Friday, June 17, 2011

The Pipeline

In college, my frequent criticisms of legislative term limits were met by reminders that my female, Mexican counterparts successfully winning office were doing so because term limits cleared out all the old, white dudes who were blocking my cohorts' entry.  And briefly, after the implementation of term limits, the legislature did see a spike in diversity and an increased number of women.

Except, it didn't last. Especially the women part.

Because after all the eligible lower-office holders were elected, they too were limited, and passed right on through both houses leaving them where. (Especially since [Dem] female bids for statewide office frequently seem thwarted by back-room agreements between old, white dudes on who gets what and when.)

We'd exhausted the pipeline - those typical paths by which people usually found their way into office were emptied quickly and we hadn't done any work to fill them up again.

This notion of paying attention to the pipeline and taking at least a 15-or-so year view on potential California legislative leadership seems to run throughout this Bee post on Interest Groups' salivating over the potential to "shake up" the legislative bench.

Seems there was a meeting of the American Association of Political Consultants (the mind reels) recently here in Sacramento and during this meeting, several leading interest group related consultants are already counting on new district lines and the jungle primary to present new opportunities to find leaders:
"I think after this election cycle you're going to see much, much more turnover in the Legislature, and it just gives us a great opportunity to have an impact, to start to try to look for candidates who are going to try to do things differently, to bring a new era in the Legislature and find people that can be partners," said Hegyi, a former legislative aide and Republican Assembly candidate.

Liz Snow, of the California Dental Association, echoed Hegyi's comments, saying interest groups are "tired of insignificant issues moving and being the focus and really tired by the lack of leadership on the part of average members."

"People are sick of playing it safe," she said. "It hasn't really gotten us anywhere."

Snow said those frustrations and the state's changing political landscape will mean that "increasingly being an incumbent doesn't guarantee you anything in terms of support for future elections." She later noted, however, that re-electing freshman Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will be one of her organization's top priorities in 2012 because of his work on health care issues.
 Of course, one group's insignificant issue is another group's . . . you know the drill.

And incumbency is STILL likely to be a pretty damned good indicator of electoral success after a brief adjustment period with new districts. 

But if I'm running a group bent on electing more of my kind or more people friendly to my kind (women, Mexicans, dentists, podiatrists, whatever), I'm going to spend that period of adjustment seeding lower, local offices to make sure I don't turn around in 6-12 years and find myself with no more friends.

Related: Here, give these gals some money.


Anonymous said...

We discussed this issue a while ago and I will simply repeat the basics of what I said then.

Most offices are chosen in one of two ways. An elected official chooses their best available friend to fill an office because they want someone that will follow their lead or someone challenges the existing structure and eventually wins so that they can choose their own friends in the future. It almost never happens any other way.

The problem you get with underrepresented groups is twofold. One is that some of the group usually have a stake in the existing structure and do everything they can to stop a challenge and two, it's easier to play defense than offense and to convince voters of the dangers of change (and as many studies have shown, voters will choose something they know and mildly dislike before they will choose something they are unsure of).

When you discuss the underrepresentation of women you have to deal with those challenges. The first challange for any campaign is making candidates understand that they have to develop their own donor and volunteer base almost completely from scratch because the powers that be (who generally benefit financially in a major way from the existing structure) will never cooperate in anything they can't control.

Virtually no Democratic candidate who was not the handpicked choice of an existing legislator or union has ever received significant backing from established sources and even those that have almost always have to show first that they can raise money and support on their own.

For example, Barbara Boxer talks in her autobiography about how her kids talked her out of dropping out of her Senate race when she couldn't raise money at the start and no one would help her.

After she raised enough to finance her own campaign to at least competitive levels(and over 90% of her early donors were people who had never donated to a politician before) she got money from Emily's list and others which put her over the top. (The Emily's list myth about providing early money is just that, a myth. They jump in when they see a candidate will do enough on their own to have a good shot at winning).

The problem is that most outsider candidates, (I think especially females who are socialized by the media to be this way)think they can move ahead by being active in party groups and supporting candidates and that usually doesn't work, because absent some compelling connection (family member, former romantic interest, etc.) the men who currently hold the strings usually don't get as close to a woman personally and they don't just want a friend holding a job, but because they usually have an agenda they are pursuing, they want one of their best friends and someone they think they can count on through thick and thin and it's hard for their not to be some walls in relationships between men and women.

What is sad in my opinion is that there are so many female business owners and potential volunteers for female candidates, that women would have an easier chance to challenge the leadership in any community, but they are averse to that type of battle and so here we are. Some would argue the stereotype that women don't like conflict, but I think it goes a lot deeper. For example I remember a very prominent former member of the California State Assembly, who when he first ran got a dozen friends of his to take second jobs in the evening at a local fast food franchise and donate their paychecks to his campaign to get him funded. I don't think many candidates would have friends that would do something like that, but I think women would have more trouble because they are not completely sure of themselves in the political arena anyway and that type of thing would seem outside the box and until they understand that just by their gender, they are trying to change the existing power structure and start looking at themselves as outsiders, that will never change. JMO!

cd said...

What have I told you about the JMO business? WHAT?

Anyway - argh, you know you drive me nuts on this issue, right?

EMILY's list wants to see work from a candidate, this is true. But they aren't quite as bandwagony and unhelpful as you make them out to be.

Some women don't like conflict, but I've come across very few of these women in politics.

And this: "I think women would have more trouble because they are not completely sure of themselves in the political arena anyway and that type of thing would seem outside the box and until they understand that just by their gender, they are trying to change the existing power structure and start looking at themselves as outsiders, that will never change."

Is nutty.

And if you think we don't know that our gender has a shit-ton to do with our political success/efforts . . . oy, what woman isn't aware of that?

It has less to do with confidence and more to do with us still raising your kids and cleaning your houses and cooking your meals and paying your bills and researching and executing all domestic contracts for services, classes, etc. We're apparently too busy running things to get a chance to run things.

Anonymous said...

Lol! You sound like a mother who has been very busy lately. Seriously I hear you, but think you are wrong. The reason I gave the example I did was because in my experience, women candidates are dramatically less likely to go outside the box in their decisionmaking and that makes them easier to read and hurts their chances to win an office. But there is no proof that can be offered. It's just an opinion based on observation. I think because of the small number of successful female candidates, most, including the very aggressive are unsure in their decisionmaking and tend to fluctuate back and forth between being overly aggressive and overly passive. Emily's list definitely is an insiders clique that backs people they think will win, but the more accurate issue is how many women who are not in leadership positions, raise six figures for candidates for other offices they support. To use an example I worked for in her campaigns, Gloria Molina was able to get a long way taking on the Alatorre's and Polanco's of the world after having a falling out with them. For a few years, she raised money for others and worked to build something which is what the other side did for a very long time and continues to do. Well, now that she is a county supervisor and could easily fund an Assembly race or even without giving money create a candidacy, where are her candidates. Not knocking her because she at least did a little, but that is true of most females who hold office. They seem to think every liberal stands for the same thing instead of seeing themselves and fighters for the causes they believe in.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you will see this addition because it is long after the fact, but I did have to point out that of the twenty candidates for Janice Hahn's seat which is one anyone could conceivably win, there is only one woman and she has no money or campaign team at all. It also should be added that it is very possible that after the next city election, there will be no female members of the Los Angeles City Council. That says something I think, especially since I know a currently unemployed latino attorney who would have been a serious contender for Hahn's seat if she had just been willing to move back into her home district to run. But what can you say.