Recently a Boston Globe editorial offered up a menu of reforms for the poor benighted Democrats of the state to revive their flagging electoral hopes. In Dear Democrats: It’s time to reform nominating rules the Globe offered some reasonable ideas and – an early Thanksgiving offering? – one real turkey.
Professor Ubertaccio and I have been at swords with Globe columnists Scot Lehigh and Joan Vennochi over the fifteen percent rule that prevails in each party: a candidate for statewide office must gain fifteen percent of the delegates present and voting (it’s true, state GOP) at the party’s state convention (here, for example and in a Boston Globe op-ed by Professor Ubertaccio and me, here). Now the Globe editorial board is attacking the fifteen percent rule too, saying the rules “routinely deprive the public of a wide range of choices when it comes to vote,” and calls the fifteen percent rule “an unnecessary hurdle” and “undemocratic.” You can go back over those articles for why Professor Ubertaccio and I are right and they are wrong at your leisure.
In the wake of the Globe’s editorial push though I want to remark that I am more convinced than ever of the virtue of the fifteen percent rule. The effort to elect and/or persuade fifteen percent of convention delegates to back your candidacy is one of the few genuine, authentic instances of democratic activity we have in the often silly, pelf drenched, television driven, deceitful, phony-baloney farce-ocracy that we all pretend is a functioning system of democracy in this state and nation.
The need to appeal to delegates or those who may be delegates is at least useful in prying candidates away from fundraising breakfasts, fundraising brunches, fundraising lunches, hours set aside for fund raising calls, and three fundraiser an evening schedules. Because of the fifteen percent rule, candidates have to get in the car, drive across the state in the same crappy weather and awful traffic we all experience, and listen to the legitimate concerns of citizens. It is one opportunity for us to head over to our neighbor’s living room or local Legion hall, look the candidate in the eye, and tell that person what we are thinking – and get a response. Try this with your television sometime; it won’t work out as well. Go ahead, scream at your television set that Martha Coakley isn’t responsible for the deaths of children in state care. The only response from your television will be some disclaimer at the end, this ad paid for by an enormous sum of money from out of state corporate interests. Have a good day. (The same exists for Democratic SuperPAC ads by the way, and those abominable ballot questions ads).
Actually, your television does answer your outrage in a way. It’s a sub textual, “screw you.”
Needless to say, “screw you” will prove ineffective and even alienating when delivered face-to-face at a Leominster house party in February as the candidate engages in a pre-caucus back-and-forth with local citizens. No lightning round, no time limits, no “yes or no” answers; very few actual functioning voters will ask you the last time you cried or who is the Patriots backup quarterback.
Long live the fifteen percent rule.