Tuesday, August 18, 2015

About that HGLBT Caucus endorsement

So a week from last Saturday, as everybody who cares knows by now, the city's most powerful political constituency made its endorsements for the Houston municipal and county educational elections, coming up fast on the fall calendar.  Several other groups -- the DFA folks, the Tejanos, the Stonewalls, and others I am sure to be leaving out -- followed their lead for the most part.

Sylvester Turner, as Charles has noted, swept the so-called "progressive" endorsers, and Adrian Garcia secured his demographic identity caucus nod.

For this post, let's focus on the HGLBT Caucus, which all involved can agree carries the most weight in muni elections.  It's not disputable that they can throw their bulk around pretty effectively.  And they will need every ounce of it, and all the heavy help they can get, to once again turn back the Christian soldiers who have already gone Godwin on them, the mayor they elected thrice, and her signature accomplishment in office: the city's equal rights ordinance.

The Caucus (as it is known, sort of like The Donald) has beseeched Beyonce' Knowles via Twitter hashtag -- to no avail as yet -- to join their fight.  A few of its members have even signed my petition to kick the NFL and its league championship out of town in 2017 if the referendum on November's ballot fails.  In a crafty move, the ballot language -- being contested in court, as has everything associated with HERO -- is counter-intuitive; a 'no' vote upholds the ordinance, a 'yes' one repeals it.

The battle has begun; make sure you have your remote ready to change the channel when the teevee commercials come on, and reset your ad-blocking software to max for online exclusion (unless you just like getting paint-balled to death with advertising).

So we're up to speed on the latest.  Now, about that endorsement for mayor...

We already knew that Sylvester Turner purchased at least 76 memberships before the deadline in order for whomever they were intended to be able to vote at the Caucus endorsement meeting.  We know that Turner's consultant, Sue Davis, brushed it off as "something that's done every year".  (The Tejanos, for the record, do the same thing; the DFA has a small membership group and its executive committee makes the endorsements.  I have no idea how the process works for the Stonewalls.)  A handful of present and past officers of the Caucus even weighed in and said they had never seen an endorsement that was tilted by this "pay-to-play" mechanism in the recent past history of Caucus endorsements.

Well, they can't say that any longer, because Turner won by a count of 142-85... a margin of 57 votes.

These "endorsement membership drives" are an important part of these clubs' overall fundraising.  For its part, the Caucus also has its own PAC, and is hosting a fundraiser for it to "honor" its endorsees next week.

It might be valuable to go back to the top and click on the links for the groups mentioned in the first paragraph, where you will note that the same names of people are repetitively mentioned in the organizations doing the endorsing... of the same names over and over again of the people running for office.

So let's review.

If a mayoral candidate buys enough memberships in the Caucus to "democratically" earn its endorsement, and then gets feted by the Caucus at a PAC fundraiser, is he really a 'man of the people'?  Or just a very small, select group of people?  Let's only consider this instance of how the Caucus endorses, evaluating funds raised as an element of 'viability' scoring.  I know it's hard, but for a moment ignore the influence this might have in the outcome of the general election or the runoff.

If all that is accurate, then the election of Houston municipal officeholders is not in fact democratic at all, but oligarchic.  Or it might be plutocratic, since so much money is involved in the buying and selling -- and even in fundraising as a viability quotient -- of endorsements for public office.

Keep in mind that this bad business is not, of course, limited to Houston and its candidates for City Hall, and most certainly not limited to socially liberal Democrats and Republicans.  The same thing goes on for those who go to Austin and Washington to represent "us", when they're really only representing a very small number of people, almost all of whom can write their campaigns large checks.

We know we have big problems with too much money in our politics, but some people seem to think it's OK if "our people" win.  That's exactly what the other side thinks as well.  Now do we understand better why so many people who don't vote at all say that 'both parties do it"?  That both parties are the same?

And as Noah commented here, if Turner is "100% in" the runoff... as the candidate of the oligarchy/plutocracy, does he still meet the definition of 'progressive"?

That would be 'no', and it's not counter-intuitive.

My brother Neil communicates this with more brevity than I can muster, and for something tangential and fabulously entertaining, read Michelle Risher's screed at a certain scorned-for-endorsement council candidate.

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