

Take for example the Primary process for Presidential candidates. Last year was an exciting and invigorating election year that was largely driven by an exciting and invigorating race during the Primary season. If a choice for President can exist on a Primary ballot, then surely there can be a choice for Mayor or Councillor or Township Trustee.

The slating process lets a handful of Party activists, lightly or heavily supplemented by the County Party Chairman's placeholder Precinct Committeemen (PCs), to make a decision that rightly belongs to the whole membership of the Party. Slating not only robs the membership of its rightful say in who carries the Party banner into the general election, it also robs the membership of a discussion of what each candidate finds important to the office and robs the membership of a decision on the direction of the party and the direction of the government.

Some try to defend the slating process with two arguments - we don't want to waste campaign money on a fight between Democrats (or between Republicans) and the PCs know the candidates and their platform best.

Campaign finance issues can be dealt with as a separate issue and having slating or not having slating is irrelevant. So, the linkage is a specious argument. As for fighting between any candidates, same party or not, that too is an issue that can be dealt with separately from the issue of slating.

PCs know some of the candidates and some of the platforms, that is true. But again I must say that we are supposed to be a democracy with the voters deciding who should represent them, not a handful of even well-intentioned people cutting off the competition before it gets started.

And from what I have seen, slating conventions can choose not who is best for office, but rather formulate who goes on the ballot using silly and capricious factors. Take for example the Democratic slating convention for Superior Court Judges a couple of years ago. The factor really under consideration was how to keep Becky Pierson-Treacy's name within the first 9 candidates listed alphabetically on the ballot, not a consideration of who would best serve on the bench.

For a fun read I recommend the Bilerico Project item called "The Marion County Democratic Party Has Lost Its Collective Mind".

Now, I don't have anecdotes about the Republican slating conventions, because I haven't attended them. If anyone has a good story to tell, I hope they add their comments.

Nonetheless, by removing candidates from the primary ballot through the slating and purging process, choices are removed from the voters, diminishing the chances that our government will reflect our better selves. This process helps get or keep those well-connect to the County Chairmen on the ballot, but little else, really.

Lets talk.

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