I’ve been giving some consideration to a number of issues, lately, that have taken quite a bit of time to think through. Of recent interest has been the election of a Chairman to the LCRC, said election having been concluded this past Saturday. Throughout the process I was bothered by something regarding the whole procedure and I think it’s time that I speak out on it and that I call upon my fellow members of the LCRC to consider as well.
The LCRC is not the only organization I hold membership in. Most notably, I am a member of the Knights of Columbus (a Knight of the 4th Order, for any fellow Knights who read this) but I am also a card-carrying member of the NRA. And ISSA, a security association of IT professionals. And an alumni member of Delta Tau Delta. All of these organizations have “command” hierarchies with varying levels of leadership, locally and nationally. And every one of them draws the leadership from the membership ranks, elected by the membership.
Well, all of them except the LCRC.
The LCRC, for some reason, is required to throw open the election of its leader to allow participation by any member of the general public who claims to be a Republican and who signs a pledge that they’ll support whatever candidate we nominate for the general elections. Here’s some interesting math from the party canvass this past Saturday: 970 people dropped by to vote in the canvass. Somewhere around 200 people actually joined the committee. In short, roughly 4 of every 5 people who voted in the election to decide who will lead the LCRC chose not to become a member in the organization for which they had a hand in choosing the leadership.
My KofC Council has about 385 Knights. Our parish – the church to which the Council is attached – is comprised of about 1600 families. I’ll give you a huge benefit of the doubt and say that only half of the families have men over 18 in them that are eligible to be Knights. That’s still 800 men of the parish of which slightly less than half are Knights. When it comes time to elect our Grand Knight to lead our Council, we do not solicit votes from the men of the parish who are not Knights.
ISSA does not ask the general population who should be the President of the organization. They ask the members and only the members decide. The NRA welcomes anyone who wishes to join to our ranks. But we don’t ask non-members who the Chairman should be. That decision is restricted to people who hold membership. Delts don’t hold open elections to determine who’s going to be the fraternity’s President, locally or nationally. Delts elect their own.
It’s not just organizations that do this, it’s probably every election in which you’ve ever participated. When the Governor’s race was being decided last November, citizens of Ohio didn’t go to the polls. No resident of Georgia cast a vote deciding between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds. It worked the same way the closer to home you got. My friend who lives in Arlington didn’t even know who Tag Greason was, let alone got to vote for him for Delegate of the 32nd House District. That decision was reserved to residents of this District.
There’s a simple reason these organizations and localities don’t permit votes by people outside their membership: it is the members who will be led by the person elected and who will benefit from or suffer from their leadership. It is the membership who must give their consent to be governed, as it were, by the winner of the election. What makes the selection of a leader valid, in my eyes, is that decision and the consequences – good or ill – are borne by the people who were involved in the decision.
Of every 5 people who voted last Saturday, only 1 will be required to live with the results. The rest went home and will basically forget all about it. The specific results of this specific election are beside the point; what matters is that people who are not members of the Committee are being allowed to decide who the leader of the people who are members of the Committee will be. While it’s plain this didn’t happen in this past election, it is painfully obvious that this situation lends itself to a result where literally all of the people who chose to become members could vote for a particular candidate for the Chairman and that candidate could still lose. For the following 2 years, the members of the Committee would belong to an organization chaired by someone that the majority of their membership did not want. I fail to understand how anyone could describe that situation as small-d “democratic.”
I believe the process should be changed. Rather than elect a Chairman in an open election, the party should undertake that task as the first order of business after the membership has been decided. There was a deadline date for people to file to become members of the Committee and for people to run for Chairman. That should continue. But rather than allow all comers to participate in the voting for the Chairman, only those people who filed valid applications for membership (and whose applications have been verified as valid) should be allowed to cast their vote. This could be accomplished at the first meeting of the Committee if a special election event is undesirable for whatever reason. Or, we could hold an election just as we did this past Saturday but only members of the Committee would be allowed.
I’m sure there will be those who would call such a change “non-inclusive” and suggest that keeping this process open, as it is today, is a benefit. I see no advantage to allowing people who will not be subject to the consequences of their decision to participate in deciding the leadership of a political party, perhaps even especially at this local level. As for “inclusiveness,” is it too much to ask a person who wants to have a say in who the leader of the LCRC will be that they actually join up? I think not. I believe changing our process to see to it that a Chairman is elected by the majority of the membership will result in a stronger, more unified Committee.