TTT #031: Serious tickets and serious questions


Former Mayor of the City Council (in 2010)

The Think Tank #031: Serious tickets and serious questions
Published by Klatonia, editor-in-chief, The Think Tank Media Group LLC

Two months. I lasted two months. Goddammit I had promised myself to take time off and recharge and... *sigh* Aw shit, here we go again.

On Monday, 19 September 2022, Communications Minister Lime posted an op-ed in the EBC forum titled "An Uncompetitive Truth?"

Go read it, it's a very good piece.

I concur with the general point Lime made: despite the competitive two-person field of the last Senate by-election, there is a decline in political engagement.

At the same time, I find myself vehemently disagreeing with three arguments they made, all three relating to the monkey/Calvin ticket.

I want to make it clear from the start that I'm not bashing @Lime here. Their column seems like a great opportunity to re-assert some principles regarding the adventure that is running for office in Euro.

In my opinion (so take it for what it's worth), saying that
Their [monkey and Calvin's] ticket appeared to exist to ensure that the incumbents faced an opponent in the election, rather than a serious and fully functioning bid to win the Presidency.

seems like a post hoc ergo propter hoc analysis. The fact that monkey and Calvin were nearly tsunami'ed in that election does not qualify the seriousness of their bid.

This diagnostic of the ticket's seriousness is based upon three arguments (see quotes at the bottom of the article).
  1. First, Monkey was not "particularly active in the region immediately before the election". Yes, that could hinder someone's campaign, especially with newer voters.
  2. Second, Monkey's most recent appointment (as director of the GAO) left a poor impression, as they left with a 30% approval rating back in May 2022. A fair argument.
  3. Third, and this is where I have a problem: neither Monkey nor Calvin had served as Minister either in "quite some time" (for Monkey) or "during the term leading up to the election" (for Calvin).
So let me get this right. Their bid wasn't serious in part because both candidates had not served in the Cabinet during the term?

I'm pretty sure I'm stretching Lime's reasoning here (or, actually, reading more into it that they intended), but I have a very hard time accepting this premise to evaluate the seriousness or relevance of any candidacy.

ANY citizen can run for ANY office without the need for very-recent-Cabinet experience, or without having their endeavour labelled as a "convenience candidacy". Early-career campaigns are notoriously awkward, idealist and uninformed, and none of these facts makes them non-serious. Making mistakes does not make one's campaign irrelevant. Running in the face of seemingly insurmontable odds does not make one's campaign a symbolic one. Not having just served on the Cabinet does not doom your bid to failure. Experience is gained through campaigning, campaigning gets you noticed, getting noticed increases your chances of being appointed to a sub-cabinet position or recruited for a position with some responsibility, which in turn increases your capacity for the next election.

And if you've been out of office for a while and want to contribute again as an elected official? You can run for that office without being less serious of a candidate than incumbents. There is no expiration date on experience.

Does it mean you'll have a fair chance of winning? Of course not: you've been out of office for a while and have probably fallen behind on key issues - meaning that unless you've been active in other aspects in the Region... yes, you start a few paces behind incumbents or insiders. But you're not destined to lose, and it certainly does not make your campaign one of convenience to ensure an election.

Are there cases where candidates obviously don't take their campaign seriously or, having at one point taken it seriously, change their minds? Of course, it's human nature, for fuck's sake. For example,
  • There are candidates that lift their foot off the gas pedal at some point during their campaign;
  • There is also such a thing as a "joke ticket" (I don't remember the exact name for it);
  • Finally, there are candidates who simply give up and either withdraw or let the election run its course.
While I completely share Lime's concern regarding the drop in the number of candidates in recent elections, I do not believe that those who ran and lost were any less engaged or serious than those who won.

Lime's piece, besides from being a well-written and provocative op-ed that should be a mandatory reading for everyone in Euro, concludes its analysis with the following, harrowing observation (emphasis is mine):
In the last two EBC Senate polls (July Poll, June Poll) when asked why they are not standing for Senate themselves, the most popular response amongst respondents is that they are not active enough to stand. The Executive branch has also experienced a decline in the number of active staffers to work in its Ministries during the Summer, and these two data points may suggest that the region’s citizens do not feel as able to contribute as perhaps they have been previously.

The first emphasised part should be rephrased: "respondents feel that they are not active enough to stand." It's a self-reported statement without an objective reference as to what "being active enough" means in absolute terms - and I don't know why I wrote this but I don't feel like deleting it so I reduced to size 9 characters and hope no one will notice.

The second emphasised part drives that point home but, if I may rephrase: perhaps "citizens do not feel as able to contribute as they think they have been or as they think the regional standards require of them."

Yes, Europeia inherited a rich political tradition, steeped in relevant debates, some periodic drama, and almost unimaginable dedication to public office. Perhaps it's time we revisit the workload of our offices. Perhaps it's time we assess whether that rich yet so demanding political culture can still be performed with the intensity of the two previous decades in which it has existed.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm an old neverbeen who doesn't know what he's talking about.

In any case, go read Lime's piece, give monkey and Calvin a break and, please, for the love of our founder HEM, keep debating.

We're only as strong as our sense of community.


Quotes :

Monkey had not been particularly active in the region immediately before the election and had not held a Ministry role for quite some time, bar a brief and poorly received role as Director of the Government Accountability Office.

Calvin also had not served as Minister during the term leading up to the election.
Great piece! there's definitely a pall of inactivity hanging over the region at the moment. I'm not sure why entirely (though uncontested presidential elections do tend to suck the air out of the room).
Great article. I think Lime did well to point out the real issue of citizens feeling removed from and excluded from participating in political discussion here, and this piece further fleshes out why that issue might be maintaining itself in our current system.

I believe we'll need to do some work to bridge the gap between wanting newer citizens to get involved and actually making that happen though.