Friday, May 29, 2009

Should Pennsylania Municipal Races Be NonPartisan?

Yesterday's Express Times includes a letter from Larry Kisslinger, a former Bethlehem City Council member, taking a shot at the Northampton County Democratic party. Now since Larry is also a former Republican party boss, you might be inclined to dismiss his rant. But in truth, there's a movement afoot among what I call the New Dems, who are sickened by the back-slapping, pay to play politics of the Joe Long Dems. There have been rumblings for years, but now the party rank and file is in open rebellion.

Local Dems Know Something is Wrong

The first salvo came on May 11, when Bethlehem Democrats - led by Karen Dolan and Willie Reynolds - condemned Bossman Long's heavy handed machine style of politics, in which candidates are pre-selected by some small group and foisted on the rest of us. They want to take the local party out of smoke-filled back rooms and bring it back to the people.

Long Dem Failures

In an area that is increasingly Democratic, here are just a few Joe Long failures:

1) He recruited Charles Dertinger to run for Congress right after he had finally won his first race for Northampton Council in three races. Long failed to get his pre-selected candidate elected to Congress.

2) He interfered in a Democratic primary, having the party endorse Glenn Reibman over John Stoffa, and lost that race. He then threatened to run Reibman as an Independent until learning that's impossible under Pennsylvania law.

3) In a meeting at which a mere handful of Democratic committeemen appeared, Long had them endorse county council candidates Tony Branco and John Maher over Will Power and Bill Hall. Power was ejected from that meeting after he began to complain.

4) Long actually hired the King of Sleazeball politics, Scissorhands Severson, to work for pre-selected county council candidates Tony Branco and John Maher. Despite the smears, Branco and Maher went down in flames. Local Dems still owe Severson $6,586.45. He's currently facing criminal charges for his deceptive campaign practices.

5) Long pimped for unqualified congressional candidate Sam Bennett, whose campaign was so disastrous that portions of her debate performance had to be bleeped. She was destroyed as a candidate, probably permanently.

6) Long again managed to convince the party to endorse someone he can control - Ann McHale - over County Exec John Stoffa, a progressive who kept held taxes down. This endorsement occurred at a party gathering billed as a petition-signing meeting. Stoffa crushed the competition.

Joe Long is a Republican's best friend. How did the local party ever get into such a mess?

Long Himself Was Illegally Elected

It's simple. Long obviously thinks elections are far too important to be left to the people. Look at his own election as party boss nearly four years ago. He was named Bossman at a party meeting that occurred before Dem committeemen could be even be notified of their own election. Five days before certificates of election were ever sent to elected committeemen by the voter registration office, Joe Long was miraculously named party chair. I never got an explanation how he got away with that. From there, things have gone down hill. Charles Dertinger lovingly refers to Long as "Chairman for life."

This lack of transparency in selecting candidates, and skulduggery during campaigns, leads to government officials who themselves think nothing of violating the Sunshine Act. Charles "Vanderbilt" Dertinger, for example, actually thinks he has no obligation to listen to anyone who owns no real estate. How's that for a Democrat?

Bethlehem Democrats will be meeting again on Monday, Jun 8th, at the Grover Cleveland Democrtatic Club, Main & Guetter Streets, Bethlehem, PA. New Democrats intend to participate in this meeting and will be asking for change.

Are NonPartisan Elections the Answer?

What improvements would you recommend? Should the party ask Long to step down? Should it adopt by-laws to set the procedure for party endorsement, or ban them altogether? Should the party punish members who dare support a Republican? Or should it instead be reaching out to new members who were swept in with the Obama tide?

Or should we just forget about party politics and start pushing for nonpartisan elections in city and county races? The National League of Cities reports that nationwide, 77% of all cities have nonpartisan races. Forty-one of the fifty largest U.S. cities conduct nonpartisan races, including Los Angles, Houston, San Diego, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. Is it time for that here?

It's certainly true that party affiliation rarely matters on most issues decided by city or county government. Nonpartisan races will enfranchise independent voters and make independents more viable as candidates. But won't there always be some form of partisanship, even without the labels?

What suggestions do you have for getting politics out of local government? Stoffa tells me he always asks his cabinet, "What's the right thing?" But most pols will do what is politically expedient. How do we minimize this?

85 comments:

lighthouse said...

First, let me just point out that primary elections first came about in the U.S. as one of the electoral reforms of the Progressive Movement. After the corruption of the Gilded Age there were a number of reforms to try to make the process more "democratic" and less "smoke filled rooms." So I find it somewhat ironic (or not) that Bernie sounds a bit like those original Progressives.

Second, while I agree that there is no partisan way to plow or pave the streets, nor in probably 90% of the rest of municipal/county government, there are some general differences between the parties in tone, if not political philosophy at this level. So while I do understand your direction, I still can see some value in party labels for local General elections IF the integrity of the primary process is left to the primary voters as intended (above).

Third, you do not mention what time this meeting is, and is it open only to City of Bethlehem Democrats? What are any "privileges" (voting/speaking) based on? etc. I see a likely conflict on the calendar, but this is a Valley-wide blog, so relevant questions for your readership at large.

Anonymous said...

We all need to drop the fantasy that Joe Long will ever step down. Even if he didn't have McHale, Bennett, and Dertinger behind him who allow him to ruin their political careers with failed campaigns, he cares more about his own reputation than the Party or the County so he wouldn't step down even if he were left the only one attending his secret meetings. I have a theory that Long actually enjoys the attention and the epic struggle he fights. I've known many people like that, especially in the Lehigh Valley: husbands that just to spite their soon to be ex-wives, spending every penny they have on court costs and leaving themselves or their wives and children nothing in the end but feeling it was worth it because they relish every attack, counter attack, alliance, enemy list addition no matter how destructive to themselves or others. As long as we keep battling him directly, he'll stay in - because he might just be getting off on all the attention. He needs to be ignored.

All he's doing is his holding his title hostage and that of the Party which thanks to him has become poison to voters. The great majority of Democrats are operating successfully outside his sphere of influence with everything going for them except the letterhead which he lays claim to.

When Obama laid out his initial ideas about universal healthcare, he didn't mention that the first step would be asking the multi billion dollar insurance companies to politely step down and dissolve so he could take over, instead he wants to create a new government plan and leave the old plan in place to leave a choice. Obama knows that if we can get universal healthcare anywhere near what the rest of the world has, that it will be the end of the insurance companies and he won't have to lift a finger. I think the Norco Dems should follow that idea. Concentrate on a new branch or party and the old one with wither away.

I think it's only a matter of either getting together and starting a new Norco Party, maybe with the same name even? Or, if he was voted in illegally, have a new vote done properly with an open advertised meeting and see if he retains his seat when everyone is allowed to participate. Let him start a new party. Then we can all move along our way and he'll be forgotten about. If he has to start a new party, maybe it should be the Norco Communist party. Though I don't dispute that Long cares about some basic Democratic values concerning "the common man," he goes about it like the Castro Brothers in Cuba who cared so much about helping the people that they dissolved any democracy and created a Party whose members were picked, controlled, and kicked out on their whims, very similary to the LongDems.

Rising Sun said...

A couple of things:

1.) I lived in Iowa for a year, where local elections aren't partisan affairs. They run just fine, and there aren't problems, but ultimately, most people know what party candidates for Mayor are in and stuff, so there's little more than window dressing going on. It's a nice idea, but I think a better idea is to have fair and open primaries, where members of a party who choose to vote, make a choice. The Democratic Party allowed all voters in every state and territory to choose their nominee for President, and dammit, he won, even with them pesky masses getting a say (sarcasm folks). And guess what? The woman he edged out, she supported him throughout the election, and is his Secretary of State now. This is called democracy.

2.) Only committee people who live in an area can actually vote in an area. So you can probably show up at a Bethlehem Dems meeting no problem, but no the situation going in.

3.) Next year, there is an election to elect committee members at the county and state level. I encourage anyone with strong views to run and get involved. You'll feel better about it afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of municipal races being nonpartisan. Local politics is very different from national politics. The biggest issues that separate Dems and Reps tend to be the war, universal healthcare, abortion, gay marriage, and other various issues that aren't decided locally. County and municipal politics that deal with bridges and nursing homes and jails and streets and casinos and such, don't lend themselves readily to obvious Dem/Rep positions. If anything, the splits tend to go regionally. Slate Belt people vs. Bethlehem people vs. Easton people on various issues. So actually it would be more logical if parties in local politics divided up by neighborhoods and boroughs (not in my neighborhood), but they don't. Take the Dems in Norco as examples. The LongDems have been accused of being "Republicans" because of their tactics that remind people of Bush/Rove/Cheney. By the same token, because Stoffa is so fiscally conservative, he gets lauded by the Republicans as being "one of us," despite his liberal social views. It's muddy, it's not clear cut.
Lastly, so few people vote locally-that municipal and county elections seem to be always decided by the Supervoters or the Sub-supervoters, people who really pay attention to the news and the papers and the blogs. These people vote for individuals, not along party lines. If this weren't true, how do you explain Stoffa's heavy support among Republicans and Long's deep disliked from his own party. Locally, people choose the individuals over the Party anway and opening it up will just give more choices, especially since the Independents are growing so rapidly.

Anonymous said...

I bumped into Ron Heckman the other day and confronted him about whether he was a New Democrat or a Long Democrat. He told me he was a Ron Heckman Democrat.
I'm not sure what that means but he said he has far to many friends in both Parties to be much of a fanatic. He did say he is a strong National Healthcare Policy proponent. He said locally it is more important to get the work done than worry about who is more or less Democratic or Republican.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the problem isn't the current system but rather instead the current Democrat Party attitude and approach.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that municipal government had a say in national healthcare. I'll stop writing Dent and Casey and Obama about it and start bugging Callahan and Panto from now on. Thanks Ron for setting that straight. If Heckman has a lot of friends in the LongDems that might explain a lot as to why he's not getting anywhere.

Anonymous said...

yes folks, Scott Armstrong shows up to a forum asking if races should be non-partisan and blames the Democrats.

If the GOP was in charge, my guess is that he'd be ok.

Anonymous said...

One who is unhappy with his or her party may switch parties or become an independent. Once one has freely made this choice, should expect to stick with it - only as long as the wish. For this reason, open primaries are unnecessary. If some independent is so upset with the D or R slate, let them join a party and get in line with the rest of us. If some R is unhappy with the D slate, they can switch parties, or wait until November to express that opinion.

Should the guys from the Moose Lodge vote on the next Elks president? Should Mets players be permitted to vote on the Phillies team captain? I think not. In a game where numbers are all that matters in the end, Ds, by virtue of greater registration, will simply swamp Rs and delay their inner-party battle until the fall. It's what already happens in open primary states (and can work against Ds similarly in red areas).

Only in politics would this be permitted to happen. When freedom of association isn't enough, some lawyer/politician (good grief, aren't they all?) will conjure a requirement of association and tell us it's freedom.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Larry Shelley Brown's husband?

Anonymous said...

Don't think we can consider Bennett's career ruined. She's in Washington, enjoying a 6-figure salary, dining and schmoozing the A-list in gorgeous suits and shoes, and here we are, sneezing with allergies and trying to get home through multiple accidents and flooded roadways due to inappropriate development.

Anonymous said...

BO-

Isn't the club at Main and Goepp?

VOR

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

I don't know what your crying about. Stoffa won. That means in your eyes the system must be somewhat working. I know you have this personal anger at Joe Long but why don't you let the Northampton Democrats sort this out. If you want a vote on the matter run as a committee person next year.

Bernie O'Hare said...

VOR, The club IS at Main & Goepp, as you astutely point out. They meet at 7 PM. i will correct this error sometime today.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:01,

It makes no difference to me that Stoffa won. The Joe Long Dems are actually hurting progressive candidates. They are completely undemocratic, and I have detailed past abuses.

They failed to knock off Stoffa, but succeeded with people like Dertinger.

The whole purpose of this post is to determine how to make the party more democratic and responsive to the rank and file. Your suggestion is to wait. I think we need to plan for changes.

Carol said...

Bernie, I think one of the largest problems in politics in public apathy, unless there is a personal issue, it is basically Monday morning quarterbacking. I go with Ron Heckman, I am a Carol Leigh Cuono Democrat, my vote is my vote! I also think Independents should be able to vote in the primary. I spent 3 days in East Germany in 1983, we Americans are blessed with our vote as we so choose. When I served with Bangor, party affiliation never entered into a situation, the climate certainly changes as we climb the ladder. As an afterthought, I still say Ron would have made a great exec, he knows the system and has people skills.

Carol said...

Bernie, I think one of the largest problems in politics in public apathy, unless there is a personal issue, it is basically Monday morning quarterbacking. I go with Ron Heckman, I am a Carol Leigh Cuono Democrat, my vote is my vote! I also think Independents should be able to vote in the primary. I spent 3 days in East Germany in 1983, we Americans are blessed with our vote as we so choose. When I served with Bangor, party affiliation never entered into a situation, the climate certainly changes as we climb the ladder. As an afterthought, I still say Ron would have made a great exec, he knows the system and has people skills.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Carol,

I miss your dignified presence on NC Council. Ron probably would have made a greatcounty exec. he isa walking class act, but McHale was endorsed before he had even decided whether he was running for exec or council. Does that help the party? Does it help the citizenry?

As far as open primaries go, I think you're right. It would energize the process, increasing turnout. It would also dilute the power that party machines attemopt to wield.

Anonymous said...

Will these non-partisan candidates continue to support / extend my unemployment checks?

Lady Rep said...

Bernie, please stop trying to get rid of Joe Long! Think of your blog and the loss of entertainment value! He would also be such a loss to my Party. May he reign on!

Anonymous said...

This Joe Long fellow sounds like a dinosaur. We all know what happened to the dinosaurs; they ruled the Earth, then they were selected for extinction through natural process.

Machine politics is on the wane and our best bet to hurry the process is to reach the new generation by educating them. Intelligent, well-informed citizens register one way or the other but ultimately decide who to vote for based upon a review of the candidate's qualifications and attitude toward the issues. Party affiliation should eventually be third or fourth on the list when deciding how to vote.

My guess is that several years from now, an excavation will reveal the skeletal remains of "Tyranasaurus Longus", a remnant from a long ago age. It will happen sooner or later, if it needs to happen.

VOR

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

If the local parties determined who was on the ballot I could see your point. The local parties really don't hold that much power. Their endorsement is great if you want it but anyone if they get the signatures can run on any ballot they want to. If a candidate is willing to put the work into knocking on doors, showing up to community events to let people know where they stand and who they are, and can piece together a few bucks for a mailing in these elections they all have a shot in a primary.

We had less than 10% turnout, I think the bigger problem is people don't care enough to vote in these local elections.

Anonymous said...

I'm increasingly convinced the answer is yes. the difference between parties at the local level, when it comes to actually governing, is not very large. The values I hear in communities I work with don't differ from party to party. Some variation to be sure, but it has more to do with geography and community expectations than it does political parties. Often times, it feels like the municipal based parties are more like social clubs than political bodies. certainly, the higher you move in the political system, this becomes complicated, but in most boroughs and cities, it's hard to sense the partisan divide that we often see in statewide or national settings.

Geoff

Les Minions de Generale Aoun said...

There is an interesting article in today's Washington Post regarding the DNC and politic favorites. Mr.McAuliffe, who is running for governor of Virginia is being exposed for less than desirable tactics by Ralph Nader. Nader claims that when he was running for president, McAuliffe offered him $$$ to note have Nader's name on state ballots where there were key battles for the Democrats.

The interesting thing about the article is that an election committee member claims that there is nothing illegal about this action. He claims that The DNC can choose to spend there $$$ any way they want. It may not be illegal, but definitely it isn't in the aspect of transparent and morally sound government.

Peace, ~~Alex

Anonymous said...

I'd think whoever this Joe Long person is that Dertinger wouldn't have been his first choice to run for Congress. No good candidates come forward. If they did, there would not be Rep Dent right now.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 704,
Your post reflects a larger problem with today’s Democrats; differences of opinion and/or approach are made personal. This abandonment of tolerance for diverse points of view is of course counterproductive to a healthy civic discourse and aspirations for good government.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

"This abandonment of tolerance for diverse points of view is of course counterproductive to a healthy civic discourse and aspirations for good government."

So is blaming one political party for a system of disfunction.

Anonymous said...

Boonie, I love reading about how you missed Carol Cuono's dignified presence on Council. Carol was regularly the subject of sexist attacks by Rong Angle. Did you ever jump to defend no. You didn't because you are an Angle tool. You and Angle have affinity because you are both men who have been arrested in his case and kicked out of your profession in your's. You both have a demonstrated propensity for lying.

Anonymous said...

Boy do I love opinions! There like ass holes, everybody has on and they all stink!

Michael Donovan said...

Greetings:

Many states in New England allow an independent to vote in a primary.

I, personally, like that. Two parties do not represent all of what Americans might think.

To allow a small group to pick the candidates that, then, the larger group (independents) have to choose seems not to make sense.

I am a Democrat because much of what Republicans offer does not fit my views. However, I am pragmatic, and there are some Democratic positions with which I sometimes have problems.

I've been told from time to time that my pragmatism takes me away from the Democratic Party. That may cause no one to like me. Oh well. Indeed, people may be surprised just how deeply in my heart I am liberal. But that is my own feelings. I cannot simply ask everyone to think the way I do.

I have to recognize that others will think differently than I. My task is to figure out ways to provide reasonable solutions for as many people as possible. I might not always be happy with what I propose, but I'm willing to live with 85% of what I might want. I wish others might remain equivalently flexible. I wish.

Best regards, and Scott Armstrong, I just would like you to stop stereotyping. It is simplistic to think that one can lump everyone into a category.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael,

I don't know if you'll stop this way again in the next few days, but I have a question. What is turn out like in New England, where Independents may vote in primaries? Has it helped?

Michael Donovan said...

Hi Bernie:

I don't have my facts totally in mind, but I do know that Maine has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country. I seem to remember that is resembles that of Minnesota, which I know has a very high rate.

Working on class stuff, but occasionally checking in on the blogs.

Michael

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:19,

I have immense respect for Carol Cuomo, Joe Brennan, Marilyn Lieberman, Greg Zebrowski and all the members who sat on the council that adopted the bonds over which I sued. They were good people. They never engaged in personal attacks. Even Glenn Reibman was always a gentleman to me. Unfortunately, these personal attacks and bitter partisanship have become the norm under the Joe Long Dems and Charles Dertinger. Goons like you try disinformation here, but in case you haven't noticed, nobody is buying what you have to sell.

Carol is a very well-read and classy lady. I also happen to like her. She and Ron are political foes, but I like her anyway. I would certainly defend her against anyone who engaged in sexist behavior towards her.

It doesn't matter to me what a Longoon like you may think. Carol knows how I feel, and that's all that matters to me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael,

If open primaries lead to greater turnout, that dilutes the influence of political strongmen like Joe Long. I'm going to look into this more closely and see if any legislation is pending. Thanks for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Political foes. You are such a hack. Angle repeatedly launched sexist attacks against both Carol Cuono and Marilyn Lieberman. You never once criticized Angle. You truly are a bum. YOU forged your client's name to papers in a settlement you didn't even tell him about. I understand your greatest hits are about to start circulating.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Now you try the bait 'n switch, the same tired old personal attack you post on a near daily basis.

Dude, it's not working. You really need new material.

Like I said, I don't give a rat's ass what a Longoon like you thinks. Neither do 57% of Northampton County Democrats. Perhaps you should start examining your own tactics and how much they have hurt you. Democrats do much better without goons like you. You just hurt them.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

It is not stereotyping if it is the truth. In Allentown anyone who speaks against the powers that be(Democrats) have been and will be attacked personally. It took a blogger from Northampton County to speak out against it. City Democrats were silent.
Nationally the same tactic is employed and it is contemptible.
That is not a stereotype; it is a "modus operandi."

Scott Armstrong

Michael Donovan said...

Scott:

You stereotype.

I could stereotype against Republicans, but I recognize that there are lots of different views among the millions that exist.

I don't consider myself a typical democrat. Now that is my opinion. Others may think otherwise but I do believe that I am not the Democrat that you demonize.

I guess, I would say, relax. The world is not so black and white as you paint it.

Best regards,

Michael

Anonymous said...

Could Scott please describe a "typical" Democrat and a "typical" Republican?

Thanks

lighthouse said...

"If open primaries lead to greater turnout, that dilutes the influence of political strongmen like Joe Long. I'm going to look into this more closely and see if any legislation is pending. Thanks for your insight."

Bernie,

I tend to agree with a lot of your views on this blog, but I must respectfully disagree with the above. I think open primaries lend themselves to no party standing for anything. While you may actually want that, I think with your Long vendetta is causing you to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Parties should have the right to chose who represents them (I prefer without the parties making endorsements during the primaries, but I tend to agree with Anon 12:04). You rail about the abuses of the “Long Democrats,” but an open primary can lead to their own abuses. For hypothetical example, in an open primary the Republicans, who had no internal competition, could have easily voted en masse for the weakest Democrat so they’d have a better chance in November. As a matter of “fairness” I think parties should chose who they want, and besides, as stated above it is so easy to change one’s party. There is no litmus test, you simply reregister and check a different box.

In my opinion, the electoral reform this country most needs is to address how election law is essentially “rigged” to make it difficult for third parties to get on the ballot, and hence have a reason to exist. The laws that have evolved over time, were written by those with a vested interest in reinforcing the two-party system. The bar in PA, for example, is very high. Without choses, if one becomes disillusioned with the Ds and Rs, there is nowhere to go but independent or "non-voter."

Well, “long enough“. I think we should have closed primaries, but that it should be easier for third parties to compete on a level playing field. However, I am cynical of the latter from ever happening.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Thanks for proving the point.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:48,

I think we see typical Republican and Democrat approaches and attitudes reflected routinely on this site.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

If Michael Donovan is not happy with his party's slate of candidates, he has the option to vote for one's of his choosing, switch parties, register as an independent, or form the very excellent Michael Donovan Party.

His choices are numerous, exciting, and illustrative of a remarkable freedom to politically associate - or not. They're not enough, apparently. Now we must pass a law that infringes upon political groups' rights to set their own ground rules for association.

I'm trying not to stereotype liberals. But it's difficult not to visualize the whiny kid down the street whose mommy goes to bat for him to be able to play in a better sandbox than the his own unpopular one - which is otherwise similar, save for the whiny kid's presence that the neighbor kids rejected.

Anonymous said...

BTW, PA registration figures indicate Rs switched in herds last year - all on their own; no help from mommy.

lighthouse said...

Addendum to earlier post:

besides the difficulty getting on the ballot, what is probably the largest hurdle for third parties are the plurality-winning single-member districts. No third party will ever have a chance of winning without the concept of proprotional representation at some level of govenrment such as state-wide legislative races.

Barring that, however, I think closed primaries are fair. Party leadership should have the privilege of recruiting who they think are strong candidates, but then it should be up to the rank and file primary voters without official endorsements or resources expended by the party organization until after the primary winner is known.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse, Please never hesitate to disagree. I enjoy reading widely different viewpoints. And in this case, I really am asking for ideas that might improve the quality of local politics from what I've seen in Northampton County.

Rising Sun said...

Listening to Michael Donovan and Scott Armstrong debate "typical Democrats and typical Republicans" is so ridiculous. Hopefully these two aren't truly representative. One wants to call the other on the carpet for "stereotyping" without saying why he thinks so. The other wants to say this is a Democratic problem, but his sterling GOP is obviously not one to suffer from this. Scott would like us all to believe his GOP doesn't engage in nasty smear campaigns at the national, state, and even local level, and that local GOP bosses the likes of Charles Snelling don't exist. Unfortunately Scott, reality exists. Don't take my word for it though. Take the voters words for it, both nationally, and in your home, Allentown.

Michael Donovan said...

Greetings:

How did I get labeled as saying someone is a typical anything?

I believe I clearly noted that variety is part of society and that we cannot declare someone as typical.

Parties do have their operational efficiences. However, parties create problems for people who do not believe in every plank of a platform. Our system of majority rule has its merits over Parlimentary systems. However, as one writer here noted, there is a difficulty with getting third parties on the ballot.

As I meet people throughout Allentown, I often (not all the time) hear people say,"I vote the person, not the party. There is merit in that. I would hope that a public official would know when a particular plank in the platform is not in the best interests of the citizens and vote against it.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Rising Sun said...

Michael,

You accused Scott of stereotyping. He said he doesn't. Your response was "you do stereotype." That's a very weak argument at best.

Anonymous said...

Is it astute to assume that if one makes a point regarding one party he/she views the other as pristine? Must one prove a party is perfect before the other will accept the imperfections of their own? Is it right to excuse the wrongs of one side because of perceived wrongs of the other?
These prejudgments and equivocation run rampant in political debate and it is tedious.

Scott Armstrong

Rising Sun said...

Scott,

Those with glass houses shouldn't throw stones. That's my point. Don't use a bipartisan issue to attack Democrats. We have obvious and blatant problems in our party, locally. You are trying to make a wrong-minded point, that Democrats are negative and mean in general. This coming from a man who probably supported Karl Rove. You are a hypocrite my friend.

Anonymous said...

Rising Sun,

Did you read my post or are you responding to something else entirely?

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Mr. Armstrong.

Where you Bill Clinton's coach on what the meaning of "is", is? You use many words to say nothing.

Can you clearly define a typical "Democrat" and Republican"? You appear quick to stereotype Democrats and then say you are not, in the most ambiguous terms I have heard this side of Bill Clinton.

Micihael Donovan said...

Dear Rising Sun:

Yes, I accuse Mr. Armstrong of stereotyping. I didn't defend Democrats as perfect. My defense is that I do not consider myself "typical."

I'll challenge Mr. Armstrong and others with my background, my skills, and my ideology. I am not a typical Democrat.

Quite frankly, as I have told others, my views are based on how both sides see a situation and an ability to try to blend a solution that satisfies as many people as possible. Unfortunately, I find that neither side seems to offer an exact solution.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Rising Sun said...

Michael,

Thanks for selling other Democrats short. Challenging people with more than talking points is not all that odd. I think a lot of members of the party are using the same tools you claim to be using. Sorry, but I think you're selling them short.

Scott Armstrong,

No I'm responding to your post, and basically, i'm saying you are full of it. You're couching your partisan attacks in the "must I prove our perfection first." No, but that's not the issue here. The issue here is, you came out, guns blazing on here, by saying local Dems are a total mess, totally a negative bunch, and are just like the national party. You attacking the Democratic Party is a joke. Honest people aren't going to allow you to go unchallenged with such drivel.

Anonymous said...

Rising Sun and Mike should make like Obama and try to "change" their party instead of attempting to get their candidates through on the other slate. I'm reminded of little brats who can't win by the rules, so they whine to change them. There's your stereotype. I don't see Rs clamoring to vote in the D primary. They'll wait until fall to vote for Stoffa. Machine politics couldn't prevent this. There is no issue to be addressed here, save for Ds who can't seem to clean up their local party affairs. The system still works. And crybabies still cry when they don't get their desired result.

Anonymous said...

Tedium and more tedium.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Scott, rather than try to offer a solution to fix the problem of party bosses having too much power, you blame Democrats. Your solution seems to be the outright banishment of Democrats from political office and political activity.

Michael, I love you man, so I say this to help you: let Scott Armstrong's commentary speak for itself. He has no credibility. That bridge burned a while ago.

Michael Donovan said...

What I hope from members of both parties is an ability to assess information, have empathy for others who might think differently, don't latch on to an identity just because others do, and be willing to buck the tide politely if you believe you should do so.

Don't just lambast others because they think differently.

As I have said repeatedly over the last 2 yearsd, I get very tired of the screaming from both sides.

Good public policy occurs when multiple sides have an opportunity to voice their views safely and constructively. Good public policy occurs when disagreeing parties listen and then attempt to find some commong ground.

Otherwise we go around with a scowl on our faces all the time.

And I don't want that.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Bernie O'Hare said...

Basically, the question I'm asking is - how can we [Dems] do better?

Would nonpartisan races help? Lighthouse says yes, but others say no. Would open primaries help? Donovan says yes while others say no. Should party endorsements be rare? Most agree on that point. Should more effort be made to encourage Obama supporters who are turned off by party machines?

Michael Donovan said...

My problem with party only primaries is that so many independents have no say in who they want as a final candidate.

The two parties have become home to zealots who will not even consider the argument of the other side. Hence, many people have checked out until the general election (or even have checked out all together.)

I believe there is a reason why states with more flexible primary options have higher paticipation rates. There is more interest.

And when there is more interest, there is more democracy.

And when people are allowed flexibility in their general ideology instead of having to "toe the party line," there is more democracy.

For all the weaknesses inherent in the ancient Greek system, their one premise was dialogue.

Flexible primary approaches generates more dialogue among more people.

Best regards,

Michael

Anonymous said...

More insult what a surprise. So predictable, but let’s not stereotype.

Scott Armstrong

Rising Sun said...

Anon 5:32,

I actually agree with you, so does Michael i'm sure. Nobody is whining about any result. I think we want to see change within the party. I'll be the first one to tell you the party is a mess here. Nobody is ever going to get everything they want, but reasonable people all want to see the party come into the 21st century. I'm attacking Scott for being a hypocrite, not because the basic point that the local Dems are way behind the curve is wrong.

Michael,

I understand your concern for independents, but honestly, thousands of Independents and Republicans switched registrations to vote in the 2008 Presidential primary in Pennsylvania. I think if someone is impassioned to vote in a primary, they will figure out how to. The bottom line is that the Democratic or Republican nomination should be decided by the voters of that party, not people who aren't members of the party, and certainly not by some boss in a back room who can't win the race for their guy anyway. I think independents play an important role in the fall, and I'm fine with that. They tip a lot of elections around here.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

How do we improve the PA primary system? First we should recognize what is wrong presently. One major problem is that too many people who could bring needed aptitudes to public office won’t run because the process has become so ugly. They don’t want to subject themselves or their families to it, who can blame them? Look at what passes for discourse on this blog.
I ran into a council candidate in Allentown yesterday, he told me he was shocked at the ugliness of the campaign. Here is a guy who simply cares about his city and wants to help. He has something to offer the city, he is no political ambitions. Others apparently do and are taking steps to insure they come out ahead. He is a Democrat.
Those who seek or hold public office and the two parties should do what they can to raise the level of the rhetoric. Once the insults stop flying politics may once again interest the majority of residents.
Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

""Anonymous said...
Bernie,
I don't know what your crying about. Stoffa won. That means in your eyes the system must be somewhat working. I know you have this personal anger at Joe Long but why don't you let the Northampton Democrats sort this out. If you want a vote on the matter run as a committee person next year.
9:01 AM""

Whoever wrote this is missing the point. The Norco Dem party is more than just John Stoffa. There are other politicians, races, and offices to be concerned about. Besides, Stoffa in four years as he himself has said, "is done." He's not running anymore. What do we do then? As for the comment of just become a committee person and work on it yourself. When Joe Long got himself elected without all the committee people present, how is that a solution to democracy?

Karen Dolan said...

This has been an interesting discussion. I still feel that parties are important, even at a local level because although there is no D or R way to plow a road, there are local issues involving the environment, government programs, public education, etc. where opinions can differ according to party lines. And, it is often from local elected positions that the state and federal party committees find and cultivate future leaders.

To me, the bigger problem that the Valley needs to immediately address is "backroom" politics of any kind, and specifically the secretive methods used to endorse and/or favor candidates, often for the most devious and self-serving reasons.

The practice of primary endorsements should be used in only the rarest of cases and it should be done entirely in the open following a democratic process.

That system has worked in the City of Bethehem's Dem Committee under the leadership of Jack Burke and now Jim Schlener.

Only when the County and State intervene, as they did with McHale, Hollenbach, and Belinski this year, does the system go awry in Bethlehem. The County and State leaders truly believe they know what is best for Democratic voters, but it is my hope that Democratic voter will get involved and show the State and County leaders that they are capable of thinking for themselves.

Anonymous said...

If local committees want to endorse any candidates it is their business and no one else’s. The idea that people would suggest that this not occur or only occur at certain times tells me they don’t understand how political parties work and have never been involved in a local committee.
Political parties and their local committees are private entities; they are run by those who bother to get involved. The government should not be interfering in any way other than to require public disclosure of contributions to candidates for public office.
Anyone who doesn’t like how their local committee is operating or how politics plays out in general should make the effort to get involved. That is how to make change, roll up your own sleeves.

Scott Armstrong

Michaet Donovar said...

Scott,

Did I just read what I thought I read?

You argue that a private group, run by a few get to set and direct the stage? No matter which party?

OMG is this why the political system does not favor the citizen?

Earlier I spoke about zealots as a
general term and you took it pesonally and an insult.

I can see why you will respond to term. It fit.

How dare you feel you such power is reserved for a select few -

Rising Sun said...

Karen is right. Scott, you are not. Political parties, both political parties, represent the millions of registered members they have nationally. Locally, they represent their thousands of members. There is not a need for parties to try and clear primary fields, nor does it work. One must only look at how the Democratic "endorsed candidates" faired on primary night. Three of the six endorsed statewide judge candidates lost (one was unopposed, so really 3 of 5), and the "endorsed" candidate for county executive had her head handed back to her. These endorsements simply turn people off in an unnecessary way, and they don't even work.

To say people should "get involved" if they have an issue with it, is to forget the obvious here, that people who support killing primaries, killing debate, and killing other points of view in a party are in effect, people who are not going to really want the masses coming in. I must say that I agree with Michael Donovan, these parties are not "private groups," they are pillars of American society, and they are a part of the public.

However, I agree with one thing Scott Armstrong said. Roll up your sleeves and do something if you don't like things. If you don't want to act, don't complain later.

Anonymous said...

Michaet,

Wow, nothing personal but may I suggest that you pick up some history books and read about the American Revolution. It was in the second half of the 18th century. Several important documents sprang from that event; you may want to read them.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Who is Karen Dolan ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Karen Dolan is a member of Bethlehem City Council.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Someone on Bethlehem’s city council wrote that? We have a real civics lesson here. I’m scared, I always thought Bethlehem would be a safe retreat destination, got to reconsider that.

Scott Armstrong

Michael Donovan said...

Scott:

One.

Karen is very talented and very smart. I'll strongly defend her credibility.

Two. Yes, I have read probably all of founding documents and much interpretation of them.

Three. Most of the founders hated parties for the reasons that you use to defend them. Indeed, as Bernie has noted in a quote, Washington feared them as much as he did fear entangling alliances. Jefferson and Adams abhored them. Parties as we know them did not get their real start until 1 or 2 decades into the 19th century.

Scheslinger (spellng) wrote a wonderful 4 part series on American parties that ends just after WWII. When one wades through that history, as I have had, we see why the progressives of the early 20th century and later in the 1960s, tried to make changes that would open up the process.

Some of those moves have been good. Some, perhaps, less successful.

But most of all parties are not seen as the ultimate determinant f our elected leaders -- The people are, and just because some people choose not to join a party because it does not represent their interests, does not mean excluding them from the process.

Clearly, you and I have a different sense of the word Democracy.

Michael

ps..to anon 7:10pm. Thanks for the slap and the compliment.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael, the anonymous comment at 7:10, a personal shot at you and Scott, is deleted.

I also share your view concerning the danger of parties. Real partisan acitivity, on a federal level, did not begin until Jackson was elected President. He use it to relocate many American Indians in the south. Not a great beginning. He also started the patronage system, and called it a reform.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Your post makes no sense, you say you have read the relevant documents (constitution) but then use a populist argument to support the poster who doesn’t think local committees should endorse candidates in primaries. Populism is what it is Mike. I think most people would prefer to stand by our constitutionally guaranteed liberties that include freedom of assembly. I stand with them.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Michael,

By the way, in this country people may come together and form any political party they choose. They could create a “smoke filled back room” party. It is then up to “the people” to decide whether to vote for their candidate.

Scott Armstrong

Rising Sun said...

Scott,

I'm glad you think Michael is stupid, but the rest of us reading think he's onto somethings. Perhaps this is why your candidates always get whipped in elections? Yes, people can form any political party they want, but they don't, and that's because a.) they would never, ever win, and b.) most people agree with either the Dems or the R's on a majority of issues, and realize they don't need a 3rd party, they wouldn't agree with them 100% either. There is absolutely no compelling need for parties to endorse in primaries, it's bad for democracy, and it's usually bad for the party too. Karen Dolan and Michael Donovan ran circles around you in this debate.

Anonymous said...

R. Sun,

Peopeldon't form political parties? Then what are these?

American Party (1969)
America First Party (2002)
Boston Tea Party (2006)
Independence Party of America (2007)
Jefferson Republican Party (2006)
Moderate Party (2006)
Libertarian Party (2008)
Marijuana Party (2002)
Party for Socialism and Liberation (2004)
Peace and Freedom Party (1967) - active primarily in California
Prohibition Party (1867)
Reform Party of the United States of America (1995) - currently divided into two factions both using the name of the "Reform Party"
Socialist Equality Party (2008)
Socialist Party of the United States of America (1973)
Socialist Workers Party (1938)
Unity Party of America (2004)
Workers World Party (1959)
Working Families Party (1998)
American 3rd Party (1990's)
American Heritage Party (2000)
American Patriot Party (2003)
American Reform Party (1997)
Communist Party USA (1919)
Freedom Road Socialist Organization (1986)
Freedom Socialist Party (1966)
Independent American Party (1998)
Labor Party (1995)
Libertarian National Socialist Green Party (1997)
Modern Whig Party (2007)
National Socialist Movement (1974)
New American Independent Party (2004)
New Union Party (1974)
Populist Party of America (2002)
Progressive Labor Party (1961)
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (1975)
Socialist Action (1983)
Socialist Alternative (1986)
Socialist Labor Party (1876)
Unity08 (2006)
Veterans Party (2003)
Workers Party, USA
World Socialist Party of the United States (1916)
Alaskan Independence Party (1984)
Aloha Aina Party
American Independent Party (1968) - the California affiliate of the Constitution Party
Blue Enigma Party (Delaware) (2006)
Charter Party of Cincinnati, Ohio (1924)
Connecticut for Lieberman Party (2006)
Conservative Party of New York (1962)
Covenant Party (Northern Mariana Islands)
Independent Citizens Movement (US Virgin Islands)
Independent Party of Oregon (2007)
Liberal Party of Minnesota
Liberal Party of New York (1944)
Liberty Union Party (Vermont) (1970)
Marijuana Reform Party (New York) (1997)
New Jersey Conservative Party (1992)
New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (1967)
New York State Right to Life Party (1970)
Personal Choice Party (Utah) (1997)
Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (1938)
Populist Party of Maryland (Nader 2004 - affiliated, unrelated to earlier so-named parties)
Progressive DaneDane County, Wisconsin (1992)
Puerto Rican Independence Party (1946)
Republican Moderate Party of Alaska (1986)
Southern Party (1999)
United Citizens Party (South Carolina) (1969)
Vermont Progressive Party (1999)

By the way, your opinion on endorsements and anything else related to our political process does not supersede the constitutionally guaranteed rights of political parties to act in their own interests as they see fit. That is the American way.

Scott Armstrong

lighthouse said...

Besides Jesse Ventura, I am hard pressed to name ONE other candidate from ANY of those parties who have won an election. Or any other from the history of third parties. Can you name a list of winners as extensive as the list of "parties."

The reality is so long as we have plurality, winner-take-all, single member districts third parties will continue to be more like protest pressure groups than viable political parties. To say that this is "freedom of assembly" while the system is rigged so they will never win anything, is on par with saying you support "free markets" while supporting corporate welfare and bail-outs of wall street, banks, and the auto-industry.

This is why most either gravitate to the D or R they can be most comfortable with, or increasingly, don't vote at all.

HOWEVER, final thought, while I may wish for an alternative (as evidenced in my various posts)in reflection the big picture truth is that the two party system probably has contributed to the assimilation and stability of our political system. I guess in the wisdom of be careful what you ask for, just imagine how fractious our government would be if each ethnic, religious, ideological, or regional group actually could win a proportional number of seats.

Rising Sun said...

Scott,

Lighthouse correctly stated what I would have. No one wins from those parties. If you just named 40 parties, they may have 100k members total. That is a joke, and your argument is at best misleading.

The party can do what is in it's interest Scott, but the party is not in this case. It's doing what's in the interest of some folks, and you are saying that's fine because a.) you have been in that position, and b.) you see it as politically beneficial for your party that the folks involved continue to do this and subsequently lose. Not only are these endorsements a bad idea, they are being done in a manner that is at best undesirable.

Anonymous said...

If the two parties aren’t to your liking then do something to change the dynamic. The constitution gives you that right. Take advantage.
Likewise I am tired of the shenanigans that occur in the Republican Party. Likeminded people have formed a new PAC to address our concerns and force change. Stop looking for legislative or government solutions, what does that action require of us? Every time we acquiesce to a government solution we empower it and weaken our own liberty.
Thomas Paine wrote- “government is but a necessary evil”. He trusted in mankind to be its own master, we would be wise to live up to that expectation.

Scott Armstrong

jacob said...

Scott,

I can't speak for the Republican party but honestly, anyone who gets the number of signatures can run and has a shot in these local offices if they put the work into their campaigns. If your willing to put the face time in the community and your willing to put your face time at the doors of the super voters.

The local parties other than connections to people who know how these local races are won really don't offer that much more in primaries.

In all honesty these local parties are all volunteer run organizations.

I will commend you on your idea to form a PAC and a volunteer group for candidates you and people of your ideology like.

They can run for the GOP nomination for these races and if there are party bosses in the local GOP they can run against them.

Like I said in my party right now there are no bosses. People volunteer for campaigns they like. If you don't like a candidate you simply don't give you them your time.

Anonymous said...

Did anything happen at the Bethlehem Dems meeting last night?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I planned on going last night and will attend the next meeting, but last night I was mesmerized by what I was learning from newspaper archives about King Kelly. It was 7 PM before I knew what had happened. I probably should never have started researching.

Baseball always comes first for me.

I have made some calls and am gathering information for a post and hope to have something up soon.

From what I understand, Dertinger lost Bethlehem votes last night. He's already lost most of the slate belt. His whole approach to government is that of a back room pol who ignores people who own no real estate. It's time they start ignoring him.