Saturday, April 16, 2016

Kirk gains nothing from the Grand Ol’ Party – at least not this election cycle

Call it the quirkiness of electoral politics. Sometimes it just isn’t one party’s turn, and sometimes the party label that made one attractive one year is a total detriment the next time around.

KIRK: Downplaying his political party
Take Illinois’ Mark Kirk, the junior senator who back in 2010 won largely because he was a Republican. It didn’t matter that his ideological positions weren’t completely in line with the right-wing leadership that has taken over the one-time Party of Lincoln.

IT WAS SUPPOSEDLY a Republican year (Pat Quinn won for governor, regardless), and Kirk won a six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

That term is now approaching its end, and Kirk has the disadvantage of seeking re-election in a year expected to be favorable to Democrats. There’s political speculation that says all Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth has to do is remind everybody she’s running against a Republican – and a majority will vote for her.

Kirk, who served several terms in the House of Representatives from the North Shore suburbs prior to winning a Senate seat (beating Alexi Giannoulias, remember him?), is downplaying who his political allies are.

Most recently, he let it be known this week he won’t be attending the Republican National Convention to be held this summer in Cleveland. Not that I blame him for thinking there are better places to be than the shores of the Cuyahoga River.

USUALLY A SENATOR would be expected to be among the leaders of his state’s delegation to the convention. It would be the place for him to show off in front of the party leaders who will then go back home and stir up their local voters to get off their duffs come November and vote for Kirk and other Republicans.

But this is going to be the nominating convention that turns into the Donald Trump circus. Or the Ted Cruz affair. Or the evil, twisted plot (if you listen to either Trump or Cruz) by the Republican Party establishment to deprive those men of the political prize for which they have busted their behinds for the past year or so.

It probably makes some sense for Kirk to not bother going. Because all he can do is get dragged into the morass that is the Trump/Cruz show. Nobody would bother to pay attention to anything Kirk said or did in Cleveland. There’s nothing to gain.
DUCKWORTH: Not a shoo-in for '22
But it is a sad affair that what should be his primary chance to gain some attention for his campaign and have a chance to become something other than a one-term senator is getting flushed away.

PERHAPS THE IDEOLOGUES amongst the Republicans won’t mind much – after all, they only reluctantly backed Kirk in 2010 because it was the chance to take the Senate seat previously held by Barack Obama himself. Maybe they’ll envision that come 2022, they can find someone more of their own ideological leaning to run for office.

Which may be the key for Duckworth to understand come her own future. She may well win this election cycle. But there’s always the chance (a very good chance, actually) that she’d have to seek re-election in a year where her party label is a hindrance.

She’d better realize that getting elected because of a party label is about as uncertain a political ground as one can stand upon.

Because in the natural order of things, candidates come and go and political parties shift around – particularly at the national level.

BEFORE YOU START complaining about the process, keep in mind that it’s a good thing things shift back and forth. It prevents either political party from becoming too entrenched in power.

Which is totally different from the local political scene, where Chicago has been perpetually Democratic since the days of Anton Cermak and back when Hack Wilson was the big sports star of Chicago.

And where other parts of Illinois have such entrenched Republican structures that there are locals who claim they’ve never met a Democrat.

Perhaps we’d be better off locally if there were a little shakeup periodically.

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