Thursday, March 16, 2006

Talk about Backfiring

This year's Young Democrats of Georgia (YDG) races had been pretty quiet until yesterday morning. The only contested race at the moment was the race for VP of Programs. Usually, if there is drama, it will be in the President's race. Then Andre Walker took some bad advice and posted this blog: Some people I know have had a difficult time opening this link, although I'm not sure why.

Basically, Andre goes after his opponent Colleen Ware in a big way. The implication being that's she just a big, dumb sorority girl from UGA trying to play in the big leagues where she doesn't belong. Anyone who is a Democrat should understand the problem with this line of argument. This is not about a battle of ideas but a base personal attack that plays on misogynistic stereotypes.

What's worse is that the attacks are not true. Colleen may be a sorority girl at UGA, but the times I've interacted with her, she has come across as bright, intelligent, eager, and hard working. Asking folks I know at UGA about her, that impression is the one she gives to her YD chapter. Trust me, if you are a loser, people in your chapter will definitely spread the word. Colleen has had nothing but good reports about her from the UGA group, which is one of YDG's most powerful and active chapters.

So why was this attack made? Andre is not a mean person. Anyone who has read his writings can tell he's generally an intelligent and thoughtful person. He does have a reputation for being a bit of a loose cannon, which this episode highlights. And until now, he had a campaign for VP of Programs that was based on an activist, high impact programming agenda.

Part of the problem, if you speak to Andre, is bad advice that he has received from Tahir, the unopposed candidate for YDG President. Tahir despises Colleen and has made it known that he does NOT want her to win VP of Programs. It's unclear what the issue between them is precisely, but accusations of being "unprofessional" and "bringing personal shit into the work setting" abound. Without details, there's no way to really judge that sort of thing. However, as the unopposed President, Tahir should be ready and willing to work with whomever wins election to the other YDG offices. Preferences are fine, and he's expressed them. Urging Andre to "go negative" on Colleen as the only method to defeat her is not fine.

My understanding is that Tahir has urged Andre for weeks to go after Colleen in a negative fashion. Andre resisted and sought the counsel of others because this kind of personal attack is not in his character usually. However, the internal politics of YDG seemed to indicate that Colleen would likely win. Earlier this week, something happened to make Andre think that taking Tahir's advice was his only hope for success.

He was wrong - big time. This post has backfired in a huge way. Despite having a female president two years ago, YDG has seen a lack of female leadership rising in the ranks. One of our goals has been to nurture female leadership which has helped Colleen's candidacy. To attack an aspiring female leader in YDG with ugly personal smears based on misogynistic stereotypes of women in sororities is beyond the pale. It smacks of trying to intimidate females thinking of persuing YDG leadership positions from doing so...lest they get attacked in a similar fashion. We do have strong females throughout YDG, but many have chosen to devote their time and energies to local chapters. And for those of us who are men who feel very strongly that we need to promote female leadership, this kind of attack is infuriating.

The rage against Andre's attack is boiling just beneath the surface. I have no idea what the fallout will be, other than Andre's probable loss. That it's well known that Tahir planted the idea of making such an attack will have unknown consequences. I'm utterly disappointed that he pushed Andre to make this attack based on some apparent personal issues between him and Colleen. It shows a clear lack of judgment that I and many others finding disturbing. Is YDG to adopt a policy of the politics of personal destruction under Tahir's leadership? I certainly hope not, because that's the best way to hobble one of the strongest state YD organizations in the country for years to come. There are legitimate ways to defeat your opponents politically, but this is not one of them.

No comments: