Monday, March 01, 2010

Stop the delegate madness

Having attended my first BPOU convention on Saturday, I see a disturbing trend that all of you long time party folks need to pay attention to.  The fight for delegates is turning people away from party politics, and it needs to stop.

Steele County, as I found out, does things a bit differently than many BPOU's around the state.  We have a nominating committee that proposes a slate of delegates for the district and state conventions.  This slate is just the suggested list, and the convention is free to nominate others from the floor.  The slate that is proposed is made up of people who have demonstrated a commitment to the local party.  Not party insiders necessarily, but the folks who showed up to work at the county fair booth, or volunteered their time to work on local election campaigns (especially the SD 26 special election, where door to door was done in -20 temps).  Some of the newer delegates challenged this proposed slate, saying that they couldn't vote for a delegate before they knew what candidates they supported.

This is the difference between Steele County and other BPOU's around the state.  Our delegates are elected on principle-not because of the candidate they support.  This topic was addressed by Yappy at Freedom Dogs, and one of the comments struck me as incredibly important and worth repeating.
Well, we *need* slates because as a Seifert supporter, I don't want to be electing delegates for Emmer to the state convention.   That would be self defeating.  I'm sure that Emmer supporters probably have similar feelings.
With all due respect to the commenter, this philosophy is part of a larger problem that we face in party politics.  I left a comment that was more of a rant, and I felt it needed to be fleshed out in a post of its own.  A lot of you will disagree with what I have to say, but I think if you evaluate this dispassionatley, you will see that I am right on this. 

The problem I speak of is the drive to do everything sooner, earlier, and before the other guy.  Minnesota is poised to move the primary elections up a month.  Caucuses were moved up earlier to give Minnesota a bigger say in the national elections.  Presidential hopefuls are out campaigning 3 years before the election.  This is wrong, and we as a party need to stop it.  Look at the situation we have now with delegates.

The state GOP convention is May 1st, and that is where we will (among other things) vote to endorse a candidate for governor.  But the state convention is no longer when the vote will take place.  All around the state, BPOU's over the last few weeks have elected their delegates for the state convention based on who those delegates will vote for.  This means that for some counties and BPOU's, the endorsement vote for Governor has already taken place.  Conservatives generally oppose early voting in a general election, why do we not only allow it but encourage it inside our own party?  I have said before that if this process continues, the campaign season will begin the day after the last election. 

While I understand the rationale behind this, I think we need to pull back and look at this process as a whole and where it will lead us.  Yes, Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert want to know how many candidates they can count on, how many are undecided, and where they need to concentrate their resources to make sure that they make their case to undecideds.  I understand and can sympathize with all of this.  But Emmer and Seifert are not the only candidates running for the GOP endorsement.  By virtue of their size and financial resources, these two candidates are locking up delegates and pushing other candidates out of the race.  This too is wrong.

Take this crazy rush to lock up delegates to its logical conclusion.  Think about the next party endorsement race.  The candidates and campaign consultants that lose out this year will start the next campaign with one overriding theme-do everything earlier.  Announce earlier, start raising money earlier, and start getting delegates to commit earlier.  But there is the problem.  How do you get delegates to commit when you don't know who the delegates will be?  Currently, the campaigns try to influence the BPOU's at their convention to pick delegates that support them.  But next time around, they will want to do things earlier.  That means you will start to see candidates influencing who becomes a delegate at the BPOU convention.  Common sense, right?  If you can pack the convention with your supporters, then getting that convention to pick delegates that support you is easy.

So how do you pack the convention?  You stack the deck at caucus night.  You send your people into their precinct caucus and tell them to help get your supporters elected as delegates.  You also tell them to make sure your opponent's supporters don't get elected as delegates.  But for Pete's sake, caucus night is nine months before the election, and three months before the state convention where the endorsement will be voted on.  

Think about the ramifications of this for a minute.  We as a party will have moved the effective date of the endorsement for governor up to caucus night in February.  We will have ensured that only candidates with statewide campaigns in place by January will have a chance to be endorsed, all other will have to work from a deficit.  But most importantly, we will turn off the very people that we are trying to attract into the party.  Many of the people that showed up to my caucus didn't even know who all of the candidates were, let alone know who they would support.  But unless we stop this delegate madness, they will have people asking them on caucus night who they support, and risk not being included in the party process if they are in a precinct packed by one candidate's supporters.  

Folks who deeply believe in stacking the delegate lists will tell me that I am being naive, and that they only do it because the other candidates do it, and they don't want to be left out.  That is a cop out answer, and I refuse to accept it.  We are the party, and we must choose to reject a process that will damage the party.  There are too many problems in our state and in our country to allow elections to turn into a perpetual campaign process.  Unfortuneatley, that is exactly where we are headed.


Gadsden said...

Couldn't disagree more. As a free-market lover, the free-market of political options requires that in order for a candidate to win and advance their idealogy they need to follow the exact roadmap that you demonize. If a candidate can stack enough precinct caucuses around the state to have things settled then, then the message and mission is resonating with the grassroots.

Lassie said...

I wasn't a delegate for the 2002 Pawlenty/Sullivan endorsement to make a comparison with Emmer/Seifert.

As delegates can change their minds at any time, I think stacking isn't very useful. We've got two top contenders, and I like that smaller contenders are sticking in there. Choice is a good thing. I worry that alternates supporting one candidate may not be seated by credential officers supporting the other.

Brent said...

I know it's nice to say that we should elect a "random" group of delegates to represent our district and hope for the best. I just don't know how anyone is comfortable with that.

If the choice was between a moderate like Ramstad and an ultra-conservative Emmer, conservatives would be besides themselves, frantic that we could possibly endorse a RINO to be our candidate. Since Seifert and Emmer are so "close" ideologically, some delegates are willing to roll the dice. Others aren't, and never will be, so they'll always support delegates to the next level that will represent their interests.

What is your alternative to the situation? Since you are concerned that the votes are pretty much settled at the BPOU conventions, how would you alleviate that concern? My answer would be the only solution would be to move the process to the primary in August. That way no one has to vote on who will vote for them in May 2 months early and everyone can make their decision when they are comfortable, even at the last minute. No early voting.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That solution is worse than the problem. We LIKE being a caucus state. Becoming a primary state simply means that the people with big name recognition and big bucks will always be triumphant, and that small, able challengers haven't a prayer. On the other hand, using slates at the caucuses or BPOU convention tends to do exactly the same thing, to reward those candidates with big name recognition and enough money to do all of that organization.

J. Ewing

Dave Thul said...

Brent is exactly correct that, on the face of it, slates of delegates make perfect sense. But you have to look at the bigger picture to see where this process is headed.

What is the solution? We should work towards a institutional neutrality, much like party officials are required to have. Just like government is not the answer to most problems, so too making rules at the state party to be enforced at lower levels in also not the answer.

I simply mean that delegates should not advertise their candidate choice, and they should not be asked who they support (wow, its Don't Ask Don't Tell!). For instance, I announced I was supporting Emmer a few months back. But I don't advertise myself at the local level as an Emmer delegate. And when the Emmer campaign asked me to make sure there was an Emmer slate at my BPOU convention, I declined.

That is all that is all that needs to be done. Delegates need to keep their options open, and they need to be voted in as delegates based on their dedication to the party and their common sense.

We live in a republic, not a democracy. We are the Republican party, not the democratic party. So why is it so crazy to think that we should vote for delegates and candidates according to the principles of a republic?

Brent said...

You say that we should work towards neutrality, but at some point we have to stop being neutral. Someone has to make a decision. Otherwise there would be no endorsement. You seem to be saying the grassroots shouldn't be allowed to make a decision. Like sheep they should just send up the chosen elite to make the decision for us. "Just trust us" you say.

Well, sorry, you know what? The grassroots don't trust the party elite anymore to make the right decision. I certainly don't trust them. I trust myself to vote for delegates who support my candidate. After that I can just hope they will follow through, but it is better then just voting for someone because they attended all the parades and fairs.

Anonymous said...

Christ, this is silly. I didn't see Jerry Ewing (Yappy) bitching when Knoblach got a slate together and SD 15 went 26-2 for Marty. He's just torqued because Marty's people got out-organized in SD 37 by Emmer's folks. And, contrary to his post, he damn well knew that he was a delegate when he posted that at 3 PM yesterday. It just depends on whose ox is being gored.

Gene said...

Its about time someone admitted that party leadership doesn't give a damn about principle. All they care about is that those that have "carried the water" ie those that have destroyed the MN GOP. These water boys think they are entitled to choose the next loser.

I'm supporting candidates based on their commitment to freedom and only support those who agree with me or have shown other unwavering commitment to liberty principles.

I'm sorry if your longtime friends didn't get to be delegates. Maybe they should have spent some time learning what freedom means instead of trying to use the process to trounce anyone of principle.

It's time to water the tree of liberty.

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