Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Touch of old-school politics; replacing holiday turkeys with paid-off bills?

I’ve heard the stories from Chicago’s political past, from the days when certain aldermen – usually those whose constituents were amongst the poorest and least fortunate of the city’s populace – would give out their annual holiday turkeys.

WILSON: Handing out cash
Or hams. Or something else that could be a main course at a holiday dinner – thereby ensuring that some poor family would have something to eat on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Just like all those rich folks who could afford to buy their own holiday meal.

THE PAYOFF, OF course, was that the alderman was trying to build up good will amongst people who had a vote come Election Day. They’d remember who gave them something tangible and would be inclined to cast their ballot for the alderman’s re-election – along with the higher-level politicians aligned with the said alderman.

When you look at things that way, it would seem that Willie Wilson (the African-American executive who started with a South Side McDonald’s franchise and self-made himself a fortune) is playing old-school politics and trying to maintain good will amongst the kind of people whom he thinks would be inclined to take him seriously should he actually run for mayor come February (and an April runoff) 2019.

Wilson has attracted public attention in recent days for the fact that he showed up at a South Side church and gave away cash to anybody with hardly any questions asked. He wants to think that he’s helping the unfortunate by enabling them to pay off some bill that otherwise could devastate their life’s routines.

Some have questioned whether Wilson’s act amounts to bribery (buying peoples’ votes). Others are all offended because Gov. Bruce Rauner was at the church with him – and may have actually provided some of the cash that Wilson gave away.

ALTHOUGH IT ALSO appears state Elections officials interpret the law as being vague; meaning that neither Wilson nor Rauner nor anyone associated with either man is likely to face the prospect of a criminal indictment for their actions.

I stumbled across one weblog where the writer tried to claim Wilson’s actions are downright petty to all the favors and support that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be able to buy with the roughly $12 million he has raised for his own re-election campaign fund.

Not that I’d agree with such thoughts. But I also suspect Wilson will not be bothered by his actions – and probably will go out of his way to denounce his detractors as being “out of touch” with the realities of urban Chicago.

RAUNER: Was gubernatorial money involved?
Appealing to the sensibilities of people who would regard having their telephone bill paid off as being more “real” than anything more conventional political people could ever offer them.

I’D ARGUE IT’S really taking advantage of people who don’t know better and buying them off dirt-cheap! Really, how many government officials of the past got themselves re-elected, and capable of cashing in on the political gravy train, for the mere cost of a holiday ham?

How much good will did Wilson get for the roughly $300,000 that he says his personal foundation (and not political campaign fund) shelled out at church this past weekend?

I’d say it’s cynical to think that coughing up some pocket cash (which is what people like Wilson and Rauner think of the sum offered up this weekend) can be used to buy up the good will of people with nothing else in life.

It is a tactic that ought to be firmly lodged in our political past – because it really does reek of buying votes, even though the law sees just enough of a gap in reality for the act to be construed as such.

NOT THAT I expect Wilson to care one bit about anything I write here, or anyone else says or thinks.

EMANUEL: The ultimate target of tactic?
He’d probably say I’m being all “high-minded” and that these “rules” aren’t realistic to daily life; existing solely to “hold down” the less fortunate amongst us. As if we’re making an issue of this only because it is African-American people continuing to benefit from something that used to be standard political practice.

If anything, it is more likely to be Rauner who will suffer political blows. Guilt by association, even though he has said he never would have given Wilson’s foundation any kind of contribution if he had known it were to be distributed in such a crass manner.

Which could be mere double-talk on Rauner’s part to escape the taint of this controversy involving the governor and possible mayoral candidate who do have one thought in common – both probably think it is Emanuel who holds down their ability to have greater influence politically. Because Rauner certainly hopes that any good will Wilson derives will spill over onto himself come Election Day on Nov. 6.


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