Elections need democratic accountability

Opinion: Editorials

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By Ron Baiman

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We just had a local election. Based on unofficial results for Oak Park village trustee from the Cook County Board of Elections as of April 4, it appears that Susan Buchanan, Jim Taglia, and Arti Walker-Peddakotla will be our new trustees. I congratulate our new trustees on their victories and sincerely hope the progressive idealism that has shaped Oak Park will survive and advance. My comments below address the election process and not animus toward any of the candidates. 

Though I'd like to think that most of us vote on the basis of candidate policies and personal qualifications, it is undeniable, and appropriate, for voters committed to diversity of representation, that race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other "identity" factors impact voter choices. 

In this race there were four white men, two white women, four black men, and one woman of color. The Wednesday Journal editorial board endorsed Taglia, Buchanan, and Wesley. The Journal's endorsed white man and white woman candidates won. The only candidate of the 11 running endorsed by the WJ who did not win was Wesley, a black man. The only candidate not endorsed by the Journal who won was the one woman of color. 

Two progressive local activist groups made endorsements and had volunteers working vigorously for months for their endorsed candidates. None of the candidates endorsed by VOICE of Oak Park (the larger and more locally based of the two groups, with endorsements based on an open vetting and community voting process) — Tim Thomas, Christian Harris, and Joshua Klayman — won. Only one candidate, Arti Walker-Peddakotla, of the three candidates endorsed by Reclaim Oak Park (a local branch of the People's Lobby of Chicago, with a smaller but very active and committed local membership) — Thomas, Harris, and Walker-Peddakotla — won. The two black men who were endorsed by both groups lost. 

Conclusions: 

a) In a local race with low-information voters, the Wednesday Journal editorial board, an opaque group whose membership is not listed on the Journal's website, which presumably includes Wednesday Journal staff members, working for a for-profit local business whose publisher no longer lives in Oak Park, and perhaps some others, had greater influence over a local election than scores of local activists who put their hearts and souls into working for their selected candidates. 

b) In local elections, business-friendly media (near) monopolies can largely call an election when the progressive vote is split among a multitude of candidates. 

c) The power and influence of for-profit local media (when it exists at all) is undemocratic. 

True democracy should include democratic accountability over all institutions that significantly impact social choices. 

Ron Baiman is a member of VOICE of Oak Park and secretary of West Cook Chicago Democratic Socialists of America. Google Baiman "A Proposal for Democratic Constitutional Reform in Cuba" for more.

Reader Comments

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William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: April 13th, 2019 8:53 AM

If you bothered to make an honest and unbiased effort to read my posts, Simpson, you'd know that I have lots of positive things to say. It's just that none of them involve you and your ridiculous opinions.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 6:51 PM

I agree Ramona ... and Alex too. The First amendment is so inconvenient for the likes of the Ron Baiman's of the world. Only he and his holy warriors know what is best for us ignorant no bodies. Only he can save us from the power and influence of the evil local (for profit) media. Here's a thought Mr. Baiman. If the people find the power and influence of our local for profit media undemocratic, well the remedy (in a democracy) is to refrain from purchasing the product. And guess what? As Ramona says that seems to be happening all over the land. As I've said before. "A democracy gets the leaders and policies it deserves" ... apparently much to Mr. Baiman's displeasure.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 4:25 PM

Mr. Baiman sounds as if he believes that the state or DSA should take over oakpark.com in order to make it "accountable" (according to his own definition of that term). I'd say that this is merely sour grapes from someone who may not have gotten his way during a fair and democratic election, but coming from a committed socialist like Mr. Baiman, this piece has definite totalitarian undertones, i.e. "Either you vote my way or the election is invalid".

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 3:02 PM

So let me get this straight, when it comes election time, we should vote for candidates based on their skin color, genitalia, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but any other time, we are expected to be look the other way and not judge people by the aforementioned list. Oh how convenient is that now.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 2:57 PM

Mr. Baiman, a self proclaimed Socialist, seems to enjoy the first amendment when HE has something to say, but doesn't like it when a local newspaper disagrees with him. He must not think much of Oak Parkers since he calls us "low-information voters". He doesn't seem to like "for profit" organizations having any say in local elections either. Newspapers are being shuttered everyday because there are NO PROFITS. "True democracy should include democratic accountability over all institutions that significantly impact social choices. " The accountability of a democracy is we get what we vote for and if they don't perform well, we get to vote them out. If you look at his employment history, he has been a professor, a government bureaucrat and worked with Ralph Martire at Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (a labor union funded organization). He like most Socialists, thinks raising taxes is the answer, but spending more and more down the blackhole of government spending is quite alright.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 1:19 PM

Dwyer - do you ever have anything positive to say about anyone or anything? My opinions are just as valid as yours and I am willing to give sources , reason and justification - can you honestly say the same?

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 1:06 PM

Says the guy who blindly supports the most unqualified person to ever be president. Amazing.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2019 12:03 PM

What ever happened to citizens electing the BEST candidate for each office? This whole evaluation of the recent election goes to great lengths to identify race, creed and color all of which seem to imply that there are other reasons for support beyond "WHO WILL DO THE BEST JOB!"

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