What's All This Then?

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This time the vote agreed with the exit polls - even in Ohio. I’m reasonably pleased with the results because we absolutely have to make changes - in our Iraq strategy, in foreign affairs in general and in our domestic agenda. It simply wasn’t going to happen with both houses of congress in Republican hands. No one was challenging the executive branch and oversight was virtually non-existent. That should change - and I hope it will change for the better. There’s no guarantee of course. The majority members are still politicians - not knights in shining armor.

This isn’t a partisan blog like some that are always being quoted by other media - so there will be no gloating here. To the contrary, what I feel compelled to talk about is precisely what I think is the negative role that partisanship played in this election - as it does in election after election. And I imagine it will continue to do so as long as people insist upon calling themselves Republicans or Democrats and blindly voting for anyone running on those party labels.

Two years ago, 1,371,882 people in Illinois voted for Alan Keyes, who was running for the U.S. Senate as an "imported" Republican. They voted for him despite his maniacal harangues about his opponent being the personification of evil and his predictions that God would bring him victory. They voted for him because there was an R next to his name on the ballot.

This year - as of the count published in this morning’s papers - Katherine Harris had 1,342,576 votes cast for her in the Florida race for US Senator because she too had an R next to her name - this despite the fact that the Republican party tried to get her to quit the race in favor of a candidate with a little more compus mentis. She lost of course - but One Millions, Three Hundred and Forty Two Thousand, Five Hundred and Seventy Six people voted for this certifiable nut simply because there was an R next to her name on the ballot.

The other day, I expressed my dismay at the support being given to Cook County Board President candidate Todd Stroger by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and my Representative Jan Schakowski. Stroger, a black man, was chosen by the Democratic back room boys to run for the office vacated by his father - John Stroger. The process stunk and I felt that the support by Durbin and Schakowsky stunk too. It got even smellier when I received a letter urging me to vote for Mr. Stroger signed by Durbin and Barack Obama. I’m a supporter of Senator Obama, but I am dismayed that he would lend his name and support to the shenanigans that produced this particular candidate.

Sadly, Mr. Stroger’s race - which he appears to have won - was not just sullied by blind partisan politics - but by equally blind racial partisanship. A glance at the ward by ward voting in Chicago tells the story - Stroger 5,354 - his white Republican opponent 274. Or 9,478 to 367. The same in ward after ward with heavily African-American population. I caught a glimpse of a newscast yesterday where a reporter had asked a couple of African-American women about Stroger. I have to admit that I didn’t catch the question. When I turned to the station, the women were talking. They both were saying how they didn’t see anything wrong with Stroger’s candidacy and how much they approved of the concept of a father (John Stroger, retired President of the Cook County Board) helping a son (Todd Stroger, hand picked candidate for that job) - as though the County of Cook in the state of Illinois was a private business which Stroger senior had every right to keep in the family!

As the legendary Chicago Alderman Paddy Bauler said on the occasion of the election of the first Mayor Daley in 1955 - "Chicago ain’t ready for reform." A half century later - about the only kind of reform in the air is that of a forced nature - emanating from the office of Federal Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald!!

Over in Illinois’ sixth district, Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth - despite losing both her legs in battle - despite being endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times - couldn’t overcome the Republican partisanship of voters in Henry Hyde’s long term district. She came close, but in the end, not enough members of the party that endorsed the President’s Iraq adventure and his "stay the course" policy could bring themselves to support someone who actually carried out part of that policy and sacrificed her limbs in the endeavor. Instead, they voted for Peter Roskam - someone who has never seen military service, who did not volunteer to join the military to carry out his president’s policies but who instead pursued a career in that hated of all professions (by Republicans) - that of a personal injury trial lawyer!! And a rich one at that!!

And in Ohio’s second Congressional District, where one would think Republican voters couldn’t wait to correct the error they made two years ago - electing a representative who brought shame and embarrassment to the district - they re-elected Jean Schmidt - she who stood on the House floor as she began her first term and called John Murtha a "cut and run" coward - an accusation that she was later forced to have removed from the record.

There are other cases around the country where loyalty to party labels and party philosophy trumped common sense, fair play and in some instances - decency! But all in all, it didn’t work out badly at all. Despite all of the partisanship, we now have President Bush reaching out to Democrats and pledging to work together to solve the nation’s problems. That should be fun to watch for the next two years.

Incidentally, I watched all of the President’s news conference today. He’s a lot better at it than when he first started out - but I always get the feeling that despite all of the banter from the podium, he is contemptuous of the reporters posing the questions. Does anyone else share this feeling I wonder?