Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Monday (Wednesday) morning quarterbacking...

Come on, you know you want to.

What did Charlie do wrong? What did Heidi do right? Is Alvin Sheats tree of liberty dead, (property rights) or just shedding leaves for the winter?

Here, I'll get us started. I think last night was in many ways proof positive that the folks who worked so hard to give us non-partisan elections two years ago basically wasted their time. "Common knowledge" (see how I snuck that in) was that non-partisan elections were going to spell the end of the "Cobbham elite" controlling local politics, and return power to them, whoever they are. Well guys, you put your candidate up, and he lost. And now you can't blame it on the restrictions of primary elections, or a contested local republican house race, etc.

I, for one, am a little surprised, and while I'm glad (mostly) that Heidi won, I'm also a little disappointed that the non-partisan thing didn't shift us towards the middle a little more. Maybe it will, in time, with different candidates, and different strategies.

What does everybody else think?

26 comments:

G. Lamb said...

I'm a little torn on the non-partisan idea. On one hand It was clearly an attempt to move candidates into place without allowing people to know their true party affiliation which is sneaky.

On the other hand it requires voters to judge candidates on their merits rather than mere party affiliation which is probably a good thing.

On the third hand (I have 3 hands, you know) I don't feel any particular love for either party (I mean, come on, there's really only two parties) and if I were to ever run for office having non-partisan elections opens the ballot for someone like me who previously would have had to choose between two unpleasant options.

Fishplate said...

"On one hand It was clearly an attempt to move candidates into place without allowing people to know their true party affiliation which is sneaky."

Why is a party affiliation necessary in a local election?

hillary said...

For one thing, when candidates won't say where they stand on a particular issue, it's a handy shortcut to have. Some of us work darn hard to do our research and be informed voters, but jeez, there's just as much obfuscation to prevent the voter who desires to be informed from gaining information.

Polusplagchnos said...

Party affiliation can come in handy for elections because it allows people to use already established connections within communities for generating cash flow and utilizing other resources. Campaigns need money and people, and no person is elected on sheer will power alone (we're not a tyranny yet). Party affiliation also lends ideological support and context to one's promises and principles. We haven't yet become postmodern in our politics, despite complaints otherwise, because even at the local level we still see things in terms of larger stories of struggle or success. There is no such thing as a local Republican, or a local ecological disaster, or a local education crisis, or a local liberal. We see our local problems in the context of the larger ones, as 'microeffects' of them. I think that is necessarily a part of "running for office" though in representative form of government: the elected person needs to be able to abstract from local concerns (from Joe Athenian on Hancock Ave) towards larger concerns (to an Athenian in general), to concern themselves with the whole group rather than individuals.

Party affiliation has, historically, been a way of identifying how one makes the abstraction. I think your concern, fishplate, is that at the local level, we can't or shouldn't be concerned with what a party does on a more global scale, but with what's going on in our communities. Is that right? But how else do we determine what is wrong with our local community if we didn't have a sense of what is wrong in general, or what can go wrong with any city?

Hillary is right: information only works when there is information to be had. If you can't trust others to give you the proper information, then electioneering is the last thing we should be concerned about with our government.

G. Lamb said...

But party affiliation isn't necessary to make that abstraction. But, if we're going to have non-partisan elections then people need to be much more vehement and explicit with their questioning of the candidates.

Party affiliation causes a lot of lazy voting and, similarly, some lazy campaigning. Example: once Doc switched from the Republican party to the Demoratic party his victory in Athens was assured and easy. It was as if the Democratic cloak somehow changed him overnight.

I don't think Doc was a bad guy at all but my point is that there's no way the same guy would have won if he had stayed affiliated with the Republican party.

Todd Mitchell said...

Hillary writes: "For one thing, when candidates won't say where they stand on a particular issue, it's a handy shortcut to have."

And in Charlie's case, it's also a recipe to lose. Clearly the voters wanted answers (or at least something more than "leadership!" every other word). Heidi talked in generalities, but at least she answered their questions.

Memo to "them" who pushed the non-partisan idea and who subsequently pushed Charlie Maddox: next time, you need to put up a more viable candidate. Heidi was ripe for being defeated, as late as Labor Day really, and a good candidate would have knocked her out easily. Charlie campaigned like a doofus...and the results show it.

Polusplagchnos said...

Good point, G. I guess it's not necessary to be affiliated to make the abstraction, but it does make it easier since, similar to the use of resources, it makes it easier to arrive at conclusions. I mean, it sounds abhorrent to say in a liberal democracy, but it is convenient to "already have your mind made up for you" by a party. We don't think this is bad for doing science or mathematics or aesthetics, but for politics it seems sinful to suggest.

Still, you are right.

As for vehement questioning, do you mean in public and sponsored forums, in the press, around the blogs and boards? Or, should the press take up some slack themselves and do the vehement questioning?

Anonymous said...

I know Charlie Maddox's political corpse isn't even cold yet, but can we speculate about the next mayor?

Nicki said...

On the other hand it requires voters to judge candidates on their merits rather than mere party affiliation which is probably a good thing.

Yeah, supposedly, but at the same time it reduces the need of the candidates to actually campaign, answer questions, have their ^%$# together, or be viable candidates. 'Cause any tertiary candidate worth ANYTHING will probably take enough votes to deny the winner the majority. Which prolongs the election and allows the weaker candidate more campaigning time.

I'm cynical, but it's conceivable that the weaker party might run multiple candidates in order to identify several different types of constituencies and force a runoff. Once the runoff is secured, the party can move the defeated candidates to turning out support for the primary candidate.

Anonymous said...

nicki,

everything you said can occur with party affilliation, though i do agree that non-partisan elections suck for Athens

G. Lamb said...

"As for vehement questioning, do you mean in public and sponsored forums, in the press, around the blogs and boards? Or, should the press take up some slack themselves and do the vehement questioning?"

Well, even though I've been loathe to participate, I think public & sponsored forums are a good idea. There should be more of them, too.

The press should never fail to question candidates deeply on their policy stances. It's not enough to say "Do you support development in Athens-Clarke County?" without giving the candidate a specific context. For example, I would probably be in favor of a candidate who wanted to court companies to redevelop the old industrial area at the end of Chase Street. I would not, conversely, throw my vote behind a candidate who thinks more condos are a good thing for Athens.

Blogs and boards? Sure, maybe. But too often blogs and discussion boards serve only 2 purposes:

1) to preach to the choir
&
2)entertain their participants and readers.

The first can foster a fellowship among like minded people and is not in any way a bad thing so long as it's not telling itself that it's outreach. The second can be a little dicey because if a blog or discussion board is serving as an entertainment then it is often the case that mountains are made of molehills and insignificant minutae gains ,by virtue of it's being repeated, undue significance.

I agree, very much, with what you say about science, math and aesthetics. Unfortunately, in politics, the idea of a candidate belonging to a certain "school of thought" tends to cause rubber stamp approval or dismissal. (Which is certainly, also, the case with the aforementioned disciplines but in those cases the real-world fallout from such 'rubber stamping' is less immediate.)

Basically, if we have a system in which anyone can run for an office then I think it's in the best interest of the to-be-effected constituency to
make iself as well-informed as possible.

As an aside, I've been pretty disgusted with politics for several months now and I'm sure that this feeling is certainly informing the opinions expressed above. I have not yet made peace with or come to any conclusion with my own internal political issues so take it all with a grain of salt.

hillary said...

No matter how vehement the questioning is, there's no guarantee that candidates will respond to it with answers.

Ryanetics said...

Which is exactly what Charlie and his campaign managed to do for the totality of his run.

Ryanetics said...

OK I just reread my response to Hillary and was even confused myself. What I mean is that Charlie and his campaign avoided answering the questions posed all campaign long.

UGAdem said...

I think Alice Kinman should run next time.

Possible candidates (in my humble opinion): Elton Dodson, Tom Chasteen, Alice

Any ther ideas?

Jmac said...

Chasteen's a possibility, though I see him trying to take out Bob Smith in two years.

Dodson will be in the second year of a second term in office (if he wins) which may or may not complicate things, and I don't know if Kinman has that on her radar. Could be wrong though ... it's happened before.

rmabry said...

I think Chasteen would be Dems best chance at the Bob Smith seat, but that seat is a lost cause.

I think it helps Elton that he's up in Presidential years as opposed to Gubernatorial years. He's got nothing to lose if he chooses to run. At worst, he's still a commissioner.

I don't see how Alice cannot have Mayor on her radar. If she's convinced people otherwise, kudos to her :-)

hillary said...

Does Athens have mayoral term limits?

Anonymous said...

Yes, limit two per customer.
My question is why would anyone want it? Or more specifically, why would anyone currently on the commission want it?
Giving up a seat with voting power for a "weak" mayor position doesn't seem like a smart move unless it's part of a longer term political agenda. I wouldn't encourage any of our "good" commissioners to run for mayor, I'd rather them stay on the commission for 20 years or so.

Blackfin_Day said...

I wouldn't completely rule out Tom's chances against Bob Smith. Tom's a good campaigner, and he's pretty savvy vis a vis what the voters want and want to hear. He's made a signifigant shift left over his past 15 years on the commission, most notably when he was almost beat by Jim Ponsoldt 4 years ago.
I think he could shift back rightwards pretty easily and "Barrow" his way into the 113 seat.

Anonymous said...

I think the non-partisan change had a huge impact on this election. If Heidi had been running against any candidate (Charlie or otherwise) with a republican label, she whould have won in a landslide, without a runoff...

Next time, with perhaps a better candidate, the republicans can now taste victory....

Also, the cost of the election has gone way up, because now instead of the main prize being the winning of the democratic primary in August, you have to get your message out in November, going up against a gubenatorial or presidential election, with a high probability for a runoff (going up against thanksgiving and XMas shopping season)...

No question that the strategy to change to nonpartisan elections has shown obvious dividends this time for the R's, and will continue to make things more difficult and expensive for the D's in years to come....

Jason

rmabry said...

While Tom would come the closest to beating Bob, he won by over 30%. It doesn't have so much to do with Tom as it does with the district.

rmabry said...

Jason is apt to point out the expense of elections. I would add that cost also go up because of targetting as well. In a Democratic Primary you only have to mail to x amount of voters. In a general, you have to mail to 2-2.5x.

Polusplagchnos said...

So, if we're all in agreement (maybe) that a non-partisan election is just a way to have an underhanded partisan election, then who are we saying is not aware of this?

I mean, who isn't falling for it?

Adrian said...

Partisan elections were meaningless when we had them anyway. I recently learned the term "Athens Democrat" -- meaning someone who used the local Democratic party to seek a local office but was known to favor the Republican party idealogically. Someone criticized Doc Eldridge for switching parties, but that is simply the way it used to work here, and it was pretty open, not deceptive.

I hate partisan elections because many of the real choices get made in the primary. Did you want to vote in the Republican primary this year? Well, the system didn't allow you to pick your solicitor general because that was decided by a primary. The primary system is an affront to democracy.

Nicki said...

Yes, but the idea of the partisan primary was essentially that the party would choose its candidate. With no need to register in either party, everyone can vote for every candidate.

I'm not sure the voting matters, though. Partisan elections clearly took Doc down, which is his own damn fault for not being honest about his affiliations. But had Barbara Dooley not been running her ill-advised state race, it wouldn't have mattered. Arguably in Athens that kind of situation is likely to occur more often than the other way around, but the schme itself isn't inherently advantageous to one party or the other.

Expenses are an issue we should think about, though. Even though more candidates can enter the field, fewer can afford to market to the entire electorate and the parties can't afford to support multiple candidates all the way to the election. And runoffs are a near certainty, which is expenive to us the taxpayers.