Once upon a time, I wrote a column about some behind-the-scenes local political machinations that exemplified why so many people are cynical and apathetic about elections.
More specifically, it was three years ago and involved a deal sought by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat, so he could run unopposed for reelection (“We Don’t Need No Stinking Election,” issue of Jan. 9, 2008). Under the deal, local Republicans promised not to run anyone against Portune if Democrats didn’t run anyone against Greg Hartmann in a separate commission race. The whole sordid mess was brokered by power-hungry attorney Stan Chesley, back before he became too busy fighting disbarment charges.
Party leaders agreed to the deal and, three years later, Portune and Hartmann are safely ensconced on the county commission. At the time, CityBeat wrote the deal did a disservice to voters and “reeks of all that is wrong with politics today.”
I was reminded of that column recently when informed by various sources of what’s currently going in the nominating process used by the Cincinnati Democratic Committee for City Council candidates and a related flip-flop by the Charter Committee, everyone’s favorite “kinda-sorta-but-not-really” political party.
Back in December, Charter leaders announced they had endorsed Kevin Flynn and Yvette Simpson for City Council. Then, the Hamilton County Republican Party endorsed five people for council in early March.
Now, local Democrats are busy deciding their council slate; the decision is important because Cincinnati is a predominantly Democratic city and the party has dominated council for at least two decades.
This week the Democratic Party’s nominating committee also recommended the endorsement of Simpson as part of its nine-person slate.
But Charter leaders had explicitly told candidates they wouldn’t endorse any non-incumbents who also sought an endorsement from Democrats or Republicans. Several candidates had considered seeking a cross-endorsement by Charter, which dubs itself “the good government people.”
Its endorsement is seen as a sort of stamp of approval, even though it’s unclear exactly what the group believes in these days, given the strange assortment of candidates it’s endorsed in recent years.
Things changed, however, when Democratic Party leaders decided they didn’t have enough “diversity” on their ticket.
Specifically, the Dems were distressed their slate didn’t include an African-American woman. (Never mind that the slate included two African-American men, a Latino man, a gay man and two white women.)
In a process that’s not yet clear, Democratic leaders struck a deal with Charterites to endorse Simpson, but also allow her to keep the Charter endorsement.
Others recommended for endorsement are Nicholas Hollan, Jason Riveiro, Chris Seelbach and P.J. Sittenfeld, along with incumbents Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young. That slate will be voted on by precinct executives April 7.
The ridiculous turn of events is motivated by crass tokenism that is a cheap substitute for real efforts at inclusion. Not only is it insulting to voters but it also displays a double standard and favoritism on the part of Charterites and is a disservice to other current and potential candidates.
Put differently, it’s exactly what many people hate: politics as usual, with an emphasis on symbolism and connections instead of substance and principle.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke doesn’t see anything wrong with the process used.
“Yvette is a lifelong Democrat, whose political beliefs reflect Democratic values,” Burke said. “She is very articulate and well-qualified. Like Roxanne, she is endorsed by Charter. Insuring we have a diverse slate was a factor in considering all of the candidates including Yvette.”
Burke added, “I do not know what Charter thinks of this and have not asked.”
An e-mail seeking comment from Charter leaders wasn’t returned by deadline.
Of course, Burke’s initial remarks divert attention from the party’s shoddy reasoning. I don’t know Simpson, but I know people who do, and they all insist she will make a stellar candidate. Certainly, her impressive background suggests she will.
Among Simpson’s accomplishments, the West End resident is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati law school, where she was an editor on The Human Rights Quarterly and co-chaired the Student Legal Education Committee. After working at a local law firm, Simpson went to Miami University in 2007, where she developed the school’s first pre-law program. She also serves on the boards of the YWCA, the Urban League and — surprise — the Charter Committee.
No, this isn’t about Simpson personally. It’s about the procedures used by political parties, what their principles truly are and whether they can adhere to their own rules.
In recent years, many people — many, many people — have complained about mediocre leadership at City Hall. Maybe it’s because the candidates for elective office were vetted using a middling process focusing on the wrong things and overseen by misguided people.
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An article defending the Koch brothers and accusing liberals of paranoia appears in a recent issue of The Weekly Standard. For readers unfamiliar with the magazine, it’s the one managed by Bill Kristol, a frequent, smarmy talking head on political shows in the corporate media.
Among Kristol’s many wrong-headed ideas, he championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq as early as 1998, stating the war would be over quickly and would pay for itself, and takes credit for convincing John McCain to select Sarah Palin as his running mate.
I’ve written about Charles and David Koch before; they’re the billionaires who bankroll several ultra-conservative causes like the Tea Party movement and the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions.
It seems the poor dears don’t like all the attention and scorn heaped upon them recently. David Koch attacks President Obama with this absurd remark: “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation, and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.”
Oh, get a grip already.
As The Huffington Post’s Yepoka Yeebo noted, U.S. businesses are more profitable than ever and corporate profits hit an all-time high at the end of 2010, with corporations reporting an annualized $1.68 trillion in profit in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones has increased more than 50 percent since Obama took office.
Instead of whining, Mr. Koch should be hoping that poor and unemployed Americans don’t eventually get fed up enough to have a French Revolution moment with him filling the role of Marie Antoinette.