Implications of the UUA Presidential Search Process

1. UU Populism should be over.

Previous UU Presidential elections have often been framed in populist terms. UU Populism imagines that some group of UU's are the powerful insiders and the rest of us are on the outside looking in. The reason why UUism is somehow failing is that the "insiders" are clinging to old ways, old methods, and old theologies. So, once it becomes clear who is the candidate of the "insiders", then you know who to vote for. The Morales/Hallman election was eventually cast in such terms.

That populist frame for the election assumes that the powerful elite feels entitled to the UUA Presidency and has put forward a candidate out of that entitlement. The process by which the candidates come forward is hidden.

[The irony is that lots of people have lots of opinions about who that elite really is. Is it the big donors? The large church ministers? The UUA staff? The old New Englanders? The Humanists? The Social Justice Warriors? The self-selected GA Junkies?]

The Presidential Search Process refutes that populist assumption about where the candidates come from. Everybody you could think of, and many you would not, was suggested, invited to step forward, and then carefully vetted by a group of conscientious UU's in a long process that resulted in these two nominees.

No hidden cabal of elitists put forward one candidate; no plucky band of rebels put forward the other one. This isn't episode IV.

2. Representation at the top is no longer the key issue. The theme that "we never had a UUA President of this identity" is closely linked to the populist view of UU politics. The thought has been that the hidden leadership development process of the elites fails to bring forward leaders of diverse identities.

But that isn't the way it works now. The nominees have been chosen by a conscientious and diverse group of respected people. I think that we can trust, at least for now, that they have done their best to be open to all potential sources of leadership.

Unless there is a self-nominated male candidate who emerges, we will have the first female President. I don't think that is the result of the Search Committee alone. There has been a widespread consensus on that for while. My impression is that many men stepped back. We won't know whether that was true until the Search Committee makes public its process after the election is over.

The result of the Search Process is that we have two qualified candidates. We have the opportunity for an extensive discussion of the future of Unitarian Universalism. The candidates have the opportunity to start to show leadership now in casting their vision, uniting people behind it and challenging us to focus on the far horizon.

The election should turn on how they lead us now, not on our projections about who they are and who they represent in our imagined UU landscape.


  1. This is a really helpful post. Thank you Tom!


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