Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What a blowout, all because of apathy

You may have heard about it by now – the indicted and expelled state Rep. Derrick Smith is an overwhelming favorite to return to the Statehouse in Springfield.
SMITH: Will he do a Schwarzenegger 'I'll be back'?

Then again, you may not have. Because it seems the fact that Smith has an overwhelming lead in a recent poll is most likely the result of apathy. Nobody cares!

NO MATTER HOW much the pundit-types try to get you all worked up about the thought of a sitting legislator facing criminal charges, you seem to have more important things in your life to worry about.

Which may well be the reason why Smith winds up getting re-elected to the General Assembly and his old Illinois House seat in the Nov. 6 elections.

I’m sure some of the pundit types are going to claim that this is an embarrassment – a stain on the political reputations of Illinois and Chicago. They’re going to claim that something is seriously wrong that “the people” could willingly pick such a person – even though they have an alternative in that election.

I’m not going to make that argument.

IF ANYTHING, I’M going to say that the only stain is on the reputation of the Illinois House itself. For they were the ones who acted this spring and summer with great, self-righteous indignation to put Smith through hearings and ultimately orchestrate a public vote in which they overwhelmingly decided to expel him from the state Legislature.

Yet they couldn’t do anything about the fact that he had already managed to win the Democratic nomination for the Illinois House 10th District seat (which represents the Near West Side of the city).

He remains on the ballot, and there is something of an effort resembling a third-party campaign by Lance Tyson (a one-time aide to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger) that is meant to challenge him.

Although the Capitol Fax newsletter recently reported how the only official who seems to be giving Tyson any kind of support is Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (who lives in that legislative district).

OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS seem to not really care who manages to win this particular election.

Which would explain the poll taken by the We Ask America group. Tyson only has 9 percent support, compared to 48 percent backing for Smith.

Admittedly, that is a huge group of undecideds. Perhaps they will unite against Smith and enable Tyson to gain a term in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Although I’d say it is more likely they could care less, and the people who do bother to vote in that particular legislative district will just go knee-jerk Democrat. Meaning Smith gets their vote despite the fact that he faces a criminal indictment in U.S. District Court that says he used his legislative seat to solicit cash bribes.

IT’S NOT THAT people approve of bribery; which is what the conservative ideologues will try to claim. Although I’d argue they’re just bitter about the fact that their preferred political party is so weak in the city that they couldn’t even get a token challenger to Smith on the ballot.

Perhaps what we’re tired of is self-righteous political rhetoric. Which is what we got our fill of during the whole expulsion process. Just about everybody felt the need to either denounce Smith, or claim they really weren’t that close to him to begin with.

If it turns out that Smith manages to get himself re-elected for a few more months, perhaps that blow to the Legislature’s ego is appropriate punishment. Perhaps they shouldn’t be trying to treat Smith as some sort of historic exemption – particularly when one considers the number of political people who have faced criminal indictment and remained in office until the very end.

That end, of course, being the day that they are found “guilty” and have to resign their post. In all likelihood, Smith will wither away eventually. It will be in a way, however, that will deny other officials a chance to score some cheap rhetorical points for themselves.


No comments: