Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) announced today that she is forgoing a run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama, now occupied by the blighted Roland Burris. In a video announcement she told viewers she would stick with House seat and continue serving the various leadership positions she reeled off. Showing great humility, Rep. Schakowsky even said that she would have no problem raising close to $30 million she thinks it would take to win the primary and the general election for the Senate seat.
Given that Schakowsky is now out of the race, Ramsin Canon at Gapers Block points out this leaves State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (and his Bright Start mess) as the only Democrat who has decided to run. Chris Kennedy of the Merchandise Mart is the other big Dem still left undecided.
Schakowsky’s entrance in the Senate race would have caused a ripple effect impacting so many elections. No doubt a host of names, possibly various state reps and state senators, would have stepped up for the 9th District seat. Those elected officials who would have subsequently thrown their hat in the ring would see various candidates or other local elected officials bid for their state seats, and so on. Clearly, Schakowsky’s decision not to run for Senate saved a lot of election activity.
But is that a good thing? Schakowsky has served for 10 years in her seat and her predecessor served 48 years in that seat. I question whether it is keeping with progressive values for one person to dominate a single elected congressional seat for so long. Nobody will challenge, let alone defeat Schakowsky, as long as she stays continues to serve and run for that seat.
Maybe it would have been a good thing if Schakowsky tried her luck for the US Senate. Here in state politics, the Illinois Reform Commission has put forth a proposal on term limits. That was largely rejected by Illinois state leaders. But many in Illinois support the commission’s position that term limits are a good thing for a health democracy.
Progressivism, which I’ve discussed before and which is a term I believe has been hijacked from its original meaning, is something that Schakowsky has self-annointed. True progressivism is a belief in accelerated change and more direct democracy. But with one person serving in a seat for so long, that reality seems at odds with progressive values.
Reading the Israeli dailies on the eve of President Obama’s policy speech at Cairo Univeristy, I was shocked and saddened at the extremism – and tolerance of that extremism – by the right wing in Israeli society.
Posters are being placed around the country depicting Obama wearing a kaffiyeh and shaking hands with Iranian President Ahmadinejad (allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons). Furthermore, these posters and the official reactions given to the press by these right wing leaders after Obama’s speech consistently call the American president “Hussein,” suggesting that his Muslim middle name reveals Obama’s “true identity” and favoritism of the Arab world over Israel.
I could talk about how ridiculous these communications are and how President Obama is actually very pro-Israel and committed to Israel’s security and peace prospects more than his predecessor, but instead I am saddened. I am saddened because I am a strong supporter of Israel, her people and her chances for peace. I am saddened because the way in which Obama is being depicted in Israel shows an ignorant, extremist and immature view of Israel’s leadership.
The sentiment directed towards President Obama gives exceptional insight into the Israeli mentality. Attacking Obama for being pro-Arab demonstrates an extreme lack of confidence and weakness on behalf of Israelis. Instead of giving this president a chance to work with Israel, they are quickly retreating to a circle the wagons strategy. It’s almost as if Israel still believes the Jewish people are living as guests in other countries instead of their own, where they have defended themselves against warring enemies for six decades successfully. While the rest of the world sees Israel as the most powerful country in the Middle East who holds the majority of cards for diplomatic and military initiatives, Israel’s right-wing still sees itself as weak and threatened whose imminent demise is only moments away.
Furthermore, and most troubling, Israel’s right wing has shown a disgusting double standard. Jews around the world have fought against anti-Semitism and bigotry seemingly forever. They have achieved such gains in defeating widespread anti-Semitism and achieving tolerance, which makes Obama’s depiction as wearing a kaffiyeh and calling him Hussein even more disgusting. What can be more intolerant and prejudiced than that? What if Obama was depicted with a kipah, a beard and sidelocks? Wouldn’t the Jewish people be calling that anti-Semitism? I think so.
If there’s one thing the Israeli right has done well, is testing the limits of free speech. Now they’ve done it too well. They are becoming so extreme and dominating Israel’s political conversation that it will no doubt hurt the country and damage any government’s ability to govern. I hope, for Israel’s sake, that these element of society can look itself in the face and see/hear itself for what it is actually saying.
West Side Alderman Ike Carothers and a local real estate developer were indicted today by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Carothers is accused of receiving $40,000 worth of home improvements from developer Calvin Boender in exchange for Carothers re-zoning an area in his ward that netted Boender $3 million.
There seems to be two stories happening here. One, is that Patrick Fitzgerald seems to be Illinois’ savior when it comes to rooting out the Illinois’ cancerous corrupt politicians. Carothers is just the latest in a string of high-profile indictments. And unlike other US Attorneys, Fitzgerald is not aiming at well-known figures to inflate his own ego. As Springfield bargains and waters down real political reform measures this week before its recess, Fitzgerald is running past our legislature to fight corruption.
Second, Carothers gained much notoriety when he made it his mission to skewer then-recently appointed Police Chief Jodi Weiss. Weiss was no doubt humiliated and many could say that Carothers’ attack could also be interpreted as an attack on Mayor Daley, who appointed Weiss. As Daley now faces his own criticisms about less than transparent practices regarding parking meters and Midway Airport leasing, the Carothers indictment can viewed as somewhat as a vindication for the Mayor. After all, when the Mayor’s critics get that kind of attention and embarrassment for their own corrupt practices, certainly the heat shifts away from their political targets.
Watching the drama unfold at the Cook County Board yesterday was like watching a bad, predictable sitcom.
County President Todd Stroger wasted no time in stooping to the lowest common denominator. He diverted attention away from the sales tax hike by making yesterday’s a vote a referendum on North Side v. South Side, black v. white, rich v. poor, the haves vs. have-nots, etc.
Not that Stroger received overwhelming support – 11 of 17 commissioners voted to overturn the tax increase. But, his framing of the issue was enough to win the day. I guess Commissioner Debora Simms quoted as saying, “this is about the haves vs. have nots” (she representing the “have nots”) does not offend her constituents. Ironicaly, her very rallying cry to support the tax is a slap in the face to the people in her own district!
That aside, it’s important here to see how powerful fear drives policy. Stroger’s doomsday rhetoric of what the county would look like without the tax helped push him over the edge with a key vote or two, including Commissioner Mario Moreno, who switched his vote twice. By invoking fear, Stroger forced key votes by commissioners who did not want to appear responsible for the likely attack by tax supporters that the county healthcare system would suffer.
Well, the same sort of scare tactics are working in Springfield, albeit in a different way. Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his doomsday scenario for Illinois’ budget. In all fairness, Illinois’ fiscal situation is much more dire than the County’s.
However, it seems to work. When Quinn first talked of raising state income taxes by 50 percent, he was met with a chorus of opposition. Fast forward several weeks later and talk about all the state services ceasing if the state can’t raise revenue is not provoking legislators to speak up quite as loudly. Whether there is no room to cut the budget at the state level or not, there simply has been no alternative to Quinn’s ideas presented in a serious way.
Fear is winning the day.
With all the talk about the problems our state faces and how our legislators will handle these issues as they prepare to return to Springfield, I wondered what Pat Quinn had to say. After all, I’m sure the Governor has a campaign website where he can talk more freely to web visitors than the “officialese” of government-run web pages.
I was really shocked to see Quinn’s campaign site, “Pat Quinn for Illinois,” to be so spartan. Pat Quinn had to have taken notice of how Barack Obama’s team maintains both Whitehouse.gov and BarackObama.com. Both sites have different purposes. The office-holder site is meant as a center for information, helping to illustrate what is happening in the world of that elected official. But the campaign site, like BarackObama.com, is meant to mobilize. It is set up to build support for the office holder’s agenda and create excitement around that particular political movement.
Pat Quinn’s website does not even come close to doing that. What I can’t understand, is that for a guy who is going to face a very tough election in 2010, wouldn’t he and staff want to speak to Illinoisans, get their input and build support for Quinn’s fragile agenda? I would think so.
But here’s what you do see on Pat Quinn for Illinois:
- A picture of Quinn 10 years out of date
Quinn's Picture on Pat Quinn for Illinois
- Missing a word (“be”) in the third paragraph on the opening letter of the website’s homepage
- No legislation listed in his bio section that Quinn championed which deals with any of the systemic problems our state faces for over 10 years
- No compelling list of achievements in his bio section that would make any voter excited about what this man can accomplish
- A photo gallery that does describe when, where or what context the photos are from
- No call to action on the website at all
I think Pat Quinn is a decent, honest man who has proven to be a trusted legislator over his years of service. However, the longer his campaign website remains in its current condition, the less of a chance he has to speak to voters, to win support for his agenda and to win election.
Pat Quinn in 2009
I also believe it is no coincidence that Quinn’s proposals for dealing with some of the state’s fiscal problems (raising income taxes, pension reform) were met coldly and are losing whatever support it had to begin with. I attribute that to not having a movement of supporters behind him. And that movement starts with good, ongoing communications with the people of Illinois.
I was doing some online searches on Cook County Board presidential candidates the other day, prompted by this week’s County Board vote to overturn Todd Stroger’s tax increase.
I finally came upon Toni Preckwinkle’s website. I say finally because if you do a google search of the terms “toni preckwinkle cook county” you will not see her website come up until the second page. I think that has to be addressed immediately by the campaign in order to position her better for online search. After all, about 80 percent of new web traffic comes through online search. Plus, high returns on her website helps to control the campaign’s message, so that online searchers are not finding articles related to Preckwinkle that the campaign would not want people to read.
Toni Preckwinkle's Homepage
More puzzling though is when you get to Preckwinkle’s homepage. First of all, it says, “Help keep Cook County moving forward.” Isn’t the whole reason she is running because Cook County isn’t moving forward? Why would voters want to oust Todd Stroger if he had County government costs and management under control? That message does not seem to make sense to me.
More troubling though is the way in which the website is currently set up. The homepage is a landing page that asks for the person’s email and zipcode. There is no way to “skip” over this step, because as I later learned, the rest of the campaign site has not been developed yet. That is ok, although, I think down the road the campaign will have to allow for people to visit the site and not enter their information to get into the rest of the site. That would be a collosal mistake if the campaign did not do this.
The problem I have though is that next to the boxes asking for email and zip code is the button “learn more.” I expected that after I clicked on the box I would actually learn more. Instead, I got a message saying “check back soon for updates.” That’s really misleading that the website would prompt me to learn more and then not follow through on that promise. The campaign should more accurately state “submit info” or something rather than learn more.
As a web user, I see this current set up as a strong ploy to get me to enter my information for campaign purposes. Of course, voter outreach is a central part of any campaign. But, there is an expectation that after I give my information to a campaign, that I will be given information that was promised to me. In this case, “learn more” does not mean “learn more.” The campaign should be careful not to turn off voters before the campaign for county president really gets under way.