I'm going to tell you about a couple of generic political things that I dislike. What I tell you, in turn, may make you dislike me (I mean, more than you already do). In my meager defense, this thing I don't care for is born out of bitter personal experience. Both of them, I'm sorry to report, seem to dwell primarily in the land of Democratic politics.
I cannot stand the games Democrats play with respect to campaign endorsements. When I worked for Jan in 2002, there was a five-way primary. It was clear that not only was Jan the heavy favorite among the Democratic establishment, it was clear that she would have the best shot in the general election. No, the Democrats, mostly in Sarasota, had to stand on principle. "Anyone can run!" they'd exclaim gleefully as I rolled my eyes, all the while apparently blinded to the fact that not everyone should run.
I noted in my last post that I used to think Republicans were the party of campaign discipline (maybe not so much anymore). One of their (admirable, in my view) discipline's was to groom and support candidates early. Did you know that Katherine Harris actually had a primary challenger back in 2002?
Yeah. You didn't. And do you know why? Because the Republican Party ate him up. I don't know that I ever saw the guy. Anywhere.
This wasn't specific to Harris -- this happens in GOP races all over the country. Their system of grooming and promoting from within their ranks is just different than how Democrats do it.
I know what you're thinking: Republicans are a bunch of lying crooks -- at least Democrats have an honest, fair system, at least their standing on principle with respect to primaries and elections.
Stop it. Please.
And while you're getting over your righteous indignation over the purity Democratic primaries, lay off elected officials endorsing candidates, either in primaries or in non-partisan races. I once worked on a race where the person for whom I was working was clearly going to come out ahead in the primary (not Jan in 2002), was head and shoulders above their token primary opposition, had out-hustled them on the fundamentals and had out-polled them as well. And yet the Democratic establishment (specifically some elected officials in the area, but also members of the local Democratic Committee and the Democratic Club) simply refused to endorse.
I found this to be idiotic beyond measure, not to mention irresponsible. While you're mumbling about what a jackass I am, at least read why.
Endorsements matter. Endorsements make a difference. I would love nothing more than to believe that everyone is as informed and engaged as I am in politics and elections. It's just not the case. In fact, we have something of a civic and political engagement crisis today. People don't turn out for elections like they should, and despite how easy it is in the Internet Age to get information on candidates, voters frequently remain woefully uninformed. Thus, when the newspapers print their endorsements, it matters. A newspaper editorial endorsing a candidate will often be the first time a voter has heard of a candidate, and is in fact the moment they make up their mind to vote for or against a candidate.
The same thing is true with our elected officials. When they make an endorsement, it says something. You've entrusted me with the powers of this office, and I believe you can trust this person, too. Our elected leaders have a voice -- it's part of the job. From my perspective, I don't just hope they use it in support of candidates they believe in, I fully expect it.
Alright, here's the back story.
There's an election here in Gulfport -- the City Council, Ward 2. The things you need to know are there are two candidates and these are non-partisan races.
As a brief aside, I can't stand non-partisan races, either. There. Is. No. Such. Thing. I recognize that people affiliate themselves as independent, or with a different party, such as the Green Party, or the Tea Party, or something else. But that misses the point entirely. Everyone has a partisan view on something, and usually on most issues. Simply calling yourself "independent" doesn't make you independent in your political thought. I can say I drive a brand-new Ferrari all the live long day. That does not preclude the fact that what I drive is my beloved Subaru Outback with nearly 150,000 miles on it. Saying I drive a Ferrari may make me feel better, but that's not being true to reality.
I think we have "non-partisan" races for the same reason -- it makes us feel good. Oh, see, we don't let dirty, filthy partisanship seep into our politics here in Gulfport. Nonsense. All non-partisanship does is further obfuscate the political ideologies of people running for office. Like I said before, despite how easy it is to get information on candidates in this day and age, people still don't do it. Adding a protective layer of non-partisanship isn't going to help -- it's only going to hide it further.
Anyway, there's this Ward 2 City Council race, and the two people running are Avrio Taylor and Barbara Banno.
Before I am labeled a hypocrite, let me say up front that I will be voting for Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor came to our door, was thoughtful, and very understanding of our 110 pound dog, our escape-artist cat, and our fussy 1 year-old. Yet he still managed to get in a couple of articulate words in about the PACE program as well as public safety. I appreciated his time, like his materials, and liked his demeanor and approach.
With that being said, let me be clear: this ain't Meek versus Rubio versus Crist, or something. If Ms. Banno were to be elected, I have every confidence she'd do a fine job on the City Council.
Okay, so you know who I'm voting for, and I'm nobody. But it turns out that somebody who is, well, somebody has endorsed Avrio Taylor for City Council as well: Rep. Rick Kriseman.
Representative Kriseman has faded a little heat for his endorsement in a non-partisan election. I don't really understand why. In fact, I applaud his endorsement of Mr. Taylor.
And before you jump my case to point out that it's easy for me to say that, since I'm voting for the guy, let me assure you that I would applaud this had Rep. Kriseman endorsed Ms. Banno.
The reason I'd applaud the Representative no matter who endorsed is because I'd be applauding his forward thinking and his -- no other word -- bravery. Mr. Taylor approached Representative Kriseman. Mr. Taylor gave a speech that Kriseman liked. Kriseman compared the two and made a decision.
And yeah, I think he did the right thing.
To circle this thing back around, let me not underplay the importance of what's going on here. Democrats need to do a better job of building the minor-league field, which one day becomes the major-league candidates. I've talked to Democratic candidates before, even in other states, who have told me they feel abandoned by an establishment oftentimes they have helped build.
Frequently these choices aren't easy. But that's life -- sometimes our choices are hard. My hope is that Democrats think ahead. Let's not sacrifice smart strategy for an idealistic purity which, if we're honest with each other, never existed in the first place.