With the DPVA’s central committee set to meet tomorrow and vote on who is to be the next 1st Vice Chair of the organization, bloggers across Virginia are posting their closing arguments in favor of their favorite. The Richmonder supports Susan Mariner for 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia. Susan has displayed tremendous commitment to growing the Democratic Party of Virginia. She has the right skills to grow and unify the party going forward.
Susan Mariner has shown the energy needed to fight for all Democrats in every race. I first met Susan during the Webb campaign in 2006. Jim Webb’s campaign for the U.S. Senate was far from a sure thing, but Susan was tireless in her support. It was the commitment of people like Susan that positioned Jim Webb to take advantage when George Allen’s campaign fell apart in August 2006.
The post of 1st Vice Chair is charged with growing the Democratic Party of Virginia. You can’t do that by focusing just on the easy races. Susan has shown that she will take on the longshot campaigns that produce upset victories. Susan has shown that she can work within the Democratic establishment in Virginia while, at the same time, reaching out to new and growing constituencies.
When I decided to support Susan Mariner for the post of 1st Vice Chair of DPVA I also made the decision not to engage in any negative campaigning. I do not know Gaylene Kanoyton, but from everything I have heard about her she seems to be a perfectly decent person and qualified for the position. I simply believe from past experience that Susan Mariner is the superior candidate for the position.
What I do find myself compelled to criticize is the element of race that has been injected into this competition by some of Gaylene’s supporters. I have no reason to believe that Gaylene approves of these arguments made on her behalf, so I would ask my readers not to hold them against Gaylene personally.
The element of race I am referring to is the idea that the post of 1st Vice Chair is “set aside” or “reserved” for a black woman. I have searched the DPVA party plan in vain for such a rule, yet there are those who seem to believe it exists.
Any discussion of change has to take a look at the issue of race. The tradition of having the #2 person in the DPVA (and the vice mayor of Norfolk, I might add) being black is troublesome to me on many levels. On the one hand, it says that blacks will always be second-best, not good enough to be #1. That hurts more than any non-black person can imagine.
On the other hand, it is a recognition of how far blacks in Virginia have come and how much we are valued by the party and not just as a reliable voting bloc. Somewhere, some new activist in the party can look to the#2 person in the party and find someone that looks like them.
Do I wish race weren’t an issue? You betcha [smiley face winking]. But that’s like wishing race wasn’t an issue in almost everything. I do, but it is.
This example is from Vivian Paige, someone who I respect and esteem, but who I think is wrong on this issue. I would note that in Vivian’s original post, there is an actual “emoticon” of a smiley face winking at the reader. It’s hard not to conclude that Vivian is arguing that wink-wink there is an unwritten rule reserving this position for a black woman and that’s just how it is.
Sometimes we want something so badly that it clouds our judgement and we make arguments in support of our position that really aren’t defensible. I think Vivian and the other people who are making this argument have fallen into that trap. I don’t think this is something to wink-wink at.
I understand that race is an issue and I appreciate the need for diversity in any organization, but most especially a statewide Democratic committee. But I think that the issue of diversity must be addressed by looking at the committee in its totality. There should be no individual seat or position reserved for anyone based on race, sex, orientation, or religion. Individual candidates for any single position should be judged as individuals based on the needs of that position and the individual talents of the individuals applying for that position. I am disappointed that this is a position that I need to take and defend so explicitly.
I hope that the members of the DPVA central committee will look at the duties of the 1st Vice Chair position and what it will take to succeed in that position and then closely examine the qualifications and achievements of the individuals applying for the job before they pick the best person for the job.
I wish Susan and Gaylene the best tomorrow and I look forward to working with both of them on future campaigns regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s race.