The Fenty Write-in: A Democratic Success Story

This letter is in response to Gary Tischler’s editorial of November 3rd, “Congrats to Gray: Election Day and Beyond.” As a Georgetowner myself, and as the founder of the Facebook page Mr. Tischler referenced, “Run, Fenty, Run”, which helped jumpstart the write-in campaign, I thought it would make sense to address some of the points Mr. Tischler made regarding that effort.

Overall, there are a lot of good points made in the piece, and we too have joined in congratulating Mayor-Elect Gray on his November 2nd victory. We’ve posted it right on the page, and even offered Gray use of the page to reach our supporters.

My only quarrel with Mr. Tischler’s piece was with the section apparently ghost-written by George Orwell: “It is a peculiarly undemocratic approach that says: We won’t accept the election results that we don’t like and we’re going to try and change them.”

It’s hard to know where to begin with this sentence. First, when this was written (as Mr. Tischler notes), the election for mayor hadn’t actually happened yet. The September election was a primary to choose party nominees. The November 2nd election was when the mayor was chosen. That’s why they called it an “election.” Call me old fashioned, call me sentimental, but I kind of like the quirky American tradition of waiting for the actual vote before declaring a winner.

The truly confusing part, however, is the claim that this effort was somehow “undemocratic.” Which part was undemocratic? The part where we tried to get more votes in the actual election? The part where we tried to run a campaign for our preferred choice for mayor? The part where volunteers stood out for 10, 12, 14 hours or more, trying to convince other voters to consider writing him in as well?

Now, in fairness, I was out of town for a few days, so I apologize if I missed the part where write-in supporters rolled out the tanks and declared a coup. And if they made Fenty “Generalissimo for life” in my absence, well, my bad.

But otherwise, it’s hard to see how this was anything but profoundly democratic. A group of grassroots supporters rallied behind their preferred candidate, and, with almost no budget, miraculously convinced 23% of voters to write in the name of that candidate. No, Fenty wasn’t on the ballot, and wasn’t running. But that’s the whole point of having a write in. If a voter thinks the best choice for that office is not on the ballot, he or she writes in the person they think is best, even if that person would need to be “drafted” to accept the office. The vast majority of people written in on Election Day are in fact not running.

Was it a long shot? Absolutely. Was it a pain in the neck for Mayor-elect Gray, and even Mayor Fenty himself? Almost certainly. Was it undemocratic? Well, since when is democracy “undemocratic?”

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Nov 22, 2010 at 11:35 AM John Hlinko

Hi - for some reason, my name was left out of the print edition, as well as here online, so.... hi. My name is John Hlinko. I'm the guy that wrote this. Feel free to assign credit or blame accordingly. :)

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Nov 22, 2010 at 11:44 AM LouisXIV

Demorcratic?

I think this tragic spelling error only undermines your arguments that Fenty is better for education.

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Nov 22, 2010 at 11:48 AM Tai Fung

Attacking an obvious typographical error, without addressing the logic of the overall piece, simply means you (1) can't quarrel with the rationale and arguments made in the letter and (2) are simply a troll.

But 10 internet points for the zinger!

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Nov 22, 2010 at 12:04 PM Chaz

@LouisXIV - A "tragic spelling error"?? Well thats certainly a first for what common people describe as a typo (key word "type"). If you paid attention to the real facts of the election, you would know that Fenty was certainly better for education. There is just no debate about that. Even your new mayor (who by the way has agreed to "continue" the efforts of our fine Mayor Adrian Fenty) agrees. Now is the testing period. We will see if Vincent Gray (a candidate whose success in politics is still questionable) will be up for the challenge. My forecast: Welcome Back Mr. Barry...but I'm begging to be proven wrong.

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Nov 22, 2010 at 12:07 PM Qiana McKoy

I was one of the 23% of voters who wrote in Adrian Fenty's name for mayor. As Mr. Hlinko states in his letter, it is my DEMOCRATIC right and responsibility to vote who I believe is the best candidate, not vote for someone based on popular opinion. My vote was based on my assessment of past performance and future goals set forth by both Fenty and Gray. If exercising my right to vote for who I believe is the best candidate is "undemocratic" because I don't fall in line with other Democrats, then call me undemocratic all you want. After all, you are entitled to your opinion. At the end of the day, I can stand up to anyone that questions my vote and tell them that I voted my conscience, and didn't fall in line like sheep just because "he's nicer than Fenty".

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Nov 22, 2010 at 12:28 PM John Hlinko

About that typo... actually, I didn't write the headline, the paper did.

Though I confess, I read it a bunch of times and didn't catch it. ;)

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Nov 22, 2010 at 3:11 PM Lindsey

I was really glad I had the opportunity to write-in Fenty's name. I didn't vote in the primary because I happen to be a Republican in DC (I know, I know...we do exist). My vote doesn't usually count. But I don't mind Fenty...I think he's done a lot of good, and made tough decisions that went against the status quo.

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Nov 26, 2010 at 6:12 PM Amanda

As a political science student, I can appreciate that US history books are full of experiences where people spoke up for their rightsd. In this case, the Fenty write in movement gave voters who normally have no say in the process to elect officials in DC, an opportunity. In Congress, you vote for policies that you feel will take the country in the right direction, even if it means stepping across party lines. The fact that many republicans, democrats, and independents chose to write in Fenty's name speaks volumes of the impact our current Mayor has had.

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Nov 29, 2010 at 10:52 AM Steve

The issue I take with the write-in effort is only that Fenty wasn't even running. He openly endorsed Gray. I've never heard of a public official being elected without prior consent. There are plenty of cases of people running and winning as independents, but Fenty was not doing this. He took the loss and walked away. I could start an independent campaign to elect anyone, but if the elect-in-question is not himself the head of the effort, it is, frankly, groundless and naive.

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