Sort of a repeat: DC At large City Council Election: one insider picking off another insider is not a "game changer"
After the 2012 At Large election, when David Grosso, running as an independent defeated Michael Brown, this was touted as an insurgent defeating the system.
I disagreed, writing "DC At large City Council Election: one insider picking off another insider is not a "game changer"," making the point that someone who had worked for many years for Councilmember Ambrose and Delegate Norton, both Democrats, before going to work for as a lobbyist for a regional health care provider in the "government relations" section, is hardly an outsider, even if he had a non-standard upbringing.
Despite the Post's article today ("How a DC political novice unseated longtime council member"), which terms Robert White as a novice, the same is true.
He might be a neophyte as a candidate, this being his second try, but he is already a member of the city's system of political insiders, having worked for Delegate Norton and Attorney General Karl Racine.
From the article:
White, a former aide to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), lost his first race, in 2014, for an open at-large seat. Soon after that loss, he was hired by newly elected Attorney General Karl A. Racine as director of community outreach, boosting his visibility for nearly a year before he decided to take on Orange.
Heeding the lessons of his failed 2014 bid, White hired the same consultants who ran Racine’s campaign. He worked to clear the field of potential spoiler candidates, though Garber stayed in and drew 15 percent of the vote.
Those actions illustrate how Robert White was integrated into the system, and even that it is a misnomer to term him a neophyte.
As older members of the system lose their allure with the electorate they need to be replaced with other equally agreeable actors so that the system can maintain its control and influence. To keep control, there will be turnover, as legacy Councilmembers are defeated by newer members of the machine.
(Disclosure: I voted for him, figuring that as a newer member of the machine he has less baggage than the incumbent. But that doesn't mean that things won't change over time.)
The Growth Machine. I am a fervent believer in the Growth Machine thesis, first laid out by sociologist Harvey Molotch, in the seminal article,"City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place." From the abstract:
A city and, more generally, any locality, is conceived as the areal expression of the interests of some land-based elite. Such an elite is seen to profit through the increasing intensification of the land use of the area in which its members hold a common interest. An elite competes with other land-based elites in an effort to have growth-inducing resources invested within its own area as opposed to that of another. Governmental authority, at the local and nonlocal levels, is utilized to assist in achieving this growth at the expense of competing localities. Conditions of community life are largely a consequence of the social, economic, and political forces embodied in this growth machine.=====
It is troubling that Attorney General Karl Racine is shaping up as another political force, as two proteges, Robert White and Trayon White, having won the Democratic nomination for At Large and Ward 8 seats respectively.
I was strongly supportive of creating a separately elected AG, partly because "the law belongs to the people, not the Executive," and to add capacity to the city's governance and political structure.
Some people raised the issue of an elected AG becoming another power center within the city's political system in ways that could be counter to better government.
I scoffed, figuring that the duties of the AG office would be more than enough to keep the AG occupied. Little did I know.
The Growth Machine thesis doesn't preclude intra-elite competition within a locality. But media coverage tends to focus on this kind of intra-elite competition without recognizing that there is an overarching political-economic coalition with for the most part, a shared agenda.