MARC CHASE: Education board appointment a spoil of political war

2013-10-01T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Education board appointment a spoil of political warMarc Chase, (219) 662-5330
October 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

"To the victor belongs the spoils."

This famous quote from former New York Sen. William L. Marcy has been ringing true in our political system for generations.

Marcy's middle name fittingly was Learned, and his quote was both brutally honest and accurate. Indiana Democrats of our own era would do well to remember this immortal string of verbal wisdom from an Andrew Jackson Democrat of the 19th century.

It appropriately applies to the outcry we've been hearing lately from modern Hoosier Democrats upset that Daniel Elsener — essentially a career Republican — is allowed to hold an appointed position on the State Board of Education as a political independent.

To a point, I understand the frustrations of the Hoosier donkey party.

As Times Statehouse Bureau Chief Dan Carden has so aptly reported, Elsener was first appointed to the position in 2005 by GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels. At that time, Elsener was appointed as a Republican, not an independent.

Voting and campaign records show Elsener cast ballots in the Republican primary nine out of 10 times since 1994 and donated $10,575 to GOP candidates and groups supporting Republicans since 2001.

This all makes Elsener's political allegiances very clear. And state law dictates that no more than six members of one political party sit on the 11-member education board.

So when Republican Gov. Mike Pence recently reappointed Elsener to the board, this time as an independent, some Dems cried foul that this tipped the board excessively into the GOP's favor.

They're right, it did. But it seems the system under which our government operates allows for this imbalance.

State law does not clearly indicate how a state board member's political party should be determined, and there are no prescribed teeth in the law for any executive ignoring the party quotas.

In short, the law is set up to benefit the party in power. Not so deep down — in fact right up near the surface — Hoosier Democrats already know this.

In Lake County — the one corner of Indiana solidly controlled by the Democrats — the victors have been enjoying all sorts of spoils for decades. Hundreds of patronage jobs, appointments and contracts go to Democratic allies by way of who controls the elective offices in Lake County.

So why should it come as a surprise that Republicans are able to stack the decks when they perpetually win the statewide offices that make such political appointments?

The only way to change a power structure is by unseating the current powers that be. In our system, that is achieved by winning elections — hopefully by candidates proving themselves more worthy and relevant to voters.

And in our system, as former Sen. William Learned Marcy pointed out, the victors truly do control the spoils, and the whiners whine about it.

If Marcy were still around, I suspect he might say in contemporary lingo, "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or The opinions are the writer's.

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