Friday, August 21, 2015

Out with the old on political scene, White and Carter keep busy into old age

Listening to a 90-year-old Jimmy Carter talk Thursday morning about the treatment he will start receiving for minuscule (but still deadly) cancerous spots on his brain couldn’t help but remind me of that election cycle nearly 40 years ago when the man from Plains (as in Georgia) became our president.

From 1976, when Mayor Daley gave Jimmy Carter a less-than-stellar election effort
To be honest, Carter prevailed because the stink of Watergate hovered over the nation – leaving a lot of people turned off to the political party of Richard Nixon.

ANYBODY WHO WON the Democratic primary was likely to win the general election in that Bicentennial year.

Amongst our own local political trivia, it ought to be noted that 1976 was one of the fluke years.

It was one of only two election cycles during the 20th Century (1916 was the other) in which someone managed to win a presidential election WITHOUT taking Illinois.

In what was Cook County “Boss” Richard J. Daley’s last election cycle on the national stage (he died one month later), Illinois’ votes in the Electoral College went to then-incumbent President Gerald R. Ford.

MAKING THE LAND of Lincoln one of the few places that actually did vote to have Ford as our nation’s chief executive.

Carter took only 53 percent of the vote in Cook County, meaning all the rest of the state (outside of a few sparsely-populated Southern Illinois counties) was able to gang up on Chicago and put the state into the Republican column.

The reports back then indicated that Daley didn’t think much of the idea of a Southerner like Carter, and doubted he had much appeal to working-class Chicago. Which resulted in the lackluster effort by the political organization to turn out the vote.

There also were the reports about how Daley felt insulted at the Democratic National Convention that year when his big public moment was to attend a press conference with Miss Lillian – as in Jimmy Carter’s mother.

CONSIDERING SHE WAS the one with the sassy personality, it would have made the aging Daley come across like the grouchy ol’ man from Bridgeport – telling the kids to keep off his lawn.

Or perhaps to have the cops parked on the block to keep watch on his bungalow do it for him?

WHITE: Will he finally retire come '18?
But Carter went on to win his one term in office – one that still gives the conservative ideologues material for their rants and rages. So much that those who felt compelled to use Fox News Channel websites to read the story to make crude insults about the man!

Back in those days when Carter and Daley were at the top of the pecking order, one of the lower-rungs was Jesse White, who had just finished serving his first term representing a piece of Chicago in the Illinois House of Representatives.

AN OFFICE HE held through 1993 – when he got himself elected to what locally was a higher post; Cook County recorder of deeds.

Then, in the 1998 elections, White won the post that was supposed to allow him to retire on top – he became Illinois secretary of state at age 64. A term there, and he could go out in style.

Except that White has managed to keep that post through five terms. Although he said Thursday he has no intention of running for term number six come the 2018 election cycle. Retirement for White would come at age 84.

Although I found it interesting to learn he intends to remain active by continuing to operate the Jesse White Tumblers, the gymnastics group that tries to give inner-city youth something to do.

JUST AS HOW Carter told reporter-types he wants to be able to think he can carry on with his charitable works even while receiving his medical treatments.

Some people just seem to want to keep busy. Which may be why they are remembered long after most of us are forgotten?


For what it is worth, following is a commentary I wrote for United Press International from Springfield, Ill., at the end of Jesse White’s first week in January 1999 of what could wind up being his 20-year return to the Illinois Statehouse scene.

Around the Statehouse

White’s Statehouse ‘return’ well-received


SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Jan. 18 (UPI) – When Jesse White gave up an Illinois House seat and a career in state government in 1992 to be a Cook County government official, he was following the Chicago rulebook about moving up in politics.

But the Cook County recorder of deeds return last week to the Statehouse scene made him one of Illinois’ most popular politicians these days.

“I’m glad to be home,” White, 64, says of his return to the state payroll when he was sworn in as Illinois secretary of state.

Democrats routinely gave him enthusiastic rounds of applause and cheers during his public appearances last week. Even Republicans are on the White bandwagon.

Part of the appeal is the bipartisan political rhetoric that flowed through Springfield last week. Once the General Assembly and state government has to start doing things for people, the blatant praise will pass.

White’s popularity from Democrats is due to the party’s lack of anyone holding a state constitutional office during the past four years.

Now, a Democrat controls the agency that has many jobs around Illinois and deals with licensing motorists – the function that brings most people into routine contact with state government.

“He’s looking mighty good up there,” state Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago. Noted during legislative inauguration ceremonies where White presided. “It’s nice to have one of our own in a position of power.”

But White’s record of community service, including the nearly 40 years that he has headed the Jesse White Tumblers gymnastics team and other work he has done to benefit inner-city kids in Chicago, also is a factor.

It is hard for even the most cynical political observer to bad-mouth someone with White’s social work background. One Statehouse observer says White, “already was an American hero. Now, he’s an American hero with 1,000 patronage jobs.”

One should not doubt that White knows how to do politics. Already, he is arranging to put failed lieutenant governor nominee Mary Lou Kearns on his state payroll.

White also is playing the Chicago political game, trying to influence the choice of his successor as recorder of deeds.

White is backing Darlena Williams-Burnett, the wife of a Chicago alderman, even though Cook County Board President John Stroger and other officials prefer state Rep. Eugene Moore, D-Maywood.

White also became the first newly-elected pol to create a mini-scandal of sorts by offering a key financial post in the Illinois secretary of state’s office – and its $70,000 annual salary – to his daughter, Glenna.

But political observers are putting all that aside. Many are recalling White’s cooperation and willingness to support newly-elected colleagues during his 16 years in the Illinois House.

He’s close enough to them that state Rep. Joel Brunsvold, D-Milan, quips White can still be used by the Illinois House softball team, which has not been able to beat the state Senate team in years.

White played baseball in the Chicago Cubs minor league system in the 1960s, and remains athletic. But it is his Cubs connection that led to what was the closest to a hostile comment made about White all last week.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – speaking like the life-long Chicago Sout’ Sider that he is – says, “the only mistake (White) ever made in his life was to play with the Cubs, instead of the White Sox.”


Copyright 1999 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

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