Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Question Of Theory, Democracy

I received an email today announcing the upcoming elections for a local organization of which I am a member. It says:

The annual election of club officers will take place at our December 21 meeting. All five offices are up for election: President, Vice President of Membership, Vice President of Programs, Secretary, and Treasurer.

A nominating committee is now being formed which will present its recommended slate of officers. Nominations will also be accepted from the floor at the December meeting.

Please plan to come and vote! If you are interested in running for office, stay tuned for instructions on how to notify the nominating committee.
My question: Is a "nominating committee" really an appropriate method for selecting the future leadership of a "Democratic" organization?

While, in a practical sense, slates are commonly part of selecting leadership in political organizations - including government - appointing a committee to forward a slate of officers sounds decidedly more corporate than grassroots to me. Though nominations are allowed from the floor, what are the chances that on so nominated will win? And though candidates for public office may be vetted and endorsed by grassroots clubs, is applying such a method on a micro level appropriate? Shouldn't any would-be leader be compelled to campaign member-to-member?

I've long been opposed to slates for the internal governance of clubs and other local level organizations because to me they seem to reflect the very patriarchal heirarchy which the Democratic Party seems to love to oppose publicly. And if one is looking for a way to get more involved and sees a pre-approved slate of insiders, how welcoming will that club seem?

This plan rubs me the wrong way. But I'd love your input or anecdotal evidence of the methods employed by other community-based clubs and orgs.


Carl Kolchak said...

Run, Christiana, run!

Seize power and steer the ship on a new, dynamic direction.

Recruit a small circle of friends loyal only to you. Form your new executive board. Have them sign up at least 6 fellow followers each as club members. Descend on the Holiday Party/Election Meeting on Dec 21 and rain down your wrath upon Axxxxx and her crew.

You, too can run the club for a year. Maybe you can successfully capture the imagination of the region's Democrats and win the day for (insert candidate.)

We eagerly await your command.

See you at the Bath House.

Anonymous said...

Nice handle, and nice deduction, Carl.

I don't know what you mean by Bath House, as I stated in the post, I was just asking a theoretical question . . . .

Carl Kolchak said...

The Bath House... the place where the present crew took over last year. I'm assuming the December meeting will be there again.

Carl Kolchak said...

Of course, it's only theory.

Thanks for asking the question.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome.

But what's your answer/thoughts?

Carl Kolchak said...

The answer:

Whenever an organization takes measures seeking to prevent what I call the Pirate's Raid, leadership sets the organization up for failure.

You are bound to offend potential members by raising barriers to leadership. Only inner-circle, secret handshake members need apply?

You also stagnate the pool of members who will take up the job managing the organization. "Whose turn is it, this year" and so on.

The best organizations are ones with some funds to accomplish a full calendar of activities, a diverse membership of willing participants and a goal or mission that will keep the organization together for many years. Oh, and yes a set of well understood rules and procedures that govern the organization.

The desire to be part of a well-run organization will help to keep it going strong. Barriers like an "impartial" nominating committee aren't needed.

The "theoretical" organization mentioned in the original post certainly can prevent outsiders from taking over by having regular meetings that attract regular members who contribute regularly. Over time, those regular members could be counted on to take leadership roles.

The phenomenon of the Pirate Raid only works if the leadership pool is too small, or if the membership at large is unwilling to support its leadership.

I laugh whenever I hear of the Holiday/Election combination. Who in their right mind will dare challenge a group when they are suppose to be celebrating a holiday of some sort?

Maybe it should be a Trojan holiday with a gift at the door.

Anonymous said...

I'm sticking with the hypothetical construction right now since I haven't decided if/how to best raise a stink over this.

If anyone suggested such a thing for CYD, I wouldn't stop until such a ridiculous notion were shown to be, well, ridiculous. And undemocratic. And a little, what's the word I'm looking for . . . arrogant? Republican? I don't know. . . .

I'm gathering by inference that you, Carl, have some special insights about how such a theoretical organization has been performing since its inception. Though I am a member, my current geographic limitations have rendered attendance at theoretical meetings impossible - especially, it seems - the big meetings and events.

I've heard various whispers on the wind about certain - okay, one - club leader. Last time I stood up for something Pedro, I got a nice hammering in the 'sphere. Not that I am at all discouraged from standing up again, but there are people worth fighting and then there are people who are sinking themselves just fine - so why burn capital?

I hadn't thought about the Holiday/Elections angle, but that add another foolish wrinkle, doesn't it.

Oh well. If that's how the club wants to run itself, okay. But I would hope that the membership would note that they are being cheated out of their primary job: selecting their own leadership. Does this really need to be delegated to a smaller group of people?