This has been battering about in my mind since Monday night, when I heard long-time WBBM-TV political reporter Mike Flannery end his report about the beginning of impeachment proceedings with the phrase “Blagojevich Democrats.”
Flannery’s point was to tell us viewers how Republicans were planning to use Blagojevich’s political plight to try to taint all Democrats with regard to future elections.
THEY’RE GOING TO claim that the governor is the prototypical Democrat. If they can imply that all Democrats probably have done something in their careers that would be worthy of indictment (if only the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago had time to investigate all of them), perhaps they think they can win back some significant control within state government in the 2010 elections.
To go bilingual for a moment, the concept of Democrats as clones of Rod Blagojevich is caca.
The thing that is most absurd whenever Republicans (or anyone from outside of Chicago) tries to talk about Chicago’s political culture is that they can’t seem to comprehend the degree to which it is a batch of differing factions that can’t stand each other, but tolerate each other to try to advance their political interests. This turn-of-the-century postcard of the Illinois Statehouse may accurately depict the current attitude toward Rod Blagojevich.
That is why many Democrats are going to be the ones who most vehemently go after Blagojevich. It is a chance to take down someone they never liked much to begin with, and it means one less person they have to deal with in terms of trying to amass political influence. It is why the notion that Barack Obama himself is not tainted by Blagojevich's alleged actions is a very real possibility.
IT IS ALSO why the notion of a “Blagojevich Democrat” is ridiculous.
About the only person who truly falls into that category is retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago. It was his control of the state Senate and his willingness to squash punitive measures designed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that helped keep some of the gubernatorial hostility in check.
Yet what is the point of deriving labels with which to lambast Jones? He is retiring from the Legislature following a 36-year career representing South Side interests at the Statehouse, and it would appear that any chance Blagojevich would appoint him to the U.S. Senate seat so as to maintain an ally in high political places has fizzled out.
Does anybody seriously think that Madigan is a “Blagojevich Democrat?”
THIS IS THE man whose opposition to the governor’s ways has been steadfast enough that the Legislature has gone into ridiculous overtime sessions the past two years. The reason there has been so much conflict in Illinois government that has prevented things from getting done is because many Democrats have been willing to say “no” to the governor – even though he is the first Illinois governor of their political party since the mid-1970s.
Madigan himself tries to take this point to an extreme, saying during a Monday night interview with WTTW-TV that Republicans led by Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, were, “the biggest enablers of Blagojevich over the last two years.”
He argues that Republicans, in an attempt to gain some influence against Democratic majorities in both the Illinois House and state Senate, sided with the governor on select issues – even though now, Cross is among Blagojevich’s most verbal critics.
But Madigan is such the opposite of a “Blagojevich Democrat” that he literally refuses to attend meetings with the governor to discuss state government business (instead, forcing House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, to attend in his place).
DOES ANYBODY BELIEVE that Mayor Richard M. Daley is a “Blagojevich Democrat?”
If anything, Blagojevich as governor has always been something of a rival to Daley for political control. Watching Blagojevich squirm has to be a boost for Daley and the City Hall crew – even if just for the reason that every moment spent by the FBI investigating the governor is one less moment spent paying attention to Chicago city government proper.
In fact, just who are these “Blagojevich Democrats?” I honestly can’t think of any. The Blagojevich era has reached its level of rancor because the man has managed to make political enemies on virtually all flanks (even though every Democrat in Chicago has his share of political enemies among his so-called colleagues).
Keep in mind that Chicago Tribune-commissioned poll people like to cite – the one that says Blagojevich only has a 13 percent approval rating (which may have dropped to 8 percent once details of last week’s criminal complaint became public knowledge).
THERE IS NO way that the governor could truly reach a level that low if there were any sizable number of “Blagojevich Democrats” in existence. Republicans in Illinois just don’t have the influence all by themselves to create an 87 percent majority of the public who do NOT approve of the governor’s performance on the job.
What this phrase amounts to is nothing more than cheap rhetoric meant to try to bolster the chances that a Republican or two can actually win a statewide office in the 2010 elections. Could it really be evidence of just how weak the pool of prospective candidates for those elections will be?
Remember that two-time statewide loser Joe Birkett (the DuPage County state’s attorney) is likely to be at the top of the GOP ticket. This is a party that needs a blow of historic proportions to hit the Democratic Party for them to have a chance to regain anything.
“Blagojevich Democrats” is nothing more than cheap rhetoric. I’d like to think Chicago and/or Illinois voters will have enough sense to see it for what little it is when it comes up in campaign speeches and television spots in upcoming months.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Democrats in Chicago have never learned to “play nice” with each other (http://chicagoargus.blogspot.com/2008/01/is-city-halls-political-culture-to.html). That is what makes the idea of “Blagojevich Democrats” absurd. Where were these “Blagojevich Democrats” when the Legislature was stuck in a stalemate over the issue of (http://chicagoargus.blogspot.com/2008/01/statehouse-could-pass-for-ricks-cafe.html) mass transit funding?