Friday, September 28, 2012
When Democracy Gets Stupid | Casey's Last Word
Today we have another installment in the American epic: “When Democracy Gets Stupid.”
The last installment had to do with Bexar Met, the late and unlamented water utility.
Its elected board defined the concept of dysfunction so vigorously that its ratepayers voted it out of existence.
Now we turn to an area of governmental function about as important as the delivery of potable water.
We’re talking education. Specifically, the State Board of Education.
Many of you may be aware that much of San Antonio and 13 surrounding counties last spring nominated, in the Democratic primary, a young woman with no special experience in schools, other than having attended them.
She recently told the Express-News she had never attended a local school board meeting, much less a meeting of the State Board of Education.
She also ran almost no campaign.
She had no campaign office or web site, and her finance report filed eight days before the primary election indicated that she had raised and spent no money.
This for a district that has about 1.7 million people in it.
Yet Marisa Perez handily defeated the incumbent, a highly-regarded Trinity University professor whose two-year performance on the state board won him the endorsements of every major teacher’s organization that does endorsements.
Perez has a Republican opponent, but she’s in a heavily Democratic district and is expected to win, despite the fact that she doesn’t seem to have much more of a campaign now than she did in the primary.
At a recent session with the San Antonio Express-News editorial board she was asked who is running her campaign.
Her response: "That's something I'd like to keep for myself."
But I’ll say this for Ms. Perez: At least she wanted to be elected.
Out in El Paso, Martha Dominguez, a public school administrator, spent $45.27 on her Democratic primary campaign – 27 cents more than she took in – and beat two male opponents for the nomination in a district that runs almost to Laredo.
But what distinguished her campaign most was that she tried to get out.
Unfortunately, she filed a withdrawal notice weeks after the deadline.
And to the wrong office – the Secretary of State instead of the state Democratic Party.
She faces Republican incumbent Charlie Garza, who barely won election in the Republican tsunami of 2010.
She’s expected to win with the larger turnout the presidential race will provoke, despite the fact that Garza refers to her as “a ghost.”
So why did these two women, about whom voters knew almost nothing, win?
Some think it was because voters preferred a woman about whom they knew nothing to a man about whom they knew nothing.
Some think it was because their names were somehow more pleasing than their opponents’ names.
Some think it was because their names appeared first on the ballot in their races.
Whatever the reason, it is based on ignorance – the ignorance of voters in a misguided “democratic” exercise that does not provide for an informed electorate.
But it could be worse, and has been.
In 2006, the citizens in a district that includes part of the Houston area elected Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer who home-schooled her children because she felt public schools were a danger to them and society.
She had written (not in campaign material) that public schools are a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion."
She also opined that "The establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even 'tyrannical'.”
While in office during the 2008 presidential campaign she wrote on a right-wing Christian web site that if Barack Obama was elected there would be a terrorist attack during his first six months in office.
She said it "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is a threat to tyranny."
And she said she expected Obama to declare martial law to expand his authority.
That’s what you get when you set up stupid democracies, exercises in which voters can’t know enough to make smart choices.