Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Marion County GOP: The Battle Brewing Over the Populist Future of the Party

It is apparent from the past year that there is a growing tension behind the scenes over the direction of the Marion County Republican Party, a tension that has spilled into the public arena on blogs and a few stories in the Indianapolis Star. It is important to understand what that tension is about, and what the two camps represent. It is not as some have wrongly labeled it, a struggle between conservative and more moderate Republicans, who, in fact, are in both camps. Rather the stand-off is a classic struggle between an elitist brand of Republicanism and one that embraces a more populist approach.

Elitism is defined by as a belief that that society should be governed by an elite class of individuals. An elitist believes that a select group of people at the top should make the decisions regarding the direction of the city, and public opinion is a secondary consideration at best. An elitist is not so much concerned about liberal or conservative political philosophy, but rather is instead interested in using the tools of government to benefit the elite class (which benefits they believe trickle down to the common man and woman.) An elitist doesn't believe the average voter has the intelligence to make good decisions. Elitists are not concerned about taxpayer outrage over the CIB's sweetheart deal with the Colts and the decision to give the Pacers more money. They believe they know what is best.

Populism on the other hand is the political philosophy that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite. These are the people who were behind the taxpayer revolts over higher property and local income taxes in 2007. They are the ones expressing displeasure with the Colts' sweetheart deal and the CIB plans to give more money to the Pacers. They believe in more open and transparent government than elites who prefer their decisions made behind closed doors, outside of public view. Populists are very much against corporate welfare schemes that often take the form of public-private "partnerships."

For those of you history buffs, quite simply Alexander Hamilton was the classic elitist, while Thomas Jefferson was the quintessential populist.

A populist Republican approach is far better at getting independent and Democrat votes than one based on elitism. But in the aftermath of Uni-Gov, Republicans were blessed with a large majority in Marion County that would give the GOP control of the Mayor's office and majority-control of the City-County Council. Republicans dominated and there was no need for the party to move in a more populist direction. Elitist Republicans (sometimes called "country club Republicans") dominated the era. That elitist Republican era began to fall in 1999 with Democrat Bart Peterson's election as Mayor in 1999 and was culminated in Republicans losing control of the council in 2003.

In 2007, Greg Ballard, running as a populist Republican and aided by enormous Democrat missteps that year, won the election for Mayor of Indianapolis. Republicans also won a majority on the council. But while it was populists (including some very dedicated Democrats and Libertarians) who did the grunt work to elect the Mayor, it was elitist Republicans who quickly maneuvered to win the transition. With Ballard being a political novice and naive about his new-found friends, he was an easy target for influence. Those advisers have put Mayor Ballard on a traditional elitist governing path, far from the populist approach that resulted in his election.

It is a course of action that, while good for the entrenched business interests that have for decades been eating at a trough filled with taxpayer money, gives the Mayor no chance of putting together a majority coalition to win re-election in 2011. (In fact no Republican has won the Mayor's office running on a non-populist since 1995.) With the fall of Mayor Ballard, so too goes the Republican majority on the City-County Council. An even worst case scenario is that a lack of control within the Mayor's Office leads to "pay to play" schemes that leave an indelible stain of scandal on Marion County Republicans for years to come.

That is what the upcoming battle is about.


Leslie Sourwine said...

I believe over time we are going to start seeing a new type of voter. These voters are not going to align themselves to any party because regardless if the skunk is Democrat or Republican the pay to play problems exist. I’ve mentioned recall of city officials before. What needs to be done is to petition the legislature to amend the Indiana Constitution to allow normal every day citizens an option for dealing with elected officials who refuse to listen to public concerns and who squander away taxpayers hard earned money. There also needs to be provisions made that allow the voters to vote on how they want their money spent and who receives it. Voters had high expectations when they elected Ballard to office that he would clean the city up. Unfortunately the dirt piles still remain and are growing in size. There were news stories that Ballard won the election without having to spend much of his own money. We now know without a doubt who was financing his campaign. Without recall provisions the voter has no way to expel elected officials who pull the wool over the voter’s eyes. Ballard obviously doesn’t care if he is re-elected in 2011 because his pockets will be full when he leaves office. It is the voters who will have to continue to pay the price for the mismanagement of taxpayer’s money and the private/public contracts will continue to haunt society for years to come.
Leslie Sourwine

M Theory said... said that perfectly, Paul. That's exactly how it is.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Ballard didn't have to spend much money on his election because the Democrat was busy committing political suicide by jacking up local incomes taxes right after a taxpayer revolt over increased property taxes. Ballard was outspent someting like 11-1. So the good news was that he was elected without owing very many favors. The bad news is that he didn't understand that.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I think the Mayor does care about his re-election. I don't think his top advisers care though. The Mayor is a political novice. He just doesn't understand what is going on, that he's being sold out.

Leslie Sourwine said...

You know Paul the quest for riches and fame has converted even the most honest politician. The sad state of affairs is that when Ballard is defeated at the next election the talk about his reign of money squandering is going to go on for years. The Ballard name will go down in history in the same category as Peterson. A change to the Indiana Constitution to all citizen recall will eliminate the problem with elected employees refusing to listen to the public and its concerns.

Leslie Sourwine asking what is the difference between a crook and a politician?

Leslie Sourwine said...

One of the most impressive points I see over and over regarding your personal integrity and professional ethics is that you continually give the mayor the benefit of doubt. For that reason I have a great deal of respect for you as a person and an attorney. Over the past year I’ve contacted or sent inmates to you for advice concerning their legal issues on denial of medical care and failure to provide protection from their hired guardians. Some attorneys would jump at the chance to file a lawsuit that would maybe net them a great deal of money. You on the other hand look at the whole picture and give advice according to what is legal as well as ethical. If you were the mayor sitting in office I have no doubt that Corrections Corporation of America would be forced to either follow the law and live up to their contract obligations or they would be shut down. It is harder for me to give Ballard the benefit of doubt as to whether he knows he is being used to provide profits to the city attorneys, B&T and that firms clients or if he is just too impressed with the kickbacks that may be coming his way. Ballard should be ordering an independent inspection that would inspect the safety features of Marion County Jail II as well as take statements from the inmates regarding their medical care. In addition medical personnel should be forbidden to crush inmate’s medication to prevent the wrong medications from being distributed to the wrong inmates in an effort to maximize profits. Because Ballard knows of the problems at the jail and does nothing to correct them he is just as responsible for the abuse to the inmates as Corrections Corporation of America and its employees.

Leslie Sourwine

Diana Vice said...

You are the leader that the populists have been searching for, Paul. I know it's a job you didn't seek, but it's one that you were born for. The elitists know this as well, and they fear your leadership abilities so much that they started an anti-Paul Ogden blog. Consider it a compliment. Better yet, consider it as a challenge and rise to it, Braveheart style. I'm right behind you.

Mary Jo said...

If Paul Ogden wants a healthier GOP, why does he let Democrats off the hook?

Find out more at

Patriot Paul said...

Excellent review. I would maintain further that R.eletists handlers influenced Reagan toward the last 2 office and with the eventual failure of the populists 1994 R.Revolution, coupled with Gingrich's personal revelations, the blending of both major parties were aided & overrun by top shelf eletists who made extraordinarily pathetic decisions. Indianapolis was not immune to this parallel of intrangient and petty Afgan-style chieftans. Evangelicals of the populists did not fall to laryngitis; but were simply smothered by an eletists machine of their party's own making which took a path to failure of Dole's run resulting in dire consequences of the Clinton and Bush legacies. The Contract with American became officially hi-jacked to be the Contract On America and the resulting bloodshed of excess and further corruption. I strongly believe in the Mayor. He needs a kitchen cabinet and your blog should be one of those ingredients. Keep the faith.

M Theory said...

I'm right behind you too Paul!

Anonymous said...

Hey, "Mary Jo," Republicans need to clean their own house before we have any business pointing fingers at Democrats.

M Theory said...

And there are a lot of conservatives who want the Republicans to clean house.

In the meantime, the Libertarians number of voters grows with each election. Those Libertarian votes are hurting the Republicans far more than they will ever admit.

Anonymous said...

All the real Republicans don't vote Republican, any more.

Howard Roark said...

Dear Paul,

Just stumbled onto your blog recently, wondered what it was all about... After this post I now understand! It is a platform from which you can attack your enemies and rip the Marion County GOP apart for your own political gain... You are no better than the lobbyists you attack.



Anonymous said...

Howard, be honest. You didn't just "stumble" onto this blog. It's being talked about all around the state, and it's exposing elitist Republicans for what they are, and you don't like it, so you're doing your best to discourage Paul. It won't work, though, because you people don't understand the concept of integrity.

Merle Widmer said...

Bob Grand, I hear, claims to have been the driving force behind uni-gov in Marion County. Peoria, Il is looking into uni gov and Brand says he is the right person to consult. Who can give me background and the overall success of uni-gov in Marion County and Indianpolis?

Thank you. Find me on my blog site.