Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not even his supporters Trust Mark Kirk

You can't trust Mark Kirk. Even the right-wing conservative Club for Growth doesn't trust Kirk:

Now the Club for Growth, the powerful, well-funded conservative group, is ripping into Kirk for his sudden indecision, and making it clear that they expect him to live up to his promise.

“He said that he’s going to do this,” Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly just said by phone. “We expect him to live up to his pledge.”

Kirk has signed on to the Club’s repeal pledge, which states: “I hereby pledge to the people of my state to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”

“He’s made a promise to the people of Illinois,” Connolly continued. Asked if failing to follow through could cost Kirk the Club’s support in a general election, Connolly said: “We’ll have to see.”

The Club's concern comes after Mark Kirk "repeatedly" refused to say "whether he wants the legislation repealed."

Mark Kirk is campaigning for Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat with a Beltway Insider strategy. He doesn't talk to Illinois voters, or local media, although he continues to take calls (and get covered) by the New York Times and Washington Post. But they don't ask him tough questions (like would he really -- REALLY? -- follow through with his pledge to repeal universal coverage, or ending denial for pre-existing conditions, or the practice of recission and lifetime limits on health coverage.

Instead, Mark Kirk dodges questions by Illinois voters and local media.

Apparently, because Kirk believes he can. Kirk's strategy in this campaign has been to attack Alexi Giannoulias for whatever he can think of. Broadway Bank followed the advice of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Attorney General's office with regards to enticing members of organized crime into disclosure and participation in the (above ground) economy? Mark Kirk won't tell you that numerous mobsters have been convicted and sent to prison (eg, Al Capone) because of the disclosure statements they gave to bankers -- because that would make his personal attacks on Alexi seem, well, ridiculous.

Nor will Mark Kirk tell you if he really means it when he promises to take away health care insurance from kids, young adults and older Americans.

The question we should ask ourselves is this: if Mark Kirk's most adament supporters can't trust him, why should we?

The dilemma Illinois voters face in contemplating their vote for U.S. Senate is this: Mark Kirk has never demonstrated any type of political courage during his service in Congress. He didn't stand up George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld when they were making decisions to invade Iraq based on the greatest intelligence failure in my lifetime. He's never stood up to the conservative Republican leadership on a whipped vote (without their permission) since he's been in the U.S. House. And now he can't stand up and admit that he's taken a controversial decision, one that isn't supported by the electorate here in Illinois or stand up to the right wing conservative Club for Growth when they are demanding that Kirk stick to his pledge.

You just can't trust Mark Kirk. He's never given us reason to trust him, and now his supporters are starting to recognize Kirk's lack of fortitude. There's no reason for Illinois to send him to the Senate. These tough times demand someone who can help bring the country forward, out of the abyss into which George Bush has driven us...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

How could public perception of the President's Health Care Bill change so dramatically since it was passed? Polls taken before the vote (eg, Bloomberg & CNN) showed less than 40 percent of those polled favored the legislation, while more than 50 percent opposed it. Yet right after the vote, the USA Today/Gallup Poll asked if respondents thought "it is a good thing or a bad thing that Congress passed this bill?" 49 percent said it was a good thing, while 40 percent thought it was a bad thing. that's a ten percent swing among results expressing favoring the bill, and almost a 20 percent swing among those who didn't (using the CNN results). How could that be?

Republican pollster Bill McInturff's analysis appears to have been right. McInturff told the Rothenberg Political Report that:

“People have a stunning amount of information about the fight over health care reform and Democratic efforts to pass a bill. There is the perception that there have been backroom deals — with Senators from Louisiana and Nebraska, and with labor unions — to get support for a bill that isn’t to the public’s advantage.”

“People have come to the conclusion that it must be a bad bill, since if it were a good one, Democratic leaders wouldn’t have had to do what they did to get the votes to pass it,” McInturff continued.

I'd alter McInturff's conclusion just a bit: People seemed to have concluded that it must have been a bad bill (especially in light of all the negatives out there on both sides of the political spectrum), because if it were a good bill, Democrats would have the votes to pass it. Once Democrats *did* have the votes, the electorate flipped in its opinion about the bill.

We love our winners.

I love Art Turner. I voted for Art Turner. But I don't want the state Democratic Central Committee to vote him in as our Democratic Lt. Governor nominee.

I'd like to be able to tell you that I voted for Art Turner because he was the most qualified candidate in the race. But that's not why I cast my vote for Art. Rather, I voted for him because he was the only candidate to have asked me (personally) for my vote. I was trying to get him to come down to speak to our Team Obama group here in Flossmoor, but he was having none of it. "But will you vote for me?" Art persisted. So I did.

Art has shown that same persistence in the run-up to today's vote by the Democratic Central Committee members down in Springfield. He is the only one I know who has kept his campaign machinery intact, and used it effectively. Having said that, I don't think Art is the right person for this slot.

When Art Turner was running in the February primaries, we had no idea what the November ticket would look like. Justin Oberman was pounding Robin Kelly on television, and Robin never had the resources to answer. Raja Krishnamoorthi was on television touting his connection to Barack Obama, and David Miller was just introducing himself to the state. Outside of Lisa Madigan and Jesse White, we had no idea who would be on the Democratic ticket this November.

Now we do. We now know that three of the six positions for state government will be represented by African American Democrats. This should make us proud! No one can argue that African Americans would be demoralized by choosing someone other than Art Turner to run with Governor Pat Quinn.

No one has asked me, but it seems to me that one overriding concern and two secondary concerns should dictate who the State Central Committee chooses as our Lt. Governor nominee. First of all, who gives us the best chance for winning in the fall? This has to be the primary factor in electing a replacement for a(nother) candidate who would just have embarrassed Democrats. But a number of candidates would help Democrats win. So secondary consideration should be given to who will best help Governor Quinn and who would best help the Democratic party in Illinois?

Here's the unique aspect to this place that Democrats in Illinois have found themselves in: No downstate Democrat (meaning, no Democrat outside of Cook County) is likely to win statewide office in a contested primary. Look at what happened to Paul Mangieri of Knox County in 2006 (with the Democratic endorsement and its money) and Terry Link of Lake County in 2010. Cook County represents such a huge portion of the Democratic primary vote that it is difficult, if not impossible, for someone outside of Cook to win in a contested primary.

But this isn't the primary. Now we are talking about the general election, where Cook County is, at best, a third of the likely vote. My issue with Art Turner's selection is that this would lock Quinn and Democrats into a Chicago-centric race with an exhausted, and perhaps even demoralized, political organization being expected to turn out the votes. No political strategist wants a single pathway to victory, partially because it makes one's strategy obvious to everyone. Republicans would be handed the initiative, the ability to choose among various political strategies by which to neutralize Gov. Quinn and the Democratic ticket.

If I had my druthers, I'd have wanted a candidate out of Will County, just because it would geographically have optimized all possible paths to victory. Of course, there isn't a candidate from Will County, and hypotheticals get us nowhere.

Choosing a candidate from downstate gives the Democratic ticket not only geographical diversity, but it also gives downstate Democrats a reason to stay engaged in the party. Downstate Democrats could hope to be the next U.S. Senator -- or the next Lt. Governor. Regional diversity is just as relevant as other forms of diversity, and we shouldn't ignore it. We should also realize that there are not that many opportunities to promote regional diversity, so we should take advantage of this one while it's here.

The fact is Democrats could lose this fall. Mark Kirk is perhaps the strongest Republican on the ballot in recent memory. Rod Blagojevich will rear his ugly head this summer. Judy Barr Topinka begins her "I told you so, Illinois" tour at the same time. Republicans have targeted Democratic seats here in the Congress, in the state Senate and in the state House.

Sure, we'll still have Toni Preckwinkle, and Democrats in Cook County could very well begin a new era of Reform and Renewal under her guidance.

What Democrats of all kinds have to accept is that the Democratic Party is a BIG, F*@king tent and we don't always agree (let alone get along). We are a multicultural entity, even as we are constantly fighting for our own to get ahead. Today is the day for that tradition -- that albatross, at times -- to persist...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our President, in "Preacher Mode"

President Obama, in preacher mode before he returns to professor mode...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sen. Hutchinson: "We haven't been doing that for the last 25-30 years"

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson gave an impassioned speech yesterday for ending Illinois' budget crisis that has paralyzed Illinois' economy, paralyzed Illinois' social agencies, and paralyzed Illinois' future.

"We are in a crisis," Hutchinson says. "We're in a crisis right now."

Hutchinson's comment comes at a time when Illinois -- and the country -- is divided, and distrust of government is near all-time highs. But Sen. Hutchinson argues that Springfield is broken, and it's time to stand up, fix it, do the right thing and have the courage to lead.

This is not your father's Democrat.

Sen. Hutchinson is not risk-adverse. She believes in speaking the truth -- even when it's not what people want to hear (but we need to hear). Hutchinson is not only a newly-appointed state Senator (surviving a brutal nomination process), but she serves the 40th Senate District, which includes several of the most active Tea Party chapters in Illinois. A straight-shooter, Hutchinson previously wrote:

I remember all of the things I used to say about the General Assembly -- as a taxpayer, a voter, and a mom. I wanted representatives who believed in people, who could engage in meaningful and principled debate, and who weren’t afraid to fight for basic democratic principles. We need more from our legislators.

It’s a toxic political environment, which makes for pretty rough waters. But master sailors are never trained in calm seas. Leaders lead, regardless of the consequences.

That has not been the tradition in Illinois politics of late. While the 1990s saw the growth of "the Combine," the election of Rod Blagojevich toppled many of the prior assumptions in Springfield. Blagojevich's desperate need to be viewed as "top dog" (or should i say, the King) paralyzed Illinois state government long before the economy was paralyzed by the worst recession since the Great Depression.

But neither Blagojevich or his nemesis, Speaker Madigan, can be blamed for the ponzi-scheme financing that state governments undertook to achieve "balanced" budgets in the last decade or so. These accounting tricks and various sleights of hand were invented elsewhere, and utilized by all sides (Governor and legislature, Republicans and Democrats) in virtually every state to hide the true costs of government. In the 21st century, Americans expected to get everything for less, including government -- although we grumbled when that expectation effected our incomes.

That bubble has now burst. Governments at all levels have kicked the can down the road, borrowing against our futures to fund public services (like roads, public safety and education), and the bills are now coming due. More significantly, the Republican theory that charity, not government, could step in to provide the economic and social safety net that our unemployed, our poorest, our most disadvantaged citizens require has been proven wrong. Charities, non-profits and social agencies are critically threatened -- some even closing their doors -- due to the economic downturn, just as they are needed most. It doesn't help that the state is behind in its payments to the agencies that contracted with the state of Illinois to provide public services to people in need. But the economy has simply meant that fewer people are able to donate, and their donations, when they give, tend to be smaller.

Sen. Hutchinson understands. "We cannot afford to continue to do phantom economics and voodoo accounting," Hutchinson said, "and balance this budget on the backs of the people who need us most. Their backs are broken now."

Hutchinson lashed out at the Party of No that says "No to Families, No to Children, No to Social Services that keep our most vulnerable people safe, we are playing politics with people's lives."

No one wants to pay higher taxes -- everyone wants to get stuff (like services) for free. But our days of paying for government on credit or hiding its real costs have come to an end. As Sen. Hutchinson says, "Funding government is the right thing to do." Government has an important role in our society, and an important role to play in a healthy economy. Contrary to what some believe, a strong government is vital to a strong free market economy. Economies are transactional in character, amoral in nature, and require a perception among participants that those transactions are fair, transparent and above board. Weak governments tend to spawn oligarchic economies, where consumers are exploited, and socio-economic mobility is virtually unheard of. A global capitalist economy like ours requires a strong government with the ability to enforce its rules, not just here at home but abroad. There is no free market without a strong government.

For those who want to argue with examples like Hong Kong, and other free market economies that grew under the protection of the U.S. government, I merely note that, yes, we paid for their protection, too. That's what happens when one is a superpower. We're number one. But that has both costs and rewards. We must bear those costs to reap those rewards.

Illinois has fared worse than other large states because it was an anchor in our manufacturing base. Not as bad as Michigan, but bad nonetheless. So Illinois has to face the challenges of the worst economic downturn most of us have ever seen, a political paralysis that could have been a script to a Keystone Kops film, an economic engine (Chicago) that has had its own difficulties crawling into the 21st century, and a political/legislative system that has struggled to keep up with all these changes.

Sen. Hutchinson offers a vision for a better future for Illinois. Her challenge is for our political leaders to, well, lead:

I will continue to push for a solution that will result in Illinois getting back on solid financial ground because it is a fight worth fighting. There is a direct correlation between the taxes we pay and the services we provide. The state of Illinois has a responsibility to educate our children, ensure the safety of our residents, and care for our seniors and veterans. On top of all of that, and especially in this time of recession, we cannot cut services that vulnerable citizens rely on to get back on their feet. Fear, hunger, drug addiction, homelessness, aging, foreclosures, or unforeseen health challenges are all equal opportunity stressors for many people in our communities.

These are not Democrat or Republican issues. Just reality. I’m not fighting for taxes; I’m fighting for people.

That's the kind of politician we need in Springfield. A reality-based leader who isn't afraid to call a spade a spade, and brings a shovel when she comes to work. Because there is lots of work to do.

Hat tips to Progress Illinois and much appreciation for all the work they do!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Who Will Replace Linzey Jones as Mayor?

Olympia Fields Mayor Linzey Jones won the Democratic nomination in the Lipinski vacancy in the 15th judicial subcircuit, virtually guaranteeing him a spot on the bench next year. As a judge, Jones will vacate his position as mayor. So the question is, who will replace Jones as mayor of Olympia Fields?

Several people have suggested to me that former Trustee Al Riley would be the "best" replacement for Jones, but Riley has dual positions as state Rep and Rich Township supervisor. But most people, including the Rich Township Democratic committeeman, think that unlikely.

Others think that one of the Olympia Fields Trustees (Carolyn Gibson, Shirley Nale, Susan Ormsby, Willis Pennington, Debra Meyers-Martin and Kelvin Oliver) will replace Jones. If that is the case, then someone will have to be appointed to replace them on the Board of Trustees.

I won't speculate as to who will replace Linzey Jones as the mayor of Olympia Fields, but it is certainly something I am watching, given its impact on the rest of the South Suburbs.