Whirled editorial board: "We're too dense to understand this idea, much less write a joke about it."

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The hive-mind that writes the unsigned editorials from its Totalitarian-Moderne bunker on Main Street had this to say today about a suggestion made Tulsa Councilor John Eagleton regarding a proposal to make city elections non-partisan:

OK, this one is simply too easy so we're going to let you fill in the blanks with the joke of your choice. And we rarely, if ever, pass up the opportunity for a cheap joke.

In the debate over changes to the city charter, in particular making elections nonpartisan, City Councilor John Eagleton, while supporting the nonpartisan issue, also wants each candidate to be able to add a word or phrase to the ballot that would describe each candidate's political philosophy.

Now, this is where you add your joke. We'll wait a second.

There.

At best, whichever drone wrote this editorial on behalf of the Whirled Collective decided to "phone it in," rather than exert the effort to lampoon Eagleton's suggestion effectively.

But I think it's more likely that the AverillDelCourJonesNealPearson doesn't understand the idea well enough to explain why the hive-mind doesn't like it. Otherwise, they would have set out a cogent argument against it.

The Whirled editorial puts me in mind of a type of adolescent ridicule. The ringleader of the popular bunch points at poor, unpopular Poindexter and says, "What a loser! Poindexter is wearing a black belt on a Thursday!" The ringleader begins laughing. All of his toadies have no idea why wearing a black belt on a Thursday is ridiculous, but they know to take their cue from the ringleader, so they point and laugh, too. The Whirled knows there is a certain constituency (declining in number) that will laugh if they say "laugh." (These are the same people that believed the Whirled when it claimed that non-Councilor Randy Sullivan was intelligent.)

Eagleton's suggestion is similar to one I made in my column in the April 6-12, 2006, edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly:

Would stripping party labels entirely be helpful to voters? In fact, it gives voters even less information to work with. Labels are helpful aids to memory. You may have trouble remembering the name of the candidates you plan to support, and knowing that you decided to vote with your party in the mayor's race and with the other party in the council race gives you an extra hook to recall your decision....

So how do we change Tulsa's system to expand both choice and information for voters?

Instead of non-partisan city elections, let's have multi-partisan elections. Put all candidates for a city office on the ballot, but instead of stripping away the party labels, let's let candidates apply the label or labels of their choosing. Maybe that would be a major party label, maybe that would be the name of a political action committee (PAC), or even both.

There are a couple of different ways to implement this. In the column I suggested that parties and PACs could register with the city and endorse candidates, and then each candidate could choose which endorsements to note next to his name on the ballot, in place of or alongside national party names. The least complicated method, suggested by Eagleton, would allow each candidate to supply his or her own description, up to some number of lines, words, or characters.

That description wouldn't have to be "liberal" or "conservative" as the Whirled editorial hive-mind seems to believe. It could identify the candidate's position on a current issue or describe the candidate's approach to city government. A citywide group might run a slate of candidates, all using the same ballot description. It might just be a catchy slogan. Councilor Roscoe Turner, for example, might use, "Voted Tulsa's Most Believable Councilor." Since candidates are required by charter to use their full legal names on the ballot, a candidate might use the description to identify his nickname to the voters. Some possibilities, in 40 characters or less (about one line on the ballot):

  • Back to Basics: Cops, Streets, Parks
  • Conservative Republican
  • Progressive Democrat
  • Endorsed by Republican Assembly
  • Endorsed by Just Progress
  • No New Taxes
  • Higher Taxes Coalition
  • Preserve Midtown
  • I love surface parking lots
  • Citizens for Responsible Government
  • Tulsa Alliance for Neighborhoods
  • Homeowners for Fair Zoning
  • Tulsa Real Estate Coalition
  • Pimp This Town
  • By George, It's Nigh Time
  • Official Monster Raving Loony Party

Some descriptions would be sensible, some would be frivolous, all would add some color to an otherwise antiseptic non-partisan ballot. (Requiring all candidates to submit a nominating petition, as independent candidates are already required to do, would keep the frivolity within reasonable bounds.)

There's another possible explanation for why the Whirled didn't defend their opposition to Eagleton's idea: They oppose it for selfish reasons which they don't wish to reveal to the reader. A candidate's brief self-description on the ballot constitutes a media bypass. Without depending on the favor of the monopoly daily newspaper, without needing a pile of campaign cash, a candidate would be able to communicate something about himself, albeit very briefly, to every voter, in words of his own choosing.

If the Whirled editorial hive-mind gets its collective way, a city election ballot would comprise lists of bare names, with no other identifying information. As the still-dominant media outlet in Tulsa, the Whirled would define for many voters what emotions and opinions they should hold about each of those names. No wonder they don't care for Councilor Eagleton's suggestion.

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7 Comments

BobInTulsa Author Profile Page said:

If candidates are allowed to drop their party affiliation (why?) and provide several descriptive lines about themselves for inclusion on the ballot, then the campaigning will have broken through the "neutral zone" imposed on every polling place and will provide campaign claims to the voter that will be read - on the ballot - in the voting booth. I'd prefer to see Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent labels. I think it is wise to make one's mind up before heading out to vote. I think it is wise to keep out current voting ordinances that prohibit any campaigning within a specfic boundary around a polling place.

Shadow6 said:

Perhaps you could add "All Night Party". as a label for the YP's.

RecycleMichael said:

I think we should pick our leaders like radio stations do...like tenth caller.

I also like the lottery version of picking winners...everybody goes to the polls and gets a scratch-off ticket.

Back to the idea...I wonder what I would say about myself with such an opportunity to make my own label. 40 characters to describe yourself to the world...could you abbreviate? You know, like text messages, personal and real estate ads do?

MWM w/3b/3b ISO bff?

mad okie Author Profile Page said:

Personally, I think the descriptions are a bad idea. If they cant be bothered to find out who they are voting for before showing up at the booth, then they shouldnt be going to vote in the first place.

The A team said:

If the citizens of Tulsa wanted non-partisan elections we would elect Independent candidates to office. Anybody remember the last time an independent was elected in Tulsa? I think the Auditor should remain an elected position, it should not be appointed, but I do think the Auditor should be non-partisan.

DavidS said:

MO: But they do vote and we have to suffer from their ignorance.....

Paul Tay said:

Media bypass? Ya don't say. Been there. Done DAT! Who's Afraid of Santa Claus?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 19, 2007 9:18 PM.

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