Jackson, Undecided on whether to run for chair of Democrats Abroad Panama

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Do Democrats represent a constituency of people who believe in certain things, or sell to a gullible market?

by Eric Jackson

There is less than a week to jump into or drop out of the race for any of the four officer posts or the three at-large board positions with Democrats Abroad Panama. If I do nothing, I am running for a spot as a board member. I MIGHT be moved to do something I really would rather not do, and run for chair — again. The election will be on April 28, with all DA Panama members receiving Google form ballots by email. On a positive side, for the 2018 cycle I was chair, the organization grew, and Democrats won back the US House of Representatives. I did not seek re-election as chair, but ran for vice chair instead. Kim Antonsen, who had been vice chair, became chair. Also on the positive side, In the 2020 cycle the organization grew, and Democrats won back the White House while losing 13 seats in the House, then won the Georgia runoff which gave us half the seats in the US Senate.

Let me spare you, for the moment, the tales of dysfunction and most of the philosophical differences between Kim and her supporters and myself. Not that those are unimportant. Just not now. But late last year my unheeded advice was that both Kim and I should step back from officer roles to board roles, and from those positions give what support and guidance we could to another set of officers.

Kim, ignoring a bunch of our bylaws, taking decisions properly belonging to the board to herself, and ignoring what I had to say, chose to put secrecy into the nominations process and put Joan Stack in charge of the nominations committee. I had my specific objections to Joan and told Kim about those before she made her choice. Kim’s first question to me was with whom I had shared information about Joan. The whole process derailed, which is why we are choosing our new leaders later this month instead of having already made our choices.

Joan is no longer directly involved, but looms over this entire process. Kim has attempted to order me not to talk about Joan, now that she’s supposedly out of the picture.

But Kim is seeking another term as chair, and her judgment about Joan is a critical issue, one that says volumes about Kim’s political common sense.

See the graphic up top? It’s  not a perfectly random sample, but it is fairly representative of the whole. Democrats Abroad. It’s a mostly female chapter and a group overwhelmingly dominated by retirees. Makes me the odd man out for being a man, and a working man, and being much less affluent that just about everyone else in the organization. Had I not been born here I don’t make or have enough money to get a residency visa, and one of the governments over the past more than 26 years I have been running The Panama News would have kicked me out of the country for unflattering journalism.

But while being different, I have the sense to know roughly who the organization is. We are mostly retirees.

So WHY put the former human resources director for the Stanford Financial Group — until the FBI shut them down — in charge of a Democrats Abroad Panama leadership makeover? The Stanford Financial Group was US history’s second-largest ponzi scheme fraud, only surpassed by Bernie Madoff’s operation. The Stanford Financial Group stole some Seven Billion Dollars, much of it from retirees. What led Kim Antonsen to think that putting Joan Stack in charge of our nominations committee would likely be acceptable to our mostly retired base of supporters?

It’s not a matter of innocent until proven guilty, or acceptable unless indicted or convicted or sent to prison. It’s not a criminal case. It’s a matter of political judgment. The lack of this tells me that Kim — who knew of the association — should not be our chair for another term. As far as I am concerned, better if some third person other than Kim or me steps into the race. But if nobody else does, I just might.

I don’t say this as some holy man — I am not — nor to question Joan Stack’s membership in the Democratic Party, nor to take away from the successes of Kim Antonsen’s shift as chair. But our leaders should know better than to bring such questions upon the organization and to present such a vulnerable symbol to our supporters, by appointing Joan Stack to head our leadership selection process. 

So should I run? Or better yet, shouldn’t you?

 

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