Check out the following, thought-provoking public Facebook post by Sean Perryman (Fairfax County Democratic Committee Recording Secretary; Fairfax NAACP First Vice President), which I thought was well worth posting here as well. Personally, I’d argue that the role of elite “gatekeepers” historically has had some positive aspects to it (e.g., keeping out incompetent, corrupt extremists like Trump), but also has served to exclude (or throw obstacles in the way of) a wide range of people – minorities; women; people who didn’t attend elite universities or come from wealthy backgrounds; people with impressive experience, but perhaps outside the “mold” in some way; etc. With regard to the WaPo endorsements, over the years they’ve overwhelmingly gone to people the “establishment” (Republican or Democratic) was comfortable with. Perryman’s post is particularly relevant given the WaPo’s endorsements for Fairfax County Board of Supervisor, which in addition to being all-male and almost all-white, were perhaps most significantly all-establishment, with not a single pick (as far as I can tell) varying from whoever the main Fairfax County “power brokers” want to see elected. Not to say that these endorsed candidates are bad people, not at all! In fact, I’d be comfortable with pretty much any of them on the Board. But I’d also be comfortable with several other candidates, including a number of women. I’d also note that the cumulative effect of the WaPo’s endorsements is striking and even troubling; as Perryman explains: “the Post’s endorsements would leave us with less gender diversity than the current board and the same amount of token race diversity.” Now, I’m all for meritocracy, but I’m also for representative bodies looking at least somewhat like the communities they represent. How about you? – Lowell
With that, here’s Sean Perryman’s post:
Let’s talk about power and how groups try to maintain it. This is important.
A little while back, I said to ignore endorsements because they are more a stamp of membership in a club than a statement on qualifications. Allow me to explain what I meant.
When we look around the current political landscape and see elected officials that do not represent our interest and do no look like their constituents, it’s because people with power are usually the ones deciding who is deserving of taking power. And these powerful individuals put up artificial barriers for entry. And they decide who may pass. How does this work?
Let’s take the the Post’s endorsements as an example. The Washington Post put heavy emphasis on experience like being on the Planning Commission. They mention it in their endorsements.
But who appoints the Planning Commission? The current Board of Supervisors. So to get the Post Endorsement, one would need the approval of a current supervisor to place you in a position to gain the experience they deem necessary. Again, the powerful select who may enter. I won’t get into how Supervisors may select commissioners and the inequities in that.
I will say though that some of the experiences valued by the Post aren’t the ones with the most direct community impact or that effectuate change. When we fought for changes to the SRO agreement, which led to a 60 percent reduction in arrests this year, people like Laurie Tyler Dodd were there. I didn’t see anyone from any supervisor appointed board or commission. Same when Alicia Plerhoples was organizing to take seats in the Virginia house and senate. Women like Alicia and Laurie and Shyamali Hauth and Erika Yalowitz are more familiar to me as being active in the community than many of the men mentioned. But again, even the experiences touted as important are arbitrarily decided because Dalia Palchik’s school board service was completely ignored.
Fairfax County is behind our neighbors on issues like affordable housing, teacher pay, and environmental conservation, so why are we to believe the best solutions will come from those already in leadership? Well, because we have allowed institutions like the Post to tell us that their slate of all male candidates that checked the appropriate boxes is the best option. No offense meant to anyone, but are we all so satisfied with the work of the current board and planning commission that we wouldn’t consider someone not from within those groups?
We have one of the most diverse, qualified crop of candidates and somehow the Post’s endorsements would leave us with less gender diversity than the current board and the same amount of token race diversity. They didn’t see fit to endorse a single woman in a contested race. Hell, they didn’t see fit to mention a woman by name. Irma Corado for Supervisor apparently changed her name to “nominal” according to the Post. Many of the women who have children and are running said the Post questioned how they would possibly juggle a family while serving on the board. I hope we all recognize this sort of sexism by now.
I truly believe that we have a talented group of individuals running even those endorsed by the Post. Don’t take what I said as a knock on them. But I also would be severely disappointed if we went with this all male, mostly white slate.
I’m personally voting for Alicia Plerhoples for Chairman. All the candidates have an interesting vision for the future of the county but I think we need someone smart, with a fresh perspective, not beholden to special interests, and with experience organizing at the grass roots level. Plus I think we all need to move our support of Black women as candidates from the theoretical to the actual.
Anyway, my vote is my own but I hope you will look at the challenges facing this county, the perspectives needed in leadership, and the opportunity we have and select candidates who will best represent you and not just the Post editorial board. Chances are you’re not a club member so don’t continue to let them decide who represents us.