Tyrion Lannister

Woody Myers, Self-Financing, and Jeffersonian Democracy

Filed By Tyrion Lannister | April 08, 2008 2:19 PM | comments

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Via BlueIndiana, Woody Myers has donated another quarter-million to his own campaign, bringing his total self-financing up to $806,000. That's some serious money, and Abdul thinks Woody has momentum. Maybe so, but I also have to wonder if it doesn't indicate that Woody is having trouble raising money on his own, which, by my estimation, would mean real trouble for his candidacy--not because he needs the money, but because it would mean he wasn't "hitting his mark."

Woody's primary appeal is technocratic, not personal: he has a sterling resume, but it's filled with accomplishments elsewhere. He has a history in Indiana, but it was about two decades ago. His ties to the democratic party and the Indianapolis community are, at this point, a bit thin. So his natural constituency is people who are persuaded by a first-rate CV and not particularly moved by the sort of person-to-person campaigning and high-mobilization strategy favored by the Carson campaign. Technocratic appeals are particularly effective when directed to people who have some credentials of their own--professionals, the well-educated, and generally upper-middle class voters. That's why I've always argued that Woody's voters will mostly come out of David Orentlicher's pocket, not Andre's (there isn't a hard and fast dichotomy here, but I think Woody's candidacy, generally, hurts David more), since David's appeal is also largely technocratic.

As it happens, professionals, the well-educated, and upper-middle class voters usually give lots of money to their preferred candidates. In other words, a candidate who is successfully embraced by the "creative professional" class shouldn't need to self-finance. He should have an affluent constituency ready to go. In that sense, problems raising money are a bad sign for Woody's campaign not because they indicate Woody will be short on change (self-financing solves that problem), but because he isn't being embraced by the group of voters who should be most likely to buy his personal narrative.

Now there are three potential problems with this analysis:

(1) If Woody's media barrage has successfully overcome his "connection" deficit and transformed the appeal of his candidacy from a technocratic one to a populist one. This is certainly possible, though I'm not sure it's probable, given the content of the commercials, which don't really make a strong case for his "Hoosier roots."

(2) If Woody's media barrage is intended to introduce him to the "creative class" and the financing is just staggered. In other words, now that Woody has put his name in the ring, the "creative class" will take notice and begin to contribute. This also strikes me as possible, but not terribly probable. For starters, Woody is donating the money, not loaning it to his campaign. If it were the latter, it would suggest that he expects to be able to raise more funds later and pay himself back (which would complement the hypothesis I just advanced). In addition, if the funding were staggered, he wouldn't need a second infusion of cash from his own pockets. The second donation suggests that he donated the original half-million thinking it would be sufficient and only later discovered it was not.

(3) Abdul's "new voter" hypothesis. I find this one the most persuasive, but I have at least one objection. Abdul's argument suggests a terrain that should be as equally advantageous to Andre Carson as to Woody Myers. Woody needs to run massive amounts of ads precisely because no one knows who he is. Maybe his ads will successfully introduce him, but Andre already has a natural advantage in name recognition by virtue of incumbency, his grandmother, and his ballot position. Even if "new voters" have been totally politically unplugged in the last few cycles, there will be a sort of ambient quality to the Carson name. Sure, "new voters" are particularly invested in the presidential race and won't have strong preferences in the congressional race, but I would suggest that the presidential race will create too much political "noise" to hear the challenger's argument. Such terrain obviously favors an incumbent.

Regardless, the one thing that I find interesting about this self-financing business is the way in which it reveals an obvious tension in Joh Padgett's advocacy. Joh memorably assailed Carson's candidacy as anti-democratic in a distorting and mendacious blog diary on BlueIndiana. Carson was "The Machine's" candidate according to Joh--unaccountable, without real root in the district, and without a real connection to his constituency. It overlooked Andre's copious community activism, Andre's active involvement in Marion County politics for his entire adult life, and his decade of service to the community as a law-enforcement officer. When the election rolled around, Andre's very real grass-roots GOTV organization turned out 13,000 more votes than the mayor in Center Township, buried Elrod, and exceeded everyone's expectation (mine and Joh's included).

Joh has since found employment as a member of Woody's campaign. Good for him. I'm wondering, however, if he can answer a little query of mine:

How democratic is self-financing? From a "macro" view, as you put it, how does the presence of self-financing millionaire candidates effect the possibility that someone like you or I can successfully run for office? Is Woody's candidacy "people-powered"?

I don't ask this question because I think it's wrong for Woody to self-finance, or because I have any illusions that Andre doesn't have advantages that the "average" candidate lacks. I ask this question because it is transparently ridiculous and hypocritical to assail Andre's candidacy as undemocratic and then hitch your wagon to a candidate who is employing a campaign strategy that would be completely unfeasible for the 99.9% of us who don't have a tens-of-millions of dollars in the bank.

Meanwhile, it is certainly fitting that Joh wrote the following in that post:

Thomas Jefferson, whose home Monticello is the inspiration for the name of this blog, famously spoke against the participation of political parties in our Republic. Political parties, Jefferson argued, were anathema to the democratic principles upon which This Great Country Of Ours was founded. He was right, every political party in the history of the United States has chosen the path of the partisan bickering and skullduggery we have come to expect from our alleged leaders. This is why good people with great leadership skills go into other lines of work where they can do some good. See Al Gore if you need an explanation for this.

(There is no small irony, on a side note, in Joh invoking the example of Al Gore to prove his point. The same Al Gore who made his entry into Tennessee politics largely on the strength of his father's political legacy. But I digress.)

What most historians would tell Joh, is that Jefferson's vision of democracy was strikingly exclusive and that Jefferson used the much-tauted rhetoric of nonpartisanship as a bludgeon against his political opponents. Nevertheless, the vision of a disinterested, nonpartisan political figure pursuing the "public good" was foundational to the "republican" ideology of antebellum America. And it worked just great. So long, of course, as you were a rich, white, male landholder who had the time and money (and slaves!) to treat politics as leisure activity. For the hoi poloi -- the rest of us -- it was less ideal. The wealthy rich guys who formed the political class Joh is describing tended to look after themselves and not to solve problems that would rock the boat or work against the interests of anyone in that club of gentlemen. And rest assured, those rich guys earnestly and honestly -- Jefferson included -- believed with all their hearts they were looking out for the best interests of everyone in society. They weren't being disingenuous when they decided that 70 years of appeasement and compromise was the only way to deal with slavery. Indeed, they believed fervently that "republicanism" demanded that they eschew a factional politics which would polarize the nation on the basis of slavery.

Of course, political differences -- as the nation learned about slavery -- aren't so easily elided. One can't compose a nonpartisan, disinterested solution to most political questions. A political solution will inherently help some citizens and disadvantage other citizens. That's why we form parties: so that we have means to ensure that public policy reflects our shared vision about the way the country should be governed, rather than the visions promoted by our political foes.

Strong political parties, as most Europeans would tell you, actually have the potential to give voters a variety of political choices and the means to hold politicians accountable for outcomes. They offer a much better system of organization than a world in which a few obscenely wealthy "disinterested" voices -- after all, it was true in 1800 and is true now that only the very wealthy can afford to pursue politics as leisure rather than as vocation -- meditate on what is best for the rest of us. I'd certainly rather have politicians who actively crave the support of the Democratic party, rather than deride it as a blood-thirsty "machine." In other words, Joh can have his bucolic Jeffersonian fantasy, so long as he stays in the pasture with it. I'll take the Democratic Party -- warts and all --that brought you the New Deal and the Great Society.

Crossposted at BlueIndiana and Tyrion's Point.


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Good analysis, Tyrion. Woody's donations to his campaign have raised my eyebrows too.

While your obvious bias for Carson is undeniable, I still don't understand how you can make this point. Who else but a candidate with his own funds can run against the "establishment" candidate in a special election? Perhaps Dr. Meyers would have had more time to appropriately fundraise if Julia had been honest about her health issues instead of hiding them from the public. The fact that a candidate must have massive name recognition or his own funds in this day and age is nothing to blame Dr. Meyers for. As they say, "don't hate the player, hate the game."

A lot Carson's funds are coming from the DCCC, and I don't hear you complaining about that.

I also find it laughable that you infer that Meyer's resume is inferior to Carson's. I am also interested in hearing more about this "active involvement in Marion County politics for his entire adult life." Where? I didn't see him until he got the CCC position, and I attend meetings on a regular basis. I could also point it has been well established pursuant to a grand jury investigation that Julia pulled favors to get Andre the law enforcement job you tout, but then I would digress.

Speaking of digression, I actually had a Carson campaigner try to sway me to vote for him because he "has relatives in prison, so he really understands the common people." I swear to God this person brought up the fact that his brother had been convicted of a heinous hate crime against a gay man and sentenced to prison for life because of it as a reason to vote for Andre. Not that I would hold a brother's actions against Andre, but I was aghast this was even discussed.

I have yet to make up my mind between David and Dr. Meyers. I wouldn't be suprised if I don't make up my mind until a few days before the election. But I can tell from speaking to those inside the party and out that Dr. Meyers is getting a lot of positive notice. I can tell that Dr. Meyers is becoming a very attractive alternative to an incumbent who is only the incumbent due to his last name. The fact that you are writing this post and that Wilson Allen is in a lather on every blog in the county confirms it.

It will be an interesting four weeks.

Tyrion Lannister Tyrion Lannister | April 8, 2008 11:18 PM

Hi Chuck,

I'll respond to your points in turn, but please try to read more carefully. You are grossly misinterpreting what I wrote.

While your obvious bias for Carson is undeniable, I still don't understand how you can make this point.

I support Andre in the primary election, I make no apologies for it, and I make no attempt to hide it. What's your point? If my bias is so "undeniable," correct what I am distorting and move on.

Who else but a candidate with his own funds can run against the "establishment" candidate in a special election?

First, it's a primary, not a special election. As I wrote in the post, I don't think there's anything wrong with Dr. Myers self-financing. The three claims that I make in the post are: (1) Having to self-finance indicates he's not doing very well with his natural constituency. That's a piece of political analysis, not a normative judgment. (2) Regardless of how I feel about Myer's self-financing, it's pretty hypocritical of Joh to argue that Andre having a unique advantage is somehow "undemocratic" when he's now working for a candidate who has a similarly unique advantage. (3) Joh's silly "parties are bad, mmmmkay" bit shows some serious historical illiteracy.

I also find it laughable that you infer that Meyer's resume is inferior to Carson's.

Here's where it would be helpful if you read what I wrote. I never claimed any such thing, largely because I don't believe any such thing. In fact, I stipulate that Woody's candidacy is based on the strength of his very impressive resume. Yeesh. I'm pretty candid that Andre has less experience in politics then the other candidates. My support for him isn't premised on an impressive resume.

That said, the idea that Andre has no relevant experience--a claim that both you and Joh make--is a gross overstatement. Quite to the contrary, Andre has been very involved in community activism, especially the interfaith alliance and the Fall Creek neighborhood association.

I am also interested in hearing more about this "active involvement in Marion County politics for his entire adult life." Where? I didn't see him until he got the CCC position, and I attend meetings on a regular basis.

Andre has been active in every campaign his Grandmother ran and several other campaigns besides.

I could also point it has been well established pursuant to a grand jury investigation that Julia pulled favors to get Andre the law enforcement job you tout, but then I would digress.

You could point that out, but you would look pretty silly if you did, so it's a really good thing you didn't. Indeed, the grand jury you describe convened to investigate the allegation of favoritism and found nothing. The prosecutor behind the investigation who found no evidence of favoritism? Republican Prosecutor Scott Newman. Save your Advancce Indiana talking points for people who don't care about things like evidence, because I have no time for it around here.

--------

In any case, I really don't appreciate the tone of your comment. Nothing in this post was critical of Dr. Myers. Some of it was critical of Joh Padgett. Most of it was pretty evenhanded political analysis (I even fairly represented and responded to potential objections) or abstract historical analysis. I don't appreciate you implying that I'm a hack and I don't appreciate you misinterpreting my arguments. If you want to have a serious conversation with me, try to do less of that. If not, this is the last response.

While I am sorry you don't like my tone, don't write another rah-rah Carson column and expect no criticism. Fox calls themselves fair and balanced as well, but it doesn't make it true.

You make assumptions about Dr. Meyers campaign, claim you aren't critizing him or his self-financing, bury his accomplishment to praise Carson, and then try to say you aren't attacking Myers. Your digs may not be as direct as others, but they are there.

Meyers is self-financing because: 1)he can 2) he doesn't want to mess with piecemeal donations 3) Julia kept the severity of her illness a secret and severly disadvantaged everyone else. You ignore that critical point, but Carson supporters would have us believe Andre had no idea what was going on and really had absolutely no intention of running for her seat until he walking into the Clerk's office to file. Sheesh.

And you might want to actually look up that grand jury investigation. Newman found that Julia pulled favors with Honeycutt to get the position, no one disputes that. What Andre's role in that scheme was is unknown. It did not "find nothing."

And why does everyone on this blog who dares make a contrary point automatically get branded with the Advance Indiana crowd? That is getting old. Gary is crazy, but that doesn't mean everything he says should automatically be discounted, or that anyone who might agree with him be discounted as well.

It remains clear that the fact the Carson operatives have shifted their attacks from Orentlicher to Myers indicates he has momentum. Either that, or the Carson camp thinks he does. Myers is the only giving anyone any excitement, except for the Muslims who are understandably excited about Andre's election. It remains to be seen what can be done with that momentum.

Tyrion Lannister Tyrion Lannister | April 9, 2008 1:34 AM

I don't expect "no criticism." I expect honest criticism that doesn't rudely misconstrue my arguments. I notice how you've basically dropped the whole "laughable resume" business. Did you go back and reread the post and realize you were completely wrong? It would be nice for you to admit as much, but I suspect intellectual honesty is too much to ask with you.

In any case, I see how it is. If I write favorable things about Andre, you'll just rudely dismiss it as "rah, rah Carson," (note: there are only two sentences in the entire post that say positive things about Andre) without bothering to read it first or even bothering to understand the arguments I'm making.

In any case, I'm struggling to understand exactly what insult it is you think I am leveling against Dr. Myers. Apparently my "digs" are so indirect that I don't even know what they are. How am I being critical of him? What exactly is your beef? Spell it out and I'll tell you if you interpreted me correctly. If you have, I'll respond.

As for the grand jury, you're so full of crap, it's coming out of your ears. I haven't read the Grand Jury transcript and neither have you. Why? Because by statute in Indiana, grand jury proceedings are secret except under very exceptional circumstances. The only thing a grand jury issues is an indictment. The only indictments that jury issued were for Gene Honeycutt and completely unrelated to Andre's hiring, so that hardly proves your claim.

I have, however, read every newspaper article on Honeycutt and I can find nothing that verifies the accusation you are leveling. Nor have I ever seen any actual piece of evidence that proves it.

Why do I bring up Advance Indiana? Because Gary's standard practice is to repeat whatever unfounded rumor he can to damage his opponents and then proceed to pretend like it's established fact. You are doing the exact same thing. You don't have any actual evidence to prove what you are alleging, so you just pass it off with statements like, "no one disputes that." Wrong. I dispute that. So put your money where your mouth is, Chuck. You made the accusation, so produce the evidence.

I do feel obligated to point out that this statement is patently false.

And why does everyone on this blog who dares make a contrary point automatically get branded with the Advance Indiana crowd?

Since this blog has only been around for a month or so and this is the first mention of Gary, I doubt that "everyone" automatically gets branded. No one has. Not one. This thread between Chuck and Tyrion is the 1st to mention Gary as far as I know...

That said, one thing I took issue with about Tyrion's piece was the claim

It overlooked Andre's copious community activism, Andre's active involvement in Marion County politics for his entire adult life, and his decade of service to the community as a law-enforcement officer.

Copious community involvement? I'm not in a position to know, but I can say that I'm involved with lots of LGBT not-for-profits and he's not done a damn thing with them for us.

Active involvement in Marion County politics? He was an un-elected City County Councilor for a few months. Being a campaign worker on his grandmother's campaign isn't really a resume item that would get you to Congress. If working on a campaign is all that's required, I could be a Congressman!

Decade of law enforcement? Well, technically. Technically. It's not as if he was out arresting criminals and walking the mean beat. He was a pencil pusher not a homicide detective.

Bil, I apologize for my earlier comment. I should have said, "other local blogs." You are in fact correct, this has never happened on this blog, but I would think you would agree with me that is common on others. But again, I do apologize, for you should not be smeared by association. I find it ironic that the views of this lifelong Democrat suddenly start to be compared with staunch Republicans simply because of this one candidate, but oh well.

Bil, I also thank you for agreeing with me regarding Andre's community involvement. From the way this line keeps repeating itself, I sometimes think that in all the functions I have attended, I have missed this guy.

Tyrion, I am not going to regurgitate what you said, only to have you, if so deign me worthy of a response, tell me if what you said was really what you said. I never insulted you directly, I spoke to your arguments. I never called you intellectually dishonest or full of crap. So much for rhetorical argument. But then, hostility is easy when one hides behind a pen name.

I would also remind you that not everything is on the internets. Sometimes you have to go somewhere on foot and look it up yourself. I never stated I read the transcript. I never said I attended the proceedings. But evidence is presented to a grand jury, evidence that will often find its way to case in chief, and that is what occurred here. The influence peddling was just one of the things that brought Honeycutt down, though that was not the straw that broke the camel's back. I never said Andre had a role in it, and it is up to the voters to decide if the not uncommon practice of a relative getting one a cushy gig should be counted against him. Just don't expect to be able to trot out the "but he's a law enforcement officers" line without that being thrown back at you.

Tyrion Lannister Tyrion Lannister | April 9, 2008 12:19 PM

Hi Bil,

You wrote:

Copious community involvement? I'm not in a position to know, but I can say that I'm involved with lots of LGBT not-for-profits and he's not done a damn thing with them for us.

Active involvement in Marion County politics? He was an un-elected City County Councilor for a few months. Being a campaign worker on his grandmother's campaign isn't really a resume item that would get you to Congress. If working on a campaign is all that's required, I could be a Congressman!

I don't know if Andre has been involved directly in activism related to LGBT issues, but I do know that he has been involved in a lot of community activism. Indianapolis is a big place. There's lots of communities to be active in.

As for the campaign work, I think it's active citizenship and I don't understand why people are so interested in tearing it down. Personally, I'm a big believer that we would be much better off broadening are perspective about who is "qualified" to be a congressperson. Our current habit of only electing professionals (and mostly just lawyers) tends to exclude a very large portion of the population and I think our policies reflect that. I'd be much happier with representatives who were just deeply connected to and knowledgeable about their constituencies. That's not to say qualifications "don't matter" to me, but I think we would wisely broaden our definition of what constitutes a qualification. That's all a long way of saying: Maybe you should run for Congress, Bil! :)

Decade of law enforcement? Well, technically. Technically. It's not as if he was out arresting criminals and walking the mean beat. He was a pencil pusher not a homicide detective.

Careful there. Would one say that Army mechanics or Marine administrators only "technically" serve their country? I know a lot of cops who no longer walk the beat, and I think they would find the implication here a little troubling. The homicide detective can only do her job because a "pencil pusher" elsewhere is doing his.

In any case, I don't think that's an accurate description of what an excise police officer does. As I understand it, they are constantly out in the field on investigations (much like detectives) and are obligated to respond to emergencies just like other police officers. Being any sort of police officer carries with it some pretty hefty responsibilities, so I don't think it's fair to diminish Andre's service.

Chuck,

I'm going to try to step back a little bit and calm down. I apologize for calling you full of crap and intellectually dishonest. That said, you are incorrect when you say, "I never insulted you directly, I spoke to your arguments." You argued that I was attacking Woody only because I perceived him to be a "threat" to Andre. That's a way of saying I'm being intellectually dishonest and that I don't believe what I write--that I'm selecting my arguments on the basis of political efficacy rather than conviction. I do take that personally, especially when you then proceed to badly distort my argument to fit your characterization of this as an "attack" on Woody. I'm not and have never suggested Woody Myers' campaign is "undemocratic." I don't believe that to be true. I have argued that Joh was being hypocritical to label Andre's campaign "undemocratic" because Andre had unique and valuable advantages, when Joh's own candidate has his own unique and valuable advantages. At the end of the day, I'm most bothered by the implication that somehow there's something sinister about Andre Carson running for Congress, acquiring endorsements, and receiving support when the rules of democracy permit him to do precisely that. I'm also tired of being told that I'm part of that sinister plot -- a dishonest agent of the Machine -- because I happen to disagree with Orentlicher and Myers supporters about who will be the best Congressperson. I've never called anyone undemocratic and I don't expect to until they start doing things that are actually undemocratic.

I would also remind you that not everything is on the internets. Sometimes you have to go somewhere on foot and look it up yourself. I never stated I read the transcript. I never said I attended the proceedings. But evidence is presented to a grand jury, evidence that will often find its way to case in chief, and that is what occurred here. The influence peddling was just one of the things that brought Honeycutt down, though that was not the straw that broke the camel's back. I never said Andre had a role in it, and it is up to the voters to decide if the not uncommon practice of a relative getting one a cushy gig should be counted against him. Just don't expect to be able to trot out the "but he's a law enforcement officers" line without that being thrown back at you.

Considering what I do for a living, I assure you I am painfully aware that not everything is available on the internet. In fact, quite frequently, in my experience, you have to spend weeks or months rummaging through musty boxes in the basement of some library. :)

Again, you write about "evidence" but you neglect to mention what that evidence is or actually provide it. Maybe you're right. Maybe that evidence is real. But if it is, I need to see it before I'm ready to buy that allegation, especially when the media coverage of the events you are describing entirely neglect to mention it.

Out of the four candidates running in the Democratic primary, any of the other three are far more qualified (and knowledgeable about issues if I were to guess) than Andre Carson.

As an advocate of free-market (read: Austrian school of) economics and minimal government intervention in our lives I would disagree with all of them on a great many things but there is no doubt that Carolene, David or Woody would seem to be more qualified.

I think a lot of people would be interested to know that the Carson campaign people demanded the IUPUI debate rules get changed to allow note cards. At the debate, he was the only one to use them too. I just can't see David or Dr. Myers needing to rely on that kind of crutch, much less still losing the debate.

I would also like to echo Bil's 10:06 AM comments and add that, although not unusual at all, Andre's campaign definitely embellished his activities and (Grandma and/or her friends got me the government) job positions.

I also found it odd that nobody questioned if he was showing up for work everyday at that marketing job he got two weeks after joining the City Council. Oddly enough, with a firm that does A LOT of business with school districts. Coincidence? Most likely not.