Monday, October 22, 2012

A Jackson ‘apologist?’ Or a political realist? ’Most candidates say little

JACKSON: A 'robo' Congressman?
The campaign for Illinois’ second congressional district took a bizarre turn when residents of the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs got one of those “robo-calls” from Jesse Jackson, Jr., himself.

It’s not the use of the “robo-call” itself. Campaigns use them all the time – hoping that a significant number of people who get the calls don’t immediately hang up the phone upon realizing it’s NOT a real-life person talking to them.

BUT JACKSON IS the public official who has been on medical leave from his Congressional post since June, and whom most people (including many of his top aides) haven’t physically seen in months.

That recorded message was Jackson’s attempt to reach out to the people whom he expects to vote for him in another 15 days, telling them among other things, “I am human. I’m doing my best.”

Now I’m sure that some people are snickering at the very attempt. Or others may claim it is some sort out outrage that Jackson would think a recorded message could somehow make up for the months of time in which he has told us nothing – and family members have tried to make us all feel guilty for even thinking we have a right to know what is going on.

Not that I’m on any guilt-trip. Jackson could have put all of this concern to rest early on, and the only people who would be complaining would be the ideologues whose real objection to the congressman is the fact that he is the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

THEY’D BE JUST as outraged as they are now. But we’d all be able to ignore him.

Yet I have to admit I can’t get too worked up over the circumstances under which Illinois second congressional voters (I live just a few blocks over the line in the Illinois first congressional district, where long-time Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin is challenging Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.) will be confronted when they cast ballots on Election Day – or at early voting centers beginning Monday.

Yes, it is true that Jackson has not been publicly seen. He’s not engaging in the typical routines of a campaign cycle.

Yet if we’re going to be honest, very few incumbent candidates are ever all that active in campaigning for re-election. They adopt the “Rose Garden” strategy that has them hide behind their incumbency and use all of its advantages to get away with saying and doing as little as possible – while counting on the local political organizations to turn out the vote as much as possible to ensure their re-election.

EVEN IF HE were physically fit, we really wouldn’t have seen or heard much more from him than we actually have. Jackson had his “serious” campaign back in the primary cycle. If anything, I wonder to what degree the level of political activity he engaged in against former Rep. Debbie Halvorson added to the stress.

Which makes me wonder if it is an issue if he’s physically capable of serving in Congress. That might be worth considering.

But I think the idea that Jackson is going into hiding during this election cycle is a non-issue – no matter how much the ideologues want to use Jackson’s condition as cover for the political cheap shots they want to take at him.

I’m sure some people are going to want to believe that I’m being an apologist for the Jackson campaign by downplaying the reality of his campaign activity.

IT’S JUST THAT I don’t think it’s all that relevant. The only officials who actually get out on the campaign trail and aggressively court every vote they can get are the people who are in competitive races.

Some people would have you think that every Democratic candidate ought to be campaigning as publicly as Tammy Duckworth – who has her bid for the Illinois eighth congressional district seat currently held by one-term Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.

That just isn’t realistic. It doesn’t work that way. It shouldn’t work that way.

Because if we really had every single political candidate hitting the stump every single day spewing all their campaign rhetoric, I’m sure we’d get so sick of hearing from them that we’d want to pass a law banning anybody from ever publicly campaigning for office.


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