Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jack Markell learns what it is like ... to be treated as a third-party candidate

A little context for those visiting from out of state:

Delaware politics, especially gubernatorial succession, has become a machine-driven, "wait your turn" process.

Our current outgoing guv--widely considered the worst governor in modern Delaware history--is Ruth Ann "Aunt Bee" Minner, whose last (we all hope) official act was to veto eminent domain legislation that would have protected First State property owners from the rather rapacious city of Wilmington.

But here's the rub. Given the current imbalance in voter registration and the collapse of the Delaware GOP mirroring that of the national party, the Democratic nominee will almost assuredly waltz into the Governor's Mansion in November.

The only problem? State Treasurer Jack Markell doesn't want to wait his turn.

This was supposed to be Lieutenant Governor John Carney's year, even though he represents the kind of robotic, machine-politician who cold give Hillary Clinton lessons in cold-hearted, steel-eyed walking up your backside. So robot-John lined up all the unions, the petty bureaucrats, and receivers of Democratic patronage, and strode proudly onto the stage to receive his nomination.

But the charismatic Jack Markell refused to sit back and put off his own run for Governor for the next eight years. So he dusted off his University of Delaware alumni connections, his loose network of open-government reformers, and a lot of other Democrats who reject the business-as-usual, and then proceeded to out-raise Carney and out-perform him in debates, even beginning to overcome his relative lack of name recognition vis a vis the Lieutenant Governor.

Even the vaunted education union--the DSEA--refused to endorse Carney over Markell, and said it would be happy with either candidate (which makes sense, given that they gave almost the same word-for-word answers in the education debate).

Ah, but then Carney puled out one of those big party tricks that the Demopublicans do to third-party candidates all the time. As the endorsed candidate of the party bigwigs, he's begun running advertisements paid for not by his own campaign funds, but from the general Democratic Party funds. Funds that, as Markell partisans like to point out, were raised to elect Barack Obama and put more Democrats in the State Legislature, but are now being used to support the candidate of one Democratic candidate over another.

Big stink in little old Delaware that you can read about with various stages of outrage, loud outrage, and (from the GOP side) amusement.

Of course, the party has the legal right to do this, because the party hacks wrote the rules like that to make sure that nobody interrupts their gravy train.

I'm not expecting any of the Democrats reacting with outrage to this turn of events to draw the conclusion that what's unfair in this sort of maneuver is is exactly the same sort of thing they've been doing to third-party candidates for decades with ballot-access rules and other mechanisms designed explicitly to protect the prerogatives of insiders at the expense of the democratic process.

That would be far too radical a conclusion for them.

But at least those of us who are Libertarians (and Greens or Naderites or Constitutionalists) will know that there's nothing personal in trying to exclude us from the ballots, the debates, and the polls....

They do it to each other, too.

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