Thursday, February 16, 2012

Living in D.C., or back in Midwest?

I have never been one to get worked up over the whole issue of residency for our members of Congress.
JACKSON: South Shore, or Foggy Bottom?

After all, we expect these officials to represent our interests in Washington, D.C., which means they need to spend significant amounts of time on Capitol Hill.

WHICH MEANS THEY’RE not going to be on hand for every Podunk political event “back home.” Unlike state legislators who need to spend about two or three months in Springfield while living their lives in their home districts, our members of Congress need to have some sort of D.C.-area residence.

It’s called being practical.

Then again, no one ever accused political people of being practical – particularly when their only goal is to take someone down on Election Day.

Which is why we have heard some rhetoric this election cycle devoted to the concept that some incumbent local official really isn’t local – they’ve “gone Beltway.”

WHICH MEANS THEY live within (or near) that Interstate highway that circles the nation’s capital city. They’ve forgotten about us. They’re really not one of us. So they shouldn’t represent “us” any longer.

Although it can be argued that the legislators who don’t spend enough time in D.C. have so little influence that maybe their constituents gain nothing from their presence.

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., has been hit with some of that talk. His opponent in the Democratic primary, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, has said that Jackson does not really live in the South Shore neighborhood any longer.
LUGAR: Not 'Hoosier' enough?

He lives within the District of Columbia, and it is only his wife, Sandi, who lives in Chicago. Or so Halvorson has hinted (Jackson aides deny this).

WHICH MAY BE a subtle way of reminding us of alleged marital difficulties the couple has had, without actually coming out and spewing sorry stories of infidelity.

But it remains the fact that the Chicago residence is still the legal one for Jackson (and where he lives whenever he has time to spend in Chicago proper) and the primary one for his wife – which is good because she serves as an alderman in the City Council.

The real “controversy” would be if there was a D.C.-residing alderman in the Chicago City Council. Sandi Jackson as the go-between of city and federal government. The daughter-in-law of the Rev. Jesse Jackson being the one who passed messages between President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Then again, that image would be nothing more than ludicrous. Although it wouldn’t necessarily be the most ludicrous one created during this campaign cycle.

BECAUSE I THINK that might involve the allegations now being made against Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

The long-serving senator from the neighboring Hoosier State is going to have to cope with a complaint filed this week by which his political opponents contend that his presence on the ballot in Indiana amounts to voter fraud.

He doesn’t live there.

They claim he sold his Indianapolis home decades ago, and is now a full-time resident of the D.C. suburbs that spill over into Virginia.

WHICH MAY BE true. After all these decades and his time spent working his way through the Senate ranks, his real “home” may well be on Capitol Hill – although it seems he’s not one of those legislators who’s so low-budget that he chooses to live in his government office.

Rather than following the lead of Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who is notorious in political circles for sharing a D.C. apartment with some of his colleagues that has all the ambiance of a “frat house.”

But we’re talking Tea Party-types here, who are more interested in pushing ideology than anything else. The fact that Indiana gains from having “one of its own” embedded in the D.C. establishment doesn’t seem to matter much, because they’re merely interested in ramming their own agenda down everybody else’s throats.

That is why the Tea Party types want Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to take actions that would boot Lugar from the ballot in that state’s May 8 primary elections.

THE PROBLEM THEY face is that Indiana law, backed up by the state Attorney General's office, is fairly explicit. Members of Congress can vote in Indiana even if they have given up their home after being elected initially. Which makes this Tea Party-type activity nothing more than a whiny statement.

Then again, Tea Party-type activists have made it clear all along they want Lugar gone (officially, they prefer Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock). He’s not enough of an ideologue for them – even though in the past year Lugar has gone out of his way to reinvent himself from a practical politician to an ideologue, and has taken back his one-time strong support of measures such as the immigration reform-related DREAM Act.

Maybe those Tea Party-types realize that Lugar is too much for them to defeat on Election Day. So they want to dump him by other means prior to the elections.

Which strikes me more as the actions of sore losers, rather than those of anyone interested in participating in true democracy.


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