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Posts Tagged ‘Blagojevich’

The Special Calculus of Special Elections

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 26, 2009

feingold1Russ Feingold, so often the darling of the Goo-Go set, is either feeling very cynical this week or he’s just not thinking in terms of reality.

Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, is making noises about proposing a Constitutional Amendment to take away a Governor’s ability to make an appointment to fill out a vacated Senate seat and instead mandate that a special election be held. While that sounds like a very good, very “small-d” democratic solution to the problem of filling a vacant elected office, it is not; in fact it’s a boon to every political machine in the country.

Special elections hugely benefit the political machines and corrupt infrastructure that funds them. If money is the lifeblood of elected politics, then it is the actual corporeal structure of a special. By definition a special involves raising the maximum amount of cash in the minimum amount of time and nearly always favors a political incumbent with pre-made name recognition– people don’t come out of nowhere and win specials. Whoever wins the special is totally beholden to the machine that backed him, pretty much guaranteeing that you aren’t going to have some independent-minded free agent in the slot. This isn’t a secret to anyone who has ever spent a year or two in political life.

If a Governor makes an appointment, you get a similar political insider-type who is beholden to the Governor’s political interests. He or she may face stupid, onerous electoral conditions like New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand does, having to run twice in the next four years for a seat that normally runs on a six year electoral cycle; as a result she will be cutting deals like mad to finance those elections and to fend off what may be a developing coordinated challenge to herself and David Patterson from an unholy Bloomberg-Cuomo alliance. They also face a press that may be inherently hostile due to the unelected nature of the office.

So, if there are significant and equal downsides to each system that lead to very similar people gaining the office, then why would I be so shocked to see Russ Feingold, the alleged defender of good government and loud proponent of saving the public’s money from government folly, going to the absurd length of ammending the Constitution over a basically meaningless procedural change? Very simply because special elections are hugely expensive to the people of the state forced to hold them. A local special, to fill out a County or City office, places a huge financial burden on the municipality; a statewide election, as Feingold would mandate, is a financial kick in the shorts to the entire state for no practical gain over the current flawed system, which at least has the virtue of not causing a huge outpouring of taxpayer money to achieve the same result.

Appointment or Special Election; either way you wind up with a political insider who gets to run for re-election using the expensive (to you and me) tools of incumbency. Why would Russ Feingold decide to ding his political integrity over what is, in essence, a cheap press hit for him on the heels of the Caroline/Burris silliness? The simple answer is the cynicism of politics– he knows that people are outraged over the recent Senatorial follies but that they don’t actually know what they should be outraged against. He’s throwing them some red meat to the lions; he just isn’t telling them that the meat was cut from their own bodies.

From Feingold, that’s a shame.


Posted in American Politics, CongressCritters, Jerks | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Ironic World of Bobby Rush

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 6, 2009

Bobby Rush had a large tumor cut out of his throat to save him from cancer; the scar from that, however, is 2803066331_3498031398_onothing compared to the one where his nose used to be, the result of self-mutilation in spite of his face.

A founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party and every inch the radical that the GOP failed to portray Barack Obama as during the campaign, Rush has gone from being an effective agent of social change to the stooge that he always railed against. While many only need to read as far into Rush’s biography as the Black Panther tag, Rush took his notoriety and organization and did some amazing things with them back in the late Sixties and early Seventies. From sickle-cell testing and awareness to education reform and nutrition programs, Rush embodied his ethos and moved forward issues and programs badly needed by his community literally by force of will. The “radical organization as social services provider” model that he promulgated has been twisted to more nefarious purposes by many groups since, with Hamas being the one most currently in the public eye.

How sad it is, then, to see what Rush has become, an aging crank who is literally becoming the stooge of the people whom he so virulently railed against throughout his life. Over the past week Rush has forced himself back onto the scene by enlisting in one of the dumbest causes seen of late, the push by Rod Blagojevich to appoint Roland Burris to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Burris is an old line Chicago politician of a similar stripe to Rush, but with one significant difference– Burris knowingly sold out to the Chicago establishment years and years ago, maintaining his Civil Rights status as a thin camouflage for his naked ambition. His appointment by Blagojevich is seen by many as a “screw you” to Barack Obama, whom Blagojevich sees as the proximate cause of his downfall.

Rush’s frenzied support of Burris slips into that “Screw Obama” template quite handily. Rush has long despised the President-Elect as the reflection of everything that Rush saw himself to be in his youth but failed to be as a member of the establishment that he sought to reform. Young Obama, the community organizer on the South Side stomping grounds of Rush, brought a measured and calm approach to helping the community, yes, one part Alinsky but three parts Harvard. Whereas Rush would’ve railed against “the man” and crammed what he needed for the community down “his” throat, Obama worked the system to achieve his goals deftly and with a maximum of resident participation but also a minimum of screaming and stress. When a more mature State Senator Obama sought to move into the national scene, it was the aging dinosaur Rush whom he set his sights upon. Obama primaried Rush in 2000 for his House seat and suffered the only electoral loss of his career to date in a nasty primary that saw Rush frequently resort to harsh personal attacks on Obama, calling him at times a “…Harvard educated fool”, a “puppy”, and, most surprisingly from a civil rights leader like Rush, a “boy”.

This past week has seen Congressman Rush continue his harsh personal attacks on Barack Obama coupled with racial invective totally inappropriate to the situation. Rush has become the token black activist serving at Blagojevich’s behest, forwarding the cynical supposition that the Democratic resistance to Buriss’ appointment is a matter of racism rather than one of propriety and legality. From his hateful use of the lynching hot point to his comparison of the “cause” of Blagojevich & Burris to the Jena Nine, Rush parodies everything he has ever stood for.

He still is a racial firebrand, but his torch is now wielded not by an oppressed minority seeking to burn down their oppressor’s castle but by that cynical and haughty Duke himself in order to set light to the pyre upon which the original cause is burnt.

Rush today is Rush as satire and nothing more. Railing against the manifestation of his dreams, an African-American President drawn from the Community Organizing movement of the South Side of Chicago, for the sake of a guy who is every bit the plantation master would be comical were it not so sad. His is a very modern tragedy.

Posted in American Politics, Jerks | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

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