I couldn’t help but reminisce back to 1992 after seeing the formal debate between the mayoral candidates that took place just hours after Rahm Emanuel got the Illinois Supreme Court seal of approval to be on the ballot for the Feb. 22 municipal elections.
|MOSELEY-BRAUN: Where has the old Carol gone?|
Thursday night was the time when Carol Moseley-Braun chose to go on the attack against Rahm Emanuel, doing what she could to try to take him down in the eyes of would-be voters. She also took her share of pot-shots at Gery Chico, the guy who has headed the public schools, the city colleges and the park district – along with being an early chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley.
SO WHAT IS memorable about that? Aren’t political people invariably going to take pot shots at each other during an election season debate?
That is true. Yet I couldn’t help but remember when Moseley-Braun was a fresh-faced former legislator and county office holder (recorder of deeds) who was running in the ’92 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
Then-Sen. Alan Dixon had managed to tick off women’s activists by joining in the efforts to denounce Anita Hill when she testified about her past contact with then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
But those women weren’t particularly organized behind any candidate. Certainly not Moseley-Braun. If anything, the Carol Moseley-Braun of 1992 was reminiscent of the Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins of today – a candidate on the ballot with some interesting ideas, but not enough campaign cash to run a credible effort.
UNTIL, THAT IS, the debates came along. For there were three major candidates wishing to run for U.S. Senate from Illinois as a Democrat. Besides Dixon and Moseley-Braun, there was also Al Hofeld, an attorney of some personal financial means who had never held elective office.
|EMANUEL: As though he needed a boost|
I still remember the debates that resulted between the three. Hofeld had run a negative campaign, trying to make Dixon appear to be someone old and out-of-touch. Dixon tried responding by making the political neophyte appear to be politically clueless.
Dixon and Hofeld beat up on each other. They largely ignored Moseley-Braun, who when she did speak came across as the one concerned about issues. In fact, she came across as the only logical person among the three candidates.
This time, Moseley-Braun went on the attack to the point where she appeared to be the one who was clueless. She managed to make Rahm Emanuel, the Mighty Rahm-bo with the foul mouth and crass temperament, appear to be the calm, collected, intelligent candidate.
MOSELEY-BRAUN SEEMS TO have lost touch with her inner-self, or at least the things she had going for her 19 years ago. She almost seemed to be the equivalent of a female version of Hofeld from all those years ago.
Considering that Emanuel was able to follow up his debate appearance with campaign advertisements on Friday touting the fact that he once worked for Barack Obama (and comes as close to a presidential endorsement as Obama can give Rahm), he winds up looking like the august, imperial official who will raise the level of Chicago government to new heights – compared to the other candidates who come across as local rubes who may have strong backing in their home neighborhoods, but have never ventured beyond their home block in their lives.
It’s not like Emanuel needed any more advantages than he already has – the largest campaign fund and solid backing from the corporate types who can easily help him come up with more cash if needed! But Moseley-Braun gave it to him.
Now I understand why Moseley-Braun feels the need to get aggressive.
HER CAMPAIGN IS lagging. Financially, she isn’t attracting much money. Watkins actually raised just slightly more than she did.
She also has minimal appeal to anyone outside of those activists who are so determined to have an African-American person elected as mayor that they’ll settle for Moseley-Braun.
I noticed in mid-week a poll conducted by We Ask America (and paid for by the Chicago Retail Merchants Association) that showed Carol running third with 11.04 percent IF Rahm remained on the mayoral ballot. When asked who they would support if he had been knocked off, her support only went up to 17.32 percent.
By comparison, Chico’s backing went from 14.41 percent with Emanuel on the ballot way up to 32.99 percent and the new front-runner – had the Supreme Court given Rahm the boot.
THAT SAME POLL claimed 71.53 percent of people questioned wanted Emanuel to remain on the ballot.
|WATKINS: Give her Carol's slot?|
All of which means that Moseley-Braun, the darling of the Democratic set who brought pride to Chicago back in ’92 with her sudden rise to national politics, is feeling the pressure brought on by the anonymity she has experienced in recent years. On a side note, I got my chuckle from a Watkins quip that she didn’t even realize until the campaign season that Moseley-Braun still lived in Chicago.
I’m sure the idea of falling back into anonymity come Feb. 23 (or April 6, if she manages to turn this into a run-off election) is enough to make her try desperation measures – which is how she came across in that first debate.
Perhaps future debates will give us glimpses of the “old Carol.” Either that, or perhaps we ought to give her slot come Valentine's Day on WTTW-TV to Watkins – who might just come up with some real ideas for the opposition candidates to ponder.