Saturday, March 7, 2020

I'm sad as the Ontario Liberal Party uses an archaic system to elect a questionable leader

The CP24 live online feed at 12:35 pm today
I'm sad today as a couple thousand elected delegates, but also a big chunk of "ex-officio" delegates appointed to the convention with equal voting power due to their elite positions within the Ontario Liberal Party, gather in the International Centre in Mississauga to formally pick a new leader to replace the amazing trailblazer Kathleen Wynne.   

When the Ontario Liberal Party was smashed in the 2018 election and the NDP failed to stop Doug Ford's PCs, I was inspired to get re-engaged in helping to rebuild the Liberals as the only party that has traditionally been able to defeat Conservatives. 

I attended the June 2019 annual general meeting of the Ontario Liberals where hundreds of like-minded Liberal activists tried to modernize our leadership process that would allow all members a direct say in the leadership results including on the most important final ballot.  It would've allowed thousands of men, women, and youth across the province to have that vote in their own communities.  All major parties in Canada have moved to this form of direct democracy which engages hundreds of thousands rather than just hundreds.

But sadly, while 58% voted at that Ontario Liberal meeting last June to modernize, they were thwarted by a regressive minority of 42% of members who argued that the excitement of a convention, and the allegedly intense media coverage conventions always receive, would be foolish to give up.  Who cares about good process if you can have flashy television cameras?  (The change needed two thirds support to pass.)

Well, to that I offer the above image.  There is no live coverage currently on any television I can access (I cut my cable cord years ago).  The CP24 online live feed is not covering it as the above image indicates.  They're only publishing some leadership speeches as clips after they happen.  Perhaps they'll cut in for a few minutes when the leader is announced today after the first ballot around 2 pm.  CBC is not providing live coverage online or on CBLT.  TVO is not covering it on their television channel, but is at least live-feeding it on YouTube (which I'm currently streaming.)  That's it. 

So we've opted for a bad process and aren't getting the promised media attention.

And in the end, it looks like the mediocre Steven Del Duca will prevail due to his huge delegate count coming into the convention.

I'll give credit where it is due: clearly, Del Duca and his team ran a great campaign focused on signing up members and turning them out to vote.  It was a juggernaut.

I struggled to find an alternative I could truly believe in.  Few big Liberal stars stepped forward.

I was highly tempted to support Kate Graham, whose energy, drive and progressive vision for a new way of doing politics was inspiring.  But in the end, I opted to support Mitzie Hunter who offered many of the same things, plus a seat at Queen's Park and more actual government experience.  I even ran to be a Mitzie delegate in Toronto Centre, but came up short winning the 1 delegate spot Mitzie earned out of 16 from that riding.

The watering down of the membership votes into delegate counts remains a big shame.  Nine people together voted in Toronto Centre for Alvin Tedjo and Brenda Hollingsworth.  But those votes translated into zero delegates to the convention due to the math converting 206 votes into just 16 spaces.  Those nine people might as well have not shown up.   The Ontario Liberal Party needs to fix this and implement One-Member-One-Vote.

I could've gone to the convention this weekend as an alternate with no vote.  For the price of at least $500 plus transportation or hotel costs, I could have gone and sat to watch events in person, including what looks to be a first ballot coronation for Steven Del Duca.  I took a pass.  This is what happens when the system is designed to exclude about 90% of members from the final decision.  

Presuming Del Duca prevails this afternoon, I wish him well.  He lacks charisma, he speaks a bit like a robot, and looks like your typical Liberal backroomer.  He literally is one of those Liberals who used his position of power in government to manipulate decisions to his own political benefit.  I'm sure he'll be hoping to sweep all of those skeletons away and move forward.

But he's smart, energetic and clearly well-organized.  He's boring.  But sometimes that sells very well in Ontario.  We know that voters in general have been turned off and disappointed by Doug Ford's erratic and bizarre leadership choices and style.  He's been a bull in a china shop.  It may just be that Steven Del Duca, whose monotone voice belies a mood that never falls off the rails, might be able to portray a quiet competence that might connect with Ontarians.

Of course, the PCs and the NDP will try to tar him with the past sins of the Liberal Party.  They may succeed.  But we will of course see.  The Liberal establishment insisted that we must pick Del Duca in this race.  They've got what they wanted.  It's now time for Del Duca to deliver.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Pete Buttigieg, first openly gay presidential candidate to win a state caucus, drops out of the race

Former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg
I have mixed feelings about tonight's news that Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and upstart Democratic presidential candidate, is dropping out of the race. 

At a time like this, I want to be more generous and focus on the immensely positive aspects of his historic candidacy. Buttigieg did smash considerable barriers by building up his national campaign into what it became.  Just over a year ago, most observers dismissed the candidacy of the openly gay incumbent mayor of a small city in the midwest with a name tough to pronounce and no state-wide election victories under his belt. 

They weren't dismissing him in recent months.  Buttigieg built a national team that pulled out all the stops to take flight.  And it did for a while.  His victory in the Iowa caucus last month was a historic moment for the first major openly gay presidential candidate.  That's something to respect.  

The handsome man with piercing blue eyes and a clearly brilliant mind offered a fresh, outside-the-Beltway perspective on national politics.  His life story including his experience as a soldier as well as his religious faith, made him a unique candidate on the ballot.  There were times I could see how it could be possible he could win this thing, either this year or (more than likely) in future years. 

Still, his lack of experience at the state or national level made his candidacy a harder sell.  He struggled to expand his support beyond white communities.   Many people of colour communities viewed him as just the latest media concoction of a smooth talker who says the right things but never really delivers for them.  

Some of his best ideas, such as getting rid of the Electoral College or embracing Medicare for All, seemed to disappear the longer he continued to hold exclusive fundraisers with wealthy contributors.  In a year defined by the anti-establishment politics of Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg seemed little more than a retread of the types of politicians who did little in the past for the working class, only this time in a younger, cuter, millennial package.  It was interesting that the 38-year-old failed to pick up much young support, as we've seen in polling and exit polls.

In the end, while I enjoyed many of Buttigieg's speeches earlier in his campaign, he lately came across to me as a bit smarmy and overly-rehearsed.  I found him hard to relate to on a number of levels, despite him being gay and white, about 10 years my junior.  Perhaps it was his high-minded, managerial personality which reminded me of certain gay men I can't stand much.  His coziness with the establishment and big donors seemed completely at odds with what America needs right now.  

Still, I have to admire the guy.  There's no doubt he's got a future in politics.  It may be too late this year for him to re-calibrate his efforts and seek a different office like the Indiana Governor's mansion.  But it would certainly win him more fans were he to actually take down some horrid Indiana Republican as soon as possible.  

The timing in withdrawing today is likely meant to benefit other moderates remaining in the Democratic race on Super Tuesday.  This might help deny Bernie Sanders as many delegates as he would've won with the moderate middle splintered by Buttigieg's support.  We'll see if Amy Klobuchar does the same thing before Tuesday (probably not.)