Saturday, August 25, 2012

The quandary of Lloyd Oliver for Democrats on the ballot

His lawsuit to remain on the ballot has the potential to be destructive for the Harris County Democratic Party's candidates and their November prospects.

On Friday, Houston attorney Lloyd Oliver filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Harris County Democratic Party's attempts to oust him from the ticket.

"They're not going to put any candidate on the ballot. They just shut the whole thing down," Oliver said.

The lawyer called the move an attempt by party officials to disenfranchise voters.

"They are the elite of the Democratic Party. They trump the voters and that's wrong," Oliver said.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I didn't think this would damage races down ballot, but I have to rethink that. I see no percentage in Democratic candidates, especially judicial candidates, supporting Lewis and Martin Birnberg in this petty vendetta. Unless they -- those on the ballot and not in the backroom -- opt to distance themselves quickly from it.

See, Democrats are obviously one thing, and democracy is another quite different one.

You would like to see the members of the Democratic Party always supporting democratic principles, but the fact is that doesn't always occur. It's part (a small part) of why I cannot call myself a Democrat any longer. I can and will heartily support many Democratic candidates, but I will no longer fall blindly in line behind a party's orthodoxy. It has simply produced too much cognitive dissonance for me.

Most Americans agree with me, by the way. Since about half of all residents of this great nation do not vote in any election, it would stand to reason that they don't hold either major political party in high regard. Since about 40% of the remaining half of our countrymen vote for the Bloods, and about 40% vote for the Crips, that leaves a solid 10% of voters -- or 5% of all Americans -- who report themselves as "undecided" for the two gangs to fight over. That percentage, again very roughly, is approximately the amount of support minor parties like the Greens and Libertarians and Independents have generally shared in presidential elections past (only Ross Perot and George Wallace in my lifetime have been exceptions to this rule).

The daily skirmishes in that battle -- more tit-for-tat in my humble O -- is what the traditional media reports, via several outlets, on a 24-hour basis. Here is today's example.

It gets worse for democracy, as we know. Because of the Electoral College, that 10% of registered/likely uncommitted voters is scattered throughout a dozen or so "battleground" states, which is why the two Corporate Parties must raise and spend vast sums of money to pay for Corporate Media advertising in order to sway this small number of lowly-informed "undecideds".

Most Democrats and Republicans are, at this stage of the cycle -- about 60 days before the start of early voting, and about 75 days before Election Day -- turning their focus away from persuasion and toward mobilization. 'Get Out the Vote', as it is called. 'Let's get more of our people to the polls because there are going to be a lot of those nasty  _______ voting, and we've got to overcome that'.

The methodology of GOTV differs a bit between Republicans and Democrats; the GOP wants to keep their base in a perpetual state of fear and loathing while simultaneously making efforts to ensure that fewer folks get to cast a ballot, particularly those with a little extra pigmentation in their skin. Whereas Democrats want more people to vote, on the theory that many non-voters will vote Democrat... if they can be convinced to get up and go do it. In 2012 this premise is particularly valid.

A digression, but a necessary one to illustrate my point.

Fort Bend and Texas Democratic Party officials have disavowed two-time Congressional nominee Kesha Rogers, but none of them have tried to remove her from the ballot (yet). Way back in 2010 when this uncomfortable situation arose the first time, I assembled a few views in this post, the most eloquent by my friend, occasional co-poster, and former SDEC committeeman John Behrman.

One is left with the supposition that ignoring Rogers' call for Obama's impeachment -- while taking legal action against Oliver's favorable remark about DA Pat Lykos -- is just garden variety hypocrisy and not a decision made on any racial and/or gender considerations of the two candidates.

Ultimately the Dems are going to have to mitigate this away in some fashion (just as they did their legal efforts to keep the Texas Green Party off the ballot in 2010). If they lose it, Oliver has made them look incompetent; if they succeed, they appear wildly and discriminatorily undemocratic. In the short term it grows increasingly likely that this effort will cost them votes... and contests they might otherwise win in an Obama-turnout-swollen year.They cannot afford that.

Many undercurrents have trended in their favor lately: the inept Romney campaign; the choice of the controversial Paul Ryan as running mate; the policy positions of the top of the ticket that motivate seniors, women, and minorities, particularly Latinos, to support the Dems are just a few. The vast extremism of Texas TeaBaggers, from Ted Cruz and throughout the Congressional and statehouses races, has never been more apparent.

But this obnoxious, internecine squabbling turns off voters -- especially voters of the undecided, uncommitted variety -- to a tremendous degree. The Democrats look like childish siblings fighting over a trinket when they do things like this. And for a political party that is already on life support in Texas, it is just plain ridiculous, not to mention foolish.

This is to say nothing of the nonsensical choice to leave the District Attorney's race empty. Since they are meeting in county convention this morning, the assembly of precinct chairs could, if they were in agreement to do so, select another DA nominee.

All of this leaves Harris County Democratic candidates in an unpleasant quandary. Either they publicly disavow the actions of their party's chair and previous chair to arbitrarily remove a duly elected nominee -- one of their ticketmates -- over a technicality, or they try to ignore it (not a good option either, since silence is consent). I don't consider that publicly announcing support for Oliver against local party leaders is really an option.

Unless this matter resolves itself fairly quickly in time to smooth over the unpleasantries, other Democrats are going have to run away, hard, from this ill-conceived legal action on the part of Birnberg, Lewis, and Dunn, or else they stand to be tarred with the same broad brush.

That would be the brush with the oligarchic paint on it. Low-information, low-participation voters get this even when they have no idea what an oligarchy is.

Update: Charles very cautiously -- and maybe only slightly -- agrees. I also checked to see if there was any news made at yesterday's Harris County Democratic convention, but it looks as if the activities were limited to boosting morale.

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