Vic Harris lost to Roland Winburn for the 40th OHD Democratic nomination yesterday by 44% to 56%. I noticed that some voters walking through the parking lot in the rain to the polling place were clutching their Democratic Party Endorsed Candidate slate in their hands. These lists of officially endorsed candidates were mailed to Democrats, and, on primary election day, Party workers were also passing out these slates to voters at the polls. It’s hard to run against the machine.
The results for the 40th District shows Roland with 10,000 votes, Vic with 8,000 votes and, this is surprising, 8000 blank votes. 8000 people made it to the polls to vote for president, but then skipped voting for either Roland or Vic. If Vic could have reached just a fraction of these blank voters, he would have won. I am dismayed that the 40th OHD Democrats chose a weak candidate, Roland, and rejected a very outstanding individual, Vic, and I keep analyzing how and why this result happened.
What gripes me is that many people voting for Winburn were simply wanting to be good Democrats and felt that the way to be a good Democrat was to follow the Party’s endorsement. On my last post, someone commented, about the Party’s endorsement that “Endorsement comes from the decision of the Party that one candidate is better qualified than the other.” This is the view of endorsement that a lot of voters who selected Winburn must believe to be true. But, this view of endorsement is out of touch with the reality of what endorsement really means.
In any endorsement, it is important to consider the source of the endorsement and the motivation of the endorser. If I endorse my brother-in-law to you as being a good real estate broker, you might wonder if my endorsement is motivated by an honest evaluation of my brother-in-law’s skills or simply by my desire to help a family member. When ordinary Democrats see that the Montgomery County Democratic Party has endorsed a candidate, they need to consider the source. A Party endorsement is not the result of an objective democratic process involving the deliberation of many MCDP active members. Far from it. The “Party” really boils down to a small handful of insiders who know how to get their way.
The explanation of why these insiders chose Winburn over Harris has to do with the concept of playing by Party rules, the concept of waiting one’s turn. It has to do with insiders seeking to advance their own political careers. Endorsement does not come from a fair analysis of who would best serve the people. Those Winburn supporters who know both Vic and Roland will admit that this analysis is true. These supporters do not claim that Roland is better qualified, or that Roland would be a more effective representative. They are loyal to the MCDP and feel that the Party should have the power to advance whomever it thinks most appropriate — for any number of reasons.
It seems, usually, the biggest factor in endorsing one potential candidate over another is “electability.” For example, a person is seen as an attractive candidate if he or she can show the capacity to raise money, because the capacity to raise money greatly impacts electability.
But in the 40th OHD, electability is not such an important concern, because the 40th OHD usually votes 70% Democratic. If the 40th OHD District was a competitive district and if the MCPD had anticipated that a strong Republican would run for the 40th OHD seat in the general election, then the matter of electability would have been the deciding factor. If the 40th was a competitive district, playing around with insider politics to the point of advancing a weak candidate, like Winburn, could well have meant losing the 40th OHD.
So, one way to look at it, Vic Harris is a victim of gerrymandering. In a competitive general election race, there is simply no question that Vic would be a much stronger candidate than Roland. There is no question that if given the chance, Vic would be a much more effective and energetic representative of the people than Roland. But gerrymandering gives a Party a monopoly, and monopolies have little motivation to innovate or produce quality.
Because of gerrymandering, the Party has a monopoly in the 40th OHD. Because of gerrymandering, the Party knew it could play insider politics, and could advance a weak candidate without the fear of penalty.
Clearly our democracy is not working as it should. There are fundamental faults in our democracy that conspire to keep the best leaders and the best ideas from emerging. This experience with Vic’s campaign has emphasized to me how gerrymandering undermines our political system and how gerrymandering empowers political corruption.