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Sunday, September 11, 2022

TOF the Politico

 A long time ago, in a land far away, TOF was a politician. By this, he does not mean an elected official, but one of those nameless myrmidons who swarm behind the elected officials and decide who they will be. TOF rose from mere precinct committeeman (oddly enough, an elected office in that time and place) to the exalted rank of House District Leader. He was (however briefly) a Mover and Shaker, or at least a Nudger and Quiverer, and an acquaintance of Governors, Congressmen, and Senators, as well as of Presidential Timber.

How came this about? (TOF hears you ask.) TOF will tell you. But before he tells you that, he must tell you this. 

In the Neolithic Age, when TOF was young, the Sovereign State of Colorado wherein which he then resided chose Candidates for Office in the following wise:

  1. Voters gathered in precinct caucuses, at least, those voters who could be stirred from their lethargy and TV screens, and there they took polls of straw of their preferences for whatever was the top office up for grabs that year. Based on the results of said straws, they chose Delegates and Alternates to attend the County Assembly.
  2. The County Assembly nominated Party candidates for all county offices, such as Sheriff, and [again proportioned as per straw vote], selected Delegates and Alternates for two further folkmotes: viz., the State Assembly and Convention and the Congressional District Convention which met conjointly. The distinction between Assembly and Convention was basically that between State and Federal offices. The State Assembly nominated candidates for Governor; the State Convention nominated candidates for President or Senator, as well as Delegates and Alternates for the National Convention.
  3. The Congressional District Convention, which sat concurrently, nominated candidates for the US Congress. The State Convention would break up into the several CD Conventions.  This was necessitated because besserwissers has mandated that such districts could no longer be comprised of whole counties, so the boundaries lapped into several.
  4. Then came the Primary Elections. Any candidate receiving a specified minimum number of nominations in the assemblies or conventions would be listed on the Ballot so that the rank and file Party Members could select from among a list of people they did not know. 

This process, while logical, consumed several months, during which time enough other States had held horse races and beauty contests that the Networks (a/k/a Fourth Branch of Government) had already "declared" a "winner." Hence, Colorado's choice seldom made the evening news. This being intolerable, the State has I think altered this process to speed it up and gone to the 'beauty contest method, whereby candidates are chosen by advertising dollars and TV announcers.

TOF TELLS YOU THREE TIMES.  

TOF TELLS YOU THREE TIMES.  

TOF TELLS YOU THREE TIMES.

Although the Government operates the Primary Elections as a courtesy to the major parties, the Primary is in no wise a "Preliminary Round" of the General Election. The Primary is a Party Election to enable the larger Parties of the Duopoly to select their nominees. Smaller Parties, such as the Libertarians, nominate their Candidates directly at Conventions. 

This is why Open Primaries are an Abomination in the eyes of God. Why should Republicans and the Unaffiliated have any say in choosing the Candidate the Democrats will put forward?  Their incentive of course is to vote for their opponent's least-viable candidate. And the oppositt as well.

TOF attended his first caucus while still living in the First Congressional District, basically the City and County of Denver. The Congresscritter at that time and place was the Hon. Patricia Schroeder, and no one ever ran against her for the nomination. (Such boring Primaries were why folks often chafed to vote in their Opponent's primary.) The Incomparable Marge also attended and because of her twoferous status (She was 1) a woman and 2) she had American Indian ancestry, so the Party got to tick two boxes in its complex and arcane gender-race balancing efforts), she was Nominated to attend the County Assembly and Convention. TOF was named as an Alternate in consequence to keep her company. The Marge found this attitude condescending, since it resulted from an accident of birth rather than from her merits, making it scarcely distinguishable from aristocracy.

A few years later, we had moved to Jefferson County, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. There was no committeemen for the precinct, so the then House District Leader (HDL) hosted a get together at which TOF and the Marge volunteered to run for the offices of precinct committeeman and committeewoman. 

This is the secret to breaking into Politics. Volunteer. For Something. Anything. You will be treasured as a ruby beyond price.

In the Primary Election, TOF appeared on the ballot for the Party Membership to vote on..He and the Marge were unopposed and won in a landslide.

It then became his fell duty to organize the next election's caucus. To this end, the Party provided him with computer lists of Party-registered voters. In the run-up to the caucuses, he and the Marge called everyone on the list, telling them of the time and place for the caucus, which was in our living room. We also received campaign literature from various would-be candidates which we could deliver door-to-door around the precinct. Also, committeefolk got to attend the County,

The precincts being roughly equal in numbers of Party members, each was tasked with sending three delegates and three alternates to the County. Depending on what was the top office open in that cycle, a show of hands identified the preferences. Anyone who received a minimum of three votes was entitled to at least one delegate. Otherwise, it was up to the caucus to allocate delegates. TOF recollects one year when the clear favorite for president was Sen Gary Hart, but three attendees at the caucus from the United Steelworkers were staunchly for Walter Mondale. So we sent two Hart delegates and one Mondale on to County. 

There was also the problem of equalizing male and female delegates, which is hard to do with an odd number of delegates. That may be why there were also three alternates, since the equal numbers could be had by divvying up all six. Provided enough of each sex attended the caucus, and provided they could be coaxed into volunteering. There was never any exclusion; the problem was securing enough volunteers, period.

One year, our District Captain, Mel Harmel, asked TOF if he would like to run for State Senate, no candidate having stepped forward. This was akin to asking someone to climb atop an Aztec pyramid to have his heart ripped out of his chest. The long-time incumbent was one Sam Zakhem, a Republican Arab-American who had achieved fame by jamming his letter-opener into the NO button on his desk in the Senate so he could take a break. He figured a NO vote on any Bill would do less harm. This appealed to the orneriness of Coloradoans in those days, before the flood of Yuppies had altered the State's demographics to be more compliant. 

TOF asked how he would finance his campaign -- print flyers, buy ad time, etc. Mel, whose visage reminded TOF of Abe Vigoda, replied that it would be out of pocket, the County Party being strapped for cash. TOF could sympathize with this because so was he. Thus, he gratefully declined, and Zakhem won in a landslide, the only positive aspect of which was that TOF was not under it. 

One election year, diffident knocks occurred on TOF's door on caucus night. Voters from another precinct presented themselves. The posted caucus location for their precinct (a private house like ours) had shown itself dark and undoorbellable. TOF darkly suspected agents of the Other Party had registered in ours, volunteered to hold caucuses, and then walked with Jesus on caucus night. There may have been a more benign explanation, like a family emergency, but TOF leaves it as an exercise for the Reader to speculate on the opposite fun and games in the City and County of Denver, which like Jefferson County was a one-party jurisdiction. 

Another year (they blur together), a candidate for sheriff failed to get on our ballot and, shortly afterward, his wife showed up on the campaign staff of the Other Party's candidate. Had he been a Trojan Horse all along, part of an effort to secure both (D) and (R) nominations for the same Party? There be more than one way to suppress votes for the Other Party.

In all of Jefferson County (Jeffco), the Dems managed to elect only one perennial member of the State Assembly; viz., the Hon. Dorothy Witherspoon, a token (D) in a county full of (R)s, like the spot of yin in the yang. Then, one year, ta-dah! we got Dave Bath elected and had two State representatives! But shortly after taking office, Bath switched parties. TOF suspected he had been a Trojan Horse for the Other Party all along and wanted to try a false advertising claim against him.

This is not a new thing. Recall that when the Whig, William Henry Harrison, died soon after taking office, his Veep, Tyler quickly discovered his Inner Dem. (Of the only two Whigs ever elected as president, both died in office.)

Somewhere along the way, TOF succeeded Mel as District Captain, an Party appointment. This put him in charge of four precincts. Since he retained his own precinct, this meant he had three pairs of other committeefolk reporting to him.

Now, he must tell you this. In distributing voting information and rousing voters from their slumbers and their TVs, TOF had discovered that Others had preceded him; viz., campaign workers for Big Name candidates, who then and there were Gov. Dick Lamm, Sen. Gary Hart, and Rep. Tim Wirth; depending on the year, plus in presidential years, workers for the national candidate. Many a voter expressed spleen against so many different ringers of doorbells. 

So, TOF asked his peeps -- yes, TOF had peeps -- to volunteer themselves for all operative Campaigns so that Voters would be afflicted with only one visit. They were to push the down-ballot candidates as well as the glamor-pusses. It seemed wasteful to his Inner Engineer to have several parallel Campaigns matching the Party structure.

This was the early days of the Collapse of the Parties. Candidates were only beginning to stand "naked and afraid" before the Special Interests. The Parties still formed a buffer between them and the Donors that could trade and balance Interests. Conventions still mattered.  

TOF recollects that once, after a 2nd District Convention, Tim Wirth gathered a bunch of us Party Hacks together and warned us of the Rise of the Campaigns. A single Candidate seldom has the power to broker competing interests that a Party does.That did not stop him, however, from running his own rodeo.

Somewhere along the way TOF was raised to House District Leader, in charge of four District Captains who in turn covered twelve precincts. TOF was definitely moving and shaking. [There was one HDL for each house district in the Colorado Assembly.]

 TOF became well-enough known that one day walking down a street in downtown Denver, he and the Marge encountered Gov and Mrs Lamm coming the other way. Gov Lamm paused and introduced TOF and the TOFess to his wife, having recognized them from Party functions. Later, at a cocktail party in the governor's mansion, TOF and the Guv had an extended conversation regarding Joel Garreau's then-new book The Nine Nations of North America. No major newspaper or TV station was owned by Coloradans, the Gov lamented.

TOF recollects a Party banquet on which he was seated beside visiting Rep. Dick Gephardt  (D, MO) who in the course of the chit and the chat told TOF of an up-and-coming young governor, Bill Clinton (D, AR) I should keep an an eye on him, sound advice in more ways than one

In 1976, TOF caucused for Fred Harris, whose slogan, "No more bullshit," appealed to him. The media clutched their pearls and feigned shock. Unlike some recent candates, his American Indian blood was undoubted. He ran against Carter, who won, and Brown, Wallace, Udall, Scoop Jackson, Church, Ellen McCormack, Shriver, Shapp, Bayh, Bentsen, and Sanford. T. Kennedy did not run but outpolled most who did. McCormack proves that as late as 1976, pro-life candidates were still under the Big Dem Tent.

in 1978, TOF volunteered himself onto the re-election campaign staff of Sen Floyd Haskell.The Senator was an advocate of "alternative energy" and TOF suggested that one way to get around the inherent intermittency of solar power -- half the day is night, after all, and winters in the higher latitudes have much shorter days -- was to launch solar power satellites into geosynch orbits. The sun nearly always shines in those climes and the harvested energy could be beamed as microwaves to rectenna farms on the ground and thence distributed as electricity. However, poly sci, pre-law, and English lit majors are not attuned to Science and Technology and imagined 'mad scientists beaming death rays' on the voters. Their objections were not scientific, engineering, or even financial. This was during the Small is Beautiful madness. It was TOF's first inkling that the party of his youth was turning its back on science and technology. Floyd Haskell lost.

At the 1980 State Convention, Carter tried to strong-arm the nomination against T. Kennedy.  Carter was much disliked because of the Iranian Hostages Affair and the bungled rescue.
Mo Siegel, founder of Celestial Sasonings, organized an Uncommitted caucus, which TOF joined and which sent a number of delegates to National.

TOF attended gatherings at the home of Gary Hart, who was known as one of the "Atari Democrats" because they were hep to the jive when it came to high tech. (That this was epitomized by the Atari game system tells us much of the state of high tch in olden days.)

In 1984, Gary Hart sought the Demnom, versus Mondale, Glenn, J. Jackson, and Cranston.  and lost narrowly to Mondale, who then lost bigly to R. Reagan. TOF recalls a TV reporter who asked a Montana delegate why he was still planning to vote for Hart when Mondale by then had it sewed up. The Montanan looked at the reporter like he was a bug and said, the point is to vote for the best candidate, not try to guess who will win.

In 1988 Hart bid for preznom again and was widely regarded initially as the front runner. Other candidates included Biden, Dukakis, Gore, Simon, J. Jackson, and Gephardt. Gore made his moves. He revealed Biden's plagiarism [which knocked him out of the race] and Dukakis' weekend furlough program for murderers [which did not]. He was suspected by some of orchestrating the entrapment of Hart vis a vis an extramarital affair. 

[A friend had told Donna Rice that Hart was expecting her at his townhouse in DC. The couple who were staying with Hart said he was astonished to see her show up and hustled her out the back door. Tipped off, the Miami Herald was watching the front door but, curiously, not the back.] 

TOF can only imagine Hart's thoughts years later when Clinton survived multiple such allegations. But back then, invasions of a candidate's personal space were widely detested. Dukakis went on to lose hugely against the first Bush.

 

Hart had left the Senate in 1987, succeeded by Tim Wirth. The same year, Lamm had left the governorship. Shortly afterwards, TOF left Colorado for New Jersey and a career as a traveling consultant. He found the NJ Party more of a closed shop ["The Garage Gang"] and less free-wheeling than the CO Party, and so his political career came to an end, not with a bang but a whimper.

3 comments:

  1. Tiny world. My future wife became the live-in companion to Faith Meem, shortly after her husband John Gaw Meem died in 1983. (I proposed to her in the living room of the Meem house - quite a nice house, since J.G. Meem was a famous and successful architect.) Faith Meem's daughter Nancy married John Wirth - Senator Tim Wirth's brother.

    So, in the course of things, I bumped into Tim Wirth a couple times over the years. Not enough to have an opinion.

    John Gaw Meem donated the land upon which is built St. John's College in Santa Fe - right over the hill from his house. This is where I and the future Mrs. Moore attended school and met and fell in love, etc. The college library is dedicated to John Gaw Meem. Nancy Wirth became a somewhat famous potter, having shows as far away as Japan. We own a good number of her works.

    Having you talk about Tim Wirth brought back many memories.

    ReplyDelete

  2. Living in the one-party state of California, I agree that open primaries are an abominable abomination, just like the snowman.  However, even the closed primary system can be gamed.  One of these games is cross-filing, where a candidate with high name recognition files in both major-party primaries — Robert Heinlein got whipsawed this way, brought an end to his elective ambitions (but served to launch his writing career) (so I guess some good can come even from dirty politics). 

    It's depressing that bare name recognition — being famous for being famous — brings in the votes and brings in the money; feeds on itself.  One might make up a name for that mass of broadly recognized politicians, something like, say, Those of Name.

          —  Occasional Correspondent

    ReplyDelete
  3. Is your son still living in Alaska?  Hope he's not in the path of the wrath of Merbok.

    ReplyDelete

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