Monday, February 06, 2006

Ward 19 Caucus, Again

As I recall it, the old Russian term for neighbor was delightful — droog po droog, friend of a friend. At my first and only Democratic Party caucus, I definitely saw and felt the insider chumminess.

Over in North Andover, one Blue Mass Group poster found the caucus there positively Soviet in its closed politics. As 100% of my single experience settles, I can see the roots of that. On the other hand, let's consider that at this level, it remains almost strictly an insider's game — players, rules and outcome.

For those as ignorant as I was before 11 a.m. on Saturday, be aware that delegate seats seem to go to Democratic Committee activist members. It some ways, that's as it should be. They do the work and they earn the perk of paying $75 and spending an evening and a long day at the ex-Centrum trying to keep focused as the convention narrows the primary field. It also is not brain breaker and does not require extraordinary skill or knowledge to fill a chair.

Over at QueerToday on the February 4th post, Mark Synder whinges a bit about what you get by winning a seat.

From the promo material at the Democratic Party, the rules are plain. It makes much of equal everything, from gender to race and abilities and beyond. You can almost hear the right-wing comics getting their political correctness material out of their shorts.

Among the things it does not say are:
  • If you are in a small town or other lightly attended caucus, you have a chance of walking in cold and walking out a delegate. In fact, there may be more delegates allocated that registered Democrats attending who can or want to go to Worcester.
  • If you want a seat without putting in the time on the local Committee, bring a bunch of friends to nominate you and talk you up.
The Ward 19 elections were tortuous and designed to favor the insiders. However, some bolting entries won.

Perhaps the most undemocratic wrinkle was a sudden voice vote to change the rules to limit each candidate's speech from 2 minutes to 1 minute. For most, that meant that people would vote for those they knew, largely Committee members. Newcomers were hampered in introducing themselves and then giving compelling reasons they should be delegates.

However, there were a few exceptions. A self-possessed Aslam Karachiwala did quite well speaking passionately about why he supported Deval Patrick. Almost all the others rattled off how long they had lived in JP or Rozzy and how long they had been on the Committee. Likewise, Dave (I think) Berg popped up when it came time to vote for a male alternate delegate. He had a long resume of progressive paid and volunteer work. I wondered why he didn't put himself up as a regular delegate. He topped the field, which included losers from the main delegate vote.

They program ran to five sets of votes. There were nominees for 10 female delegates, 10 male delegates, 1 female alternate, 1 male alternate, and 1 alternate of either gender. For each grouping, someone nominated people, and the worker bees put their names of poster sheets. They gathered up front. Each had that times single minute. Paper ballots went to each of the 131 of us registered Democratics who had signed in and gotten our salmon-colored paper. We wrote our choices on the ballots. Folk collected these and sent them to the proverbial backroom for tabulation.

The delegates counts went first. This produced the undemocratic irony of everything sto0ping so that any losers could run for the alternate spots.

As we entered the hall, we got a sheet from the Committee listing the members likely to run for delegate seats. there were 8 women and 11 men. In short, a straight, unthinking vote would pretty well stock the chairs in Worcester.

It didn't quite work out that way. 17 women and 14 men ran for the seats, again that's 10 a gender. On the women's side 6 of the 8 Committee goddesses won seats. For men, it was 7 of the 11 local heroes winning.

The other winners had long, long histories of involvement in the Party. Relative newcomers to the Ward hierarchy mostly didn't cut it, except for those two exceptions.

What was that Uncle Scar told Simba, "Life's not fair now, is it?"


Anonymous said...

Hi, the bottom line is that most people came out to support the Patrick slate, which was assembled to include a mix of Ward Committee folks who mostly support Deval and other active Patrick supporters. The results reflected that as everyone on the Patrick slate was elected. We had more people participate in our caucus than any other in the city, to my knowledge, so it took a bit longer to tally ballots than usual.

Note: a number of the Ward Committee members are also relatively new to that organization, having joined after the 2004 election -- Reuben Cantor, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Kristy Helms and others have added new energy and activism and have been welcomed by "us" elders as we welcome anyone ready to pitch in.

Anonymous said...

oh, and the "undemocratic" irony of letting losers run for another slot is not a local decision, it is the caucus process of the state party

massmarrier said...

Indeed, the state DP has its rules. According to several bloggers I read, those who were also new to caucuses, those rules do favor the worker bees, as is the way of much of the political world.

It still is ironic and undemocratic to hold offices open until after an election. Note that in Ward 19, it did not prevent someone who did not run as delegate from picking up the man's alternate spot. I don't think that's what the DP rules intend, but it was encouraging to see it happened this time.

I was up front and heard co-chair Bob Pulster urge several women who were not ward functionaries to run for delegate. They lost badly, but they stepped up and ran.

In theory, they could have gotten a spot, but that's not the way the system is designed. People coming into a caucus should have the benefit of knowing the rules, as written and as intended.

Anonymous said...

Bob would certainly do that, one, to encourage participation and two, because of the "add on" system of the state party which allows people to file to be delegates if they are "youth", "disabled" or "affirmative action" (includes African-American, Latino, Cape Verdian, Asian, Native American, as well as GLBT) and preference is given to those who ran and lost locally. So a Liz Harris or Julieanne Doherty or Anita Gonzalez-Checcin can file to be an add-on and have a leg up on the process. Because of Boston's demographics, our numbers go up significanly w/addons and the Second Suffolk district, which includes W19 becomes the biggest delegation in the state!