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An editorial by Bob Alman

The USCA, contrary to the desires of its management, has now become, for all practical purposes, an oligarchy. There is no longer any real decision-making power or accountability for the governance of the USCA at the club level.

This is a direct consequence of passage of the "one-man, one-vote" constitutional amendment, which took away the authority of local club management to discuss and condition issues and vote their club's views on constitutional issues and election of regional officers. Instead, "one-man, one-vote" gave the ballot to individuals who now vote by mail, absent the opportunity of having the facts and hearing the debate.

Who could blame such voters for registering a knee-jerk, "common sense" opinion, marking their slap shot ballots, and mailing them in to the secretary of the USCA thinking they've done their democratic duty? To achieve more than a superficial understanding of the issues on their own would require an unreasonable investment of time and energy. Most of us in this situation are simply not up to it.

For several years, those who saw the dangers to the USCA organization in adopting the ill-conceived "one-man, one-vote" constitutional amendment lobbied effectively against it. But its proponents kept bringing it back in one form or another. Finally, in 1996, weary of attempting to counter with reasoned argument such a compelling slogan, USCA organizers held their noses, got out of the way, and allowed "one-man, one-vote" to pass. I was one of them, and I agreed that the USCA needed to get beyond "one-man, one-vote" in order to address more pressing issues.


So the measure passed. And now, in the first year of "one-man, one-vote," we are already seeing the consequences in the current USCA ballot to be tallied at the USCA Annual Meeting in April. The consequences are:

  1. Likely passage of a measure most informed USCA members would now agree is a BAD measure. It will pass simply because it is on the ballot and recommended by the USCA Management Committee. This is the measure moving West Virginia and Virginia from the Southern Region to the Mid-Atlantic Region. (Some people I have informed of the situation have said, "It's too bad, but I've already mailed in my ballot from the USCA CROQUET BULLETIN, and I voted for it because I assumed it was a sound measure, or the Management Committee wouldn't have put it on the ballot.")

  2. Likely passage of a measure which amends the constitution by taking away from the USCA electorate the power of changing or setting regional boundaries and gives it to the Management Committee, who will no longer require the confirmatory vote of the electorate to make such changes. Again, the reason this will pass, basically, is because it's on the ballot and the USCA Management Committee recommends it.


Happily, passage of the second of these measure will render meaningless the passage of the first. It will allow the Management Committee to quickly undo the damage done by the first measure, without being required by the constitution to wait another year to ask the general membership to vote West Virginia and Virginia back into the Southern region where, as it turns out, many if not most residents want to remain.

That's a happy solution, you might say, but is this any way to run a national organization? Doesn't it remind you of the Initiative process in California and Oregon, in which contradictory ballot measures are frequently passed in the same election and end up in lengthy litigation before the Supreme Court?

As an amateur student of organizational pathologies, I see the issues of "one-man, one-vote" and changing of the regional boundaries dove-tailing in a most interesting way, revealing the dangerous organizational path the USCA has taken towards further centralizing power.

Destroying the club-level grassroots democratic basis of the USCA through something called a "one-man, one-vote" initiative is the kind of thing journalists are fond of calling a "sad irony." This sad irony need not be tragic, however, or permanent - not if the USCA management acknowledges what happened and accepts the fact that the organization is now, functionally, an oligarchy; that mailed-ballot voting is merely a confirmatory formality; that isolated voters should not be expected to weigh and decide issues for which top management needs to be responsible.

With the virtual disenfranchisement of the local clubs and members, the USCA Management Committee now bears an unreasonably heavy responsibility to find new ways of assaying local sentiment on important issues.

Why? Because it is another fact of the USCA that it is run by unpaid volunteers. Most members of the executive committee - and for that matter, the chairs of the appointed sub-committees - have active working lives, family, and other responsibilities. They simply don't have time to do the study, the investigation, and the canvassing that is ideally needed to condition the resolution of many issues before them.


But they sure as hell can do a better job figuring out the issues than an isolated individual electorate, so the USCA Management Committee will tend to draw unto itself increasing powers - as in the case of the current ballot measure to allow the Management Committee to set regional boundaries. This is a necessary and inevitable path of organizational evolution in the wake of "one-man, one-vote." The members of the Management Committee did not wish to become oligarchs; but they must have the decision-making power in order to govern effectively.

This situation is the fault of neither management nor the voters. If the fault lies anywhere, it is with the sloganeers who invested their whole hearts in their righteous campaign, but not all their brains. Now, surely even they will be able to see the need to restore to the USCA the representative government which their constitutional amendment has taken away.

Once the consequences of the "one-man, one-vote" passage have been acknowledged, there is something that management can do to address this situation. Everyone in the USCA would benefit from a real commitment of the USCA Management Committee to share its burden of governance with the entire Executive Committee (the sectional and district presidents) as active and involved advisers to the Regional Vice-Presidents. In this way the Management Committee, to put it plainly, takes itself off the hook and makes clear to all USCA members that the district and section presidents now have the responsibility to keep their regional officers on track and in synch with the best interests of the local USCA membership.


To truly "de-federalize" USCA politics, the individual votes of USCA members could be made relevant again by having USCA members ELECT their district and section presidents (who are currently appointed by management). This is a more responsible and practical use of "one-man, one-vote" in the context of representative government, as the electorate would not be required to vote directly on issues, but to put into office those in whom they repose some confidence in their ability to make good decisions on their behalf. The district and sectional officers would then be held accountable by the voters for keeping their regional vice presidents in touch with the grassroots membership and representing their best interests on the Management Committee.

In addition to making possible the direct election of the Executive Committee to restore a semblance of representative government to the USCA, management needs to make a commitment to broader communication of issues which affect the membership, through already-existing channels: the USCA CROQUET BULLETIN; the NATIONAL CROQUET CALENDAR; the USCA Website and CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE.

All these channels of communications are freely available to USCA management. There is no need for further "nasty surprises" like the constitutional moving of the Virginias to another region without the knowledge or consent of the members most affected.

Events have quickly revealed to even the most casual observer the deadly flaws in "one-man, one-vote." But "one-man, one-vote" need not be viewed merely as a mistake. With the right fix, it could yet become a forward step in the evolution of the USCA towards a genuinely workable representative government nurtured in the grassroots of local clubs.

But first and foremost, to get this thing fixed, we'll need a great slogan. Something, perhaps, like....




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