Bil Browning

Marion County Democratic Party chair threatens fellow democrats

Filed By Bil Browning | April 28, 2008 11:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, Politics
Tags:

I got an unexpected letter in the mail on Saturday. It was from the Marion County Democratic Party; they were writing me as a precinct committee person. Of course when it came time to choose a candidate for the special election, they decided that I wasn't a committee person and refused to let me vote against Andre Carson. Now, apparently, I'm back in but who can be sure?

The letter seriously irritated me for it's sheer idiocy and threatening posture. County Party Chair Michael O'Connor's note to party insiders insists that Congressional candidates David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays can only hand out literature at the polls that asks people to vote against them. It also asks for poll workers to rat out any other lower level volunteer who hands out literature for any Democratic candidate other than Andre Carson and threatens an unspecified punishment. Keep in mind that O'Connor has maxed out his allowable contributions to the Carson campaign.

For those who don't know, "slating" is a process designed to make money for the party. Candidates pay a fee that varies depending on the race in question and generally runs in the thousands of dollars. After you've paid your non-refundable fee, party insiders pick which candidate the party is going to be on the "slate" at a slating convention. Slated candidates get the official backing of the party and get party resources, campaign materials, and from the sounds of this letter, a goon-squad to make sure no one strays from the script.

So much for democracy in action. Why in the hell do we even need a primary? Why don't we just allow candidates to pay the Party their money and allow the insiders to pick our candidates for us so those silly voters won't have to get involved at all! For the Marion County Democratic Party to threaten sanctions against those who participate in one of the most basic functions of democracy is beyond outrageous; it's treasonous.

Copy of the letter and my analysis after the jump. Just for the record, my calls to the Marion County Democratic Party about this story were not returned.

Emphasis theirs.

April 25, 2008

Dear Ward and Precinct officials,

As all of you are aware, the May 6 Primary Election is fast approaching. I also don't have to tell you how critical it is for our party that our group of slated candidates - which includes Congressman Andre Carson, our legislative hopefuls and our eight Superior Court candidates - earn a decisive victory at the polls.

If we hope to achieve that goal, it is essential that all of our ward chairs, vice ward chairs, precinct committeepeople and vice committeepeople be in front of their polling places on Election Day passing the slate. The key to victory on May 6 will be a strong presence of loyal Democrats working their polls and passing the slate.

Because of the hotly contested race between our two presidential candidates - Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - this upcoming primary should prove to be one of the hardest fought in decades. As a result, it is even more imperative that we as a party work harder than ever in support of our slated candidates.

I know that all of you will do your utmost to make sure that our slate carries on May 6. The party will be closely monitoring the situation at the polls on Election Day to make sure that our precinct and ward officials are passing the slate. I urge all of you to let us know if you hear of any party or elected officials not distributing the Democratic Party slate or distributing something other than the official slate.

I appreciate your understanding, and I know that our slated candidates can count on your continued support and effort on May 6. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call me at the Marion County Democratic Headquarters at 637-3366.

Sincerely,

Michael O'Connor
Chairman

Let's parse a few of these paragraphs/sentences into what they're really trying to say:

I also don't have to tell you how critical it is for our party that our group of slated candidates - which includes Congressman Andre Carson, our legislative hopefuls and our eight Superior Court candidates - earn a decisive victory at the polls.

Notice that Carson is the only candidate mentioned by name and he's the first on the list. Coincidence? Nope. O'Connor also highlight the words "slated candidates" in order to convey a sense of illegitimacy to any who might challenge the Great and Powerful Carson.

Notice also what the sentence really says when you remove the extraneous filler: "It's critical that our party's slated candidates win." Uh, I'd like to call bullshit on that. It is important to the Democratic Party for Democrats to win elections. Slated or not, O'Connor's first priority should be ensuring that all Democrats have the best shot possible at fairly winning an election - whether that's a primary or a general election. O'Connor has no business endorsing any candidates in a primary - that's the voters' job not party insiders' and is nothing more than the Party attempting to influence an election on behalf of incumbents and cash cows.

The key to victory on May 6 will be a strong presence of loyal Democrats working their polls and passing the slate.

This sentence was so important they had to italicize and bold the entire thing. Why? Because if you support someone other than Carson you are not a "loyal Democrat." Apparently working the polls, handing out literature on behalf of a candidate, phone banking and driving voters to the polls on behalf of a Democratic candidate doesn't constitute Party loyalty unless you do it on behalf of their handpicked few. To hell with democracy, party insiders have already decided. All we need now are some old white guys smoking cigars in a smoke-filled backroom...

Because of the hotly contested race between our two presidential candidates - Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - this upcoming primary should prove to be one of the hardest fought in decades. As a result, it is even more imperative that we as a party work harder than ever in support of our slated candidates.

Here we go again with the highlighted "slated candidates" pitch. Am I the only one to get a laugh from O'Connor's blatant attempt to conflate un-"slated" presidential candidates with the party's chosen candidates? If loyal Democrats only work the polls to pass the slated candidates, should no one be passing out Obama or Clinton materials?

Whether or not a hand picked Congressional candidate wins has absolutely nothing to do with who voters choose in the presidential primaries. Wasn't part of the Clinton backlash the general belief that she was the eventual nominee and the people's wishes didn't matter? I like it that the presidential nominees are giving it their all. I wish O'Connor would allow all Marion County democrats the same luxury.

The party will be closely monitoring the situation at the polls on Election Day to make sure that our precinct and ward officials are passing the slate. I urge all of you to let us know if you hear of any party or elected officials not distributing the Democratic Party slate or distributing something other than the official slate.

O'Connor is implicitly threatening Democratic officials with repercussions if they support any other candidate but Andre Carson. My first reaction is "Or what? What can the Party do to me - send me to my room without supper?"

Will most volunteers react similarly or will they cower before the might of the Party and do as they're told? Pressuring officials to work against candidates they support is not only ludicrous, but a sure-fire way to inspire dissent and hard feelings amongst the ranks.

This Gestapo-like technique would force Representatives Orentlicher and Mays to hand out literature that urges voters to elect Carson even though they are running against him. While Andre Carson has been attending fundraisers and raising big bucks from Washington lobbyists, the other candidates have been on the ground talking to voters and getting the pulse of the electorate. They've worked hard and deserve the opportunity to continue selling themselves to voters.

Of course the implied retribution is political assassination. If you buck the Party they will refuse to support you financially or with volunteers. If a non-slated candidate wins the primary and doesn't actively attempt to sway voters not to vote for them, the Party will only give you lip service in the general election.

For O'Connor to ask volunteers who have given up a day for the basic principle of democracy to snitch out other campaign workers is beyond the pale, however. Our Party leaders should not threaten political activists Soviet-style with official disapproval and sanctions. By flying in the face of everything democracy stands for - the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box - O'Connor should be disciplined immediately. The Marion County Democratic Party should issue an apology to all of the Democratic primary candidates and wish everyone good luck.

The opposition is the Republican Party and not each other. Both nationally and locally, Democrats seem to have forgotten this basic tidbit of modern American politics. I haven't and neither have the "unslated" candidates trying to participate in the founding principle of our country.

Perhaps Michael O'Connor needs a civics lesson. A Primary Election happens so that party members can choose the candidate they'd like to see run in the General Election. It's open to all Democrats to run so that the people have the best choices possible. Party officials should support all candidates. Anything less is unpatriotic and despicable.

So is this letter.


iPhone users: Click to watch

Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Wilson46201 | April 28, 2008 6:07 PM

The Republican nutterballs over at HoosierAccess really loved your knocking of the Democrats again!
http://hoosieraccess.com/blog/2008/04/28/ill-get-you-my-pretty-and-your-little-dog-too/