So what exactly is “slating,” you may be asking? And why all the uproar?
Backers of Rep. Eric Cantor’s favored candidates are “slating off” all the people who don’t share their views, and then some. What does that mean?
First, it happens at a local mass meeting of a political party, which is open to the general public so long as they’re registered voters and in accord with the principles of the party. The mass meeting in question is one at which delegates to a convention (usually the statewide or Congressional district convention) are “elected” from that locality. I use quotation marks around “elected” because, until now, just about everyone who signs up is almost always automatically made a delegate (exceptions include, for instance, people who are known Democrats). In fact, most local GOP units have provisions cancelling their mass meeting when fewer people sign up to be delegates than there are delegate slots. It is exceedingly rare for there to be an “over-file” of people wanting to be delegates. More on that in a sec.
The mass meeting is intended to produce a representative “slate” of delegates from each locality. Back in the day, each locality usually only sent a relative handful of delegates to a district or state convention, so these elections were competitive. People campaigned to be a delegate, and the losing folks were “slated off.” Today, though, the Republican Party wants as many people to attend their conventions as possible, so instead of having, for example, one delegate for every 1,000 Republican votes in a county, we now have one delegate seat at the state convention for every 100 Republican votes. That means there are A LOT of delegate seats available, and there is very little chance of having to exclude anyone. For instance, if every available delegate seat had been filled for the 2013 Republican State Convention in Virginia, over 59,000 people would have been delegates.
That’s what makes the current revival of this old fashioned machine-politics tactic so vile. Conventions are designed to be open to those who wish to attend, yet the folks working for Cantor’s YG Virginia are purposefully abusing the system to exclude thousands of people from participating.
Clearly, there are some Republicans who are happy with this, including those Republicans who rely on Democrat participation in their mass meetings to have the votes to beat their fellow Republicans. Most of these folks are still ticked off at the wave of new people who came onto the Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee in 2012, and who promptly then changed the method of nomination for the 2013 Governor’s race (widely understood to be a measure helping Ken Cuccinelli and hurting Bill Bolling). They say, “Turnabout is fair play.”
The problem with that is the people elected in that wave didn’t do it dirty, and didn’t do it by excluding thousands of votes from their fellow Republicans. They did it by turning out REPUBLICANS to vote in Republican contests. I was part of that wave (though I actually won against the so-called “Cuccinelli” slate).
Did that wave cause hard feelings? Clearly it did, and we still haven’t figured a good way to get past it.
[They] have inflamed a lot of tension and, as a result, we’ve been witnessing a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of blame and feelings of resentment. When our party is not united… we lose at the ballot box.
Sad to say, but excluding thousands of Republicans from our party’s governance processes based on their preference for a district chairman candidate is not exactly a shortcut to unity. Quite the opposite, in fact.