Proposal 2: Endorsement Haggling

The halcyon days of yore when the PGP had big thriving chapters are long past. Portland Metro once had a budget larger than the entire party does now. Lane once was a registered business with its own payroll. Alas, nowadays it is impossible to be sure what chapters even do or don’t exist because their founding paperwork and organizational histories are mostly lost.

But the bylaws retain a lot of clutter about what chapters can and can’t do, with the only major benefit effectively being the power to create supporting members. The explicit protection from top-down interference is already enjoyed implicitly by members and groups in general. More on that later. Here let’s have a look at Bylaws XV (Chapters)

XV.L: Chapters shall not endorse different candidates for an election for a particular public office, or take conflicting positions on other electoral matters such as endorsing ballot measures and the associated petitions and campaigns. If two conflicting endorsements are simultaneous, they shall both be void; if consecutive, the first shall be valid and the second void.

This is the first appearance of the word “endorse” in article XV; there is no declaration there of a chapter’s power to endorse, only restrictions on that power. The power is, however, alluded to in Article VIII (conventions)

VIII.A.1.a “… Chapters shall report any endorsements they have made of non-partisan local candidates to the coordinating committee within ten working days and to the statewide membership at the next convention. …”

So we take for granted that chapters are things that can make local endorsements, and declare that they can’t contradict each other. Note that there’s no explicit requirement that a chapter endorse only candidates in its own declared locality; in which case, the “first come first serve” clause in XV.L would be superseded by:

XV.M.Prior to endorsing a candidate for public office, or taking a position on another electoral matter such as endorsing a ballot measure or an associated petition or campaign, a chapter must determine whether the district in which people may vote for that office in the public election (”voting district”) overlaps any other chapters. If so, the first chapter must contact each of those other chapters that is active in any county containing any portion of the overlap, and offer them the option to participate in a joint decision. If any of those other chapters accepts that option, the following subsection (1) shall apply.”

If we suppose chapters are allowed to endorse candidates outside their locality, which is not explicitly prohibited, then any chapter can preempt another chapter’s right to endorse in its own area simply by making the endorsement first. Lane Chapter endorses Candidate X for mayor of Corvallis, and now Linn-Benton is SOL. Ha ha! And we don’t even have to offer them a joint decision.

If instead chapters can endorse only candidates in their own locality, then it doesn’t matter who goes first because they have to offer the other chapters veto power under the torturous dictates of XV.M.1, assuming they can identify and contact them. I won’t clutter this by pasting it all here, but it boils down to “joint candidate or nobody,” with a typical clause inviting SCC interference.

It can be difficult for a chapter to endorse anyone without ignoring this rule. Recent endorsements made in Portland, for example, could arguably have been outside process due to the fragmented chapter situation there. I don’t recall hearing of any joint decision process offered; however I also don’t care who someone endorses. The real issue, after all, is who the endorser is claiming to represent.

Let’s be real. Chapters are relatively small groups of activist party members with little or no claim to generally represent the overall membership in their area. They don’t take polls, have big votes, implement any process to give a “local endorsement” the level of legitimacy to justify it being exclusive. If there’s a dispute between two competing groups about who to endorse, whoever wins the dispute hasn’t magically lined up all the PGP voters in their area behind them.

So why lie to the public? To our own voters? If Chapter A likes candidate X, and Chapter B likes candidate Y, then tell it like it is, the whole story. We shouldn’t fake consensus, and we also shouldn’t silence discussion or the free expression of members’ opinions. That should extend to the opinions of all groups of members, by freedom of association (Part 3).

So, XV.L-M are

  • vague and mutually contradictory
  • mostly moot or hard to follow
  • anti-democratic

No point repairing them; strike them.

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