Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The UUA Election

Nobody knows what the UUA President is supposed to do, so nobody knows how to choose a candidate for UUA President. I think that this was the small little fault at the heart of the recent election process.

A bigger problem, in my eyes, was that the wrong candidate won, but that's just me, and I'll get over it.

The biggest problem of all is the big wet blanket of sweetie-goo that smothered the life out of the campaign and cut off any process of real debate and challenge to the underlying logic of each campaign. It was a Kum-Ba-Yah campaign. As far as I could tell, the rules were that all speech about the campaign had to start from the presumption that each candidate was equally wonderful (and thus, essentially the same), and that one could state a preference only in terms of your own personal preference, based on which one inspired you more, but without making any real comparison.

You have wonder about the level of anxiety in an organization which tries to keep conflict and differences of opinion so safely contained and walled off.

13 comments:

patrickmurfin said...

I am kind of appalled at what has become kind of repeated mantra among some disappointed Hallman supporters and bloggers—that their candidate lost because of a lack of “honest debate” in the campaign. It seems to me that this is often thin code for not being able to “go negative” in attacking the other candidate. Not that the Hallman campaign did not try. It abetted—or winked at—the circulation of a number of unsubstantiated rumors about Morales—that he “won’t move to Boston,” that there were “questions” about his service on the UUA staff, etc. And that was on top of the regularly applied mantra that Morales was not “spiritual” and was all talk and no action.

The fact is that most independent observers—and quite a few Hallman supporters—have acknowledged that Morales “won” the thirty or so debates and joint appearances the two candidates shared. And whatever chance the once anointed candidate had of swinging the election her way at the General Assembly vanished with her incredibly defensive—almost Nixonesqe—performance at the final debate.

Morales might not be your cup of tea. You may even believe that he is destined to steer the UUA against the shoals and sink it—I’ve heard that kind of talk—but the fact is that he laid out a clear program and agenda that resonated with voters. Hallman cloaked herself in generalities and seemed to have no plan beyond “going deeper,” as if that were in the power and province of a UUA President.

Bill Baar said...

Pat, I cast my vote for Morales at our Church when we discussed how to cast our ballots.

Much of read I read from both candidates seemed cloaked in a kind of code leaving me baffled.

When I sent emails Morales responded with straight forward responses in contrast to the murky stuff on the web.

Hallaman never responded at all.

Either way this was no hammer-and-tongs style debate we once heard at 2440 W. Lincoln long ago. (Chicago lefty code...non old reds forgive).

It was stiffling stuff and LT's caught onto it.

Jaume de Marcos Andreu said...

I am also surprised by the suggestion that there was too much politeness in the campaign. Is this not supposed to be the best way to run a campaign, to deal with issues and not with personal questions or slander? Another shocking argument is that UUs, after a long history of commitment to women's liberation, are now a "macho" religion because a woman did not win. Perhaps they said the same in the 2001 election, and in the 1993 election, and in the 1985 election, but I don't remember. Perhaps some people are also bothered that the anointed candidate by the Higher Powers in the UUA was not elected by a majority of obedient delegates, but the fact remains that democracy seems to be still working in the UUA and the President is elected by his or her program, personal qualities, and objectives.

LT said...

Jaume: Who are the Higher Powers of the UUA? What do they want that you don't want -- or what is it that you want that they are preventing? What is at stake in this grand revolution against the Higher Powers?

Robin Edgar said...

I have to agree with most if not all of what LT said here. In fact I agree so much with what he said that I will very likely plagU*Urize huge swaths of it and post them to The Emerson Avenger blog.

:Nobody knows what the UUA President is supposed to do, so nobody knows how to choose a candidate for UUA President.

If true, and it may well be true, this is a serious problem. Rev. Scott Wells made a similar suggestion yesterday in a post titled 'The President of the UUA is not a national minister'.

:The biggest problem of all is the big wet blanket of sweetie-goo that smothered the life out of the campaign and cut off any process of real debate and challenge to the underlying logic of each campaign. It was a Kum-Ba-Yah campaign.

From what I could see of the election process this has the ring of truth to it. The whole thing seemed carefully manipulated to avoid or minimize any hard questions about, or strong criticism of, *either* of the candidates platforms and public statements etc. One of the few people to ask a hard question or two was yours truly and my legitimate questions went ignored and unanswered. From what I hear both presidential candidates agreed not to respond to questions posed to them on Election-L so it simply became a string of endorsements for one or the other candidates rather than a forum for free and open debate of the issues with the two candidates participating in that process. Do correct me if I am wrong in this assessment which is based on "hearsay" since I am banned from all UUA email lists for asking hard questions in the past. . .

:As far as I could tell, the rules were that all speech about the campaign had to start from the presumption that each candidate was equally wonderful (and thus, essentially the same), and that one could state a preference only in terms of your own personal preference, based on which one inspired you more, but without making any real comparison.

This rings true as well. At least insofar as the "rules" are concerned some of which appeared to be proverbial unwritten rules but rules none-the-less. . .

:You have wonder about the level of anxiety in an organization which tries to keep conflict and differences of opinion so safely contained and walled off.

Indeed you do. And I did wonder about that. . . The UUA has been doing its damnedest to "contain" and "wall off" legitimate criticism and dissent for years if not decades. One refreshing aspect of Rev. Peter Morales being elected as UUA President is that he is very plain spoken to the point of somewhat offensive bluntness at times. With any luck this "very deep culture" of the UUA will be significantly reduced if not eliminated during his tenure as UUA President.

Robin Edgar said...

BTW LT Perhaps you can fill everyone in on just what the UUA President *is* supposed to do, so that U*Us know how to choose a candidate for UUA President next time around which may be as soon as four years from now if President Peter Morales fails to deliver on his somewhat questionable campaign rhetoric about making U*Uism "the religion of our time" in the next two or three years.

Robin Edgar said...

To be clear I did not mean to suggest that President Morales needss to make U*Uism "the religion of our time" within the next two or three years. That is what one might call an Impossible Dream. But he does have to lay out the "road-map" aka *realistic* business plan and make *some* significant progress in that direction if he wants to have any credibility at all in that regard. I have yet to see UUA President Morales' *realistic* business plan for transforming Unitarian*Universalism from the "tiny, declining, fringe religion" that he acknowledges it is today into "the religion for our time". Have you or any other U*U seen it yet LT?

Chalicechick said...
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Chalicechick said...
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Chalicechick said...

What bothers me about the campaign is that the most rabid Morales supporter I know wrote in a comment on my blog:

I was at Peter's booth Saturday mid afternoon as delegates were passing by when a woman from California specifically asked him about Pathways. He said this:

"If the money had not come from private donors but say, the Ford Foundation, not one penny would have been forthcoming without a realistic business plan that included outside financial review. Pathways had neither."


So Morales himself felt perfectly free to criticize in a decidedly non-Kum-Ba-Yah manner, it was just Hallman supporters who weren't supposed to criticize him.

Sigh.

CC
who just fixed a typo and an HTML issue. Sigh.

Steve Caldwell said...

LT wrote:
-snip-
"The biggest problem of all is the big wet blanket of sweetie-goo that smothered the life out of the campaign and cut off any process of real debate and challenge to the underlying logic of each campaign. It was a Kum-Ba-Yah campaign. As far as I could tell, the rules were that all speech about the campaign had to start from the presumption that each candidate was equally wonderful (and thus, essentially the same), and that one could state a preference only in terms of your own personal preference, based on which one inspired you more, but without making any real comparison."

LT,

Yes ... it's true that the candidates did agree to a campaign covenant during the recent election:

http://www.uua.org/aboutus/governance/elections/president/132841.shtml

Neither candidate was forced into agreeing to this election covenant. This covenant was something that they both agreed with and agreed to follow (based on their public statements during the campaign).

The only part of the covenant that is directed towards supporters is the following:

"We ask our supporters to show respect to both candidates and to keep discussion respectful and positive, in the spirit of our religious community."

Based on some of the negative comments that I've seen on UU blogs and the Election-L email list about both candidates, I wondering about the "too positive" campaign concerns.

Apparently, the only persons who were "positive" were Hallman and Morales -- the rest of us were busy being our very human jerkish selves during the UUA election.

Both candidates agreed to the covenant but this would not have stopped a negative campaign conducted by supporters (who were asked to stay positive but were not parties to the covenant between the two candidates).

However, my guess is that a negative campaign conducted by surrogates instead of the candidates would have not worked with the GA delegates and absentee voters this year.

And it certainly would not have worked if Hallman had gone negative against Morales (covenant or no covenant).

365pwords said...

The whole UU president campaign process leaves much to be desired.

One major issue that no one has addressed: the impossible task of being a spiritual leader AND a political candidate. A minister is a person who felt called and has arduously trained to be an especially loving and compassionate role model.

How do you align that higher calling with the rough and tumble world of campaigning?

For someone who was supposed to be so spiritually deep, Hallman chose the low road of sniping at Morales so many times I found myself doubting that depth. In contrast the Morales campaign focused pretty exclusively on denominational concerns and practical ways to address them.

Chalicechick said...

365-

Are you saying that Hallman herself did the sniping? Do you have an example?

The bit of Morales sniping that the Morales supporter gleefully told me about was the first instance from either candidate I saw.

I saw a lot of sniping back and forth between supporters and even did a little of it, but that is certainly not the candidates' fault.

CC