Winning teams have deep benches. The NFL continues to electrify week after week because of the “next man up” reality. No matter how good you are, there’s someone working to take your spot, aspiring to be your replacement.
And, that’s what’s missing from American politics, with our two party system that’s all about keeping fossils in office until they are petrified. While other countries seem to be able to elect young charismatic leaders, we’re the country of the old guard, protecting their flanks at all costs- including their own.
If there is one thing to thank Donald J Trump for, and it may be the only thing, he forced people into a flawed process because it wasn’t just a choice between the lesser of two evils, but a choice between life or death of decency. I just watched Joe Biden and Kamala Harris give speeches about the future of our country, not about themselves. It was a refreshing change after 4 years of a narcissistic child’s rants.
Yet, even their selection was an odd process that causes way too much disenfranchisement, alienates voters instead of empowering them, and leaves people wondering how does this system bring us down to choices that somehow don’t feel like we’re getting the best our country has to offer. Our system of elections is so out of whack, so co-opted, so odd, that we’re still not even sure who the winner will be come December 15th- we just are making an assumption.
Let’s start out with the very process of primaries to whittle the field. Somehow, we’re not capable of deciding between more than a binary choice – this or that, black or white, red or blue. By the time I was allowed to choose my choice for presidential candidate for my party, the states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina had made my choices for me. I couldn’t vote for Mayor Pete, or the Yang Gang or be a Bernie Bro, or even endorse Liz Warren’s plan for that. This has to stop- and the best way to do that is via a ranked choice or instant runoff style system, where well informed voters can rank their choices, regardless of party, so that their voice is heard- and the best choices of the most people end up as the final choices.
While term limits are supposed to force us to get new blood into the system all it’s done in Ohio is create a game of musical chairs as one well seasoned politician takes over another well seasoned seat in a giant switcharoo. That’s not the answer- and there are some public servants who deserve to stay in office because they actually do a good job (although for the life of me right now, I can’t name any local ones…sadly). We get the same names, the same faces and the see some incredible failures hoisted on us by the parties.
If you need a case study, look to Russ Joseph, Nan’s best buddy, who failed again to win again despite being a 2 year incumbent to gifted county positions. Of course, he’ll wind up in yet another cushy patronage job where he can bully people and pretend to be smart. He’s the epitome of career political symbiotic leech that people can’t stand. He’s never had a job that wasn’t sucking at the teat of the Dem Party. Good riddance Russ. Now, if we could just dismantle the crooks who kept hoisting him on the public- the local Dem Party.
It’s time to realize the local political parties are just as incompetent as the national ones. We don’t need to endorse in primaries, we need to have primaries. We don’t need to have a screening committee- we need a deep bench of people who are being groomed and trained to aspire to office. We don’t have that. We can’t even line up opposition to a dangerous sheriff, or find a candidate to beat Mike Turner with a ton of money behind her. The only candidate the Dems had who could have beaten Turner, unfortunately got sent to prison for being part of a culture of corruption after over 20 years of “winning.”
The party had a guy who ran 2 years ago for Ohio 41 and despite running strongly against an incumbent, by the time this year came- he’d left the party to beat your boy Russ. John McManus was a poster child of what happens when you have an insular party made up of people who’d rather eat their own than beat the competition. Now, we have a Republican Treasurer and a Republican Clerk of Courts. Russ Joseph was the problem, and he will still be a favored son of Mark Owens, Nan Whaley, Mat Heck and Karl Keith.
Looking at the other side- had the Republicans ran Gary Leitzell against Debbie Lieberman again, they’d have won. If the Dem party wasn’t so incompetent, and the statehouse races so gerrymandered, they’d be looking just as bad. It’s sad when the Dem’s actually have some great candidates like Cate Berger, Mark Fogel, Amy Cox and Zach Dickerson, and despite horrible opponents, these first timers can’t count on their party to move them forward. This is probably because, other than Zach, none had run before, and they were getting their advice from people who only know how to win races that are almost fixed.
There are a few things that really need fixing in Ohio other than gerrymandered districts. The issue of ballot access for independent and third party candidates has to be fixed. No more impossible obstacles for signatures to get on the ballot, especially in the days of Covid where asking people to sign petitions is asking them to risk getting sick.
The other obstacles of creating bank accounts, getting an Employer ID number, campaign finance reporting that’s so arcane that most accountants are confused- need to be refined. And most importantly, campaign finance reports has to be taken out of the hands of the candidates with self-reporting. It’s time to build a donation portal, with real-time, verified reporting of donations in real time, with real names attached. Yes, you have to register to donate, and all donations have to be handled through the portal in an ADA compliant and totally transparent system. Candidates expenditures would also be recorded in real time- using a provided debit card, so we can take the Householder style of hanky panky out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
The first step for the dems at the local level should be to eliminate all voting power by anyone who is employed by the political class – applying the Hatch act to the party leadership. The first step at the national level is for people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to bow down and act as elder statesmen and guide new young blood into positions of leadership. Never again should it be unclear who the obvious next candidates for the highest office are- we should know and see familiar faces, who’ve been tried and tested in cabinet positions, in leadership roles and as new voices.
We should know who the obvious person is to take on Rob Portman in 2 years, who will challenge Mike DeWine or Jon Husted, or be the next sheriff in town, long before the actual petitions are due. That’s what real parties do, they develop a bench.
I plan on working on Reconstructing Dayton for the next two years to give voters real ideas about who and what and how we run our county. I will take a run at Mark Owens for chair of the local Democratic party, but I will not run for office. I hope to find others and guide them to be the next generation of independent smart voices for changing Dayton (the bigger than the city Dayton) for the better.
Right now, we need to find 4 new faces for our incompetent school board. We need to find the best field of people to run for City Commission we’ve ever seen. Right now, for Mayor, we have Nan Whaley getting signatures for her potential third term, Gary Leitzell to challenge her for his old job back, wild man Tony Schultz throwing his hat and gloves in the ring.
For Commission, we have two seats open and: Valerie Duncan and Shenise Turner-Sloss running again, Incumbents Jeff Mims and Darryl Fairchild, and newcomer, Jordan Wortham making his debut. Of course, getting 500 signatures is the first barrier, and then getting Daytonians to not vote against their own interests is the second. I’m sure we’ll see a few more names added to this list.
The first change we should make is eliminating the separate race for Mayor- and just awarding the center seat to whomever earned the most popular votes. Simplify and cheapen these races- since in reality, the City Manager is SUPPOSED to be the one who runs things.
In the mean time, please, go subscribe to Reconstructing Dayton– or follow us on Twitter, subscribe on Youtube or friend us on Facebook. We’re going to continue to pump out information on what we can do to make Dayton successful and a beacon of prosperity again despite who we elect.
Next man up!