Monday, January 21, 2008

Those Insider Outsiders

Change is in the air. It's not spring, it's the political season. But what to do if you're an Illinois Democrat pol, or a wannabe, running in a county, a state or perhaps for a Congress that is run by Democrats?

Run as an outsider. Run even when you don't live in the district.

I first noticed the phenomenon when perennial boy-wonder, former ballet dancer and Clintonista Rahm Emanuel pushed aside a local woman activist to grab the 5th district ring post-Rostenkowski. Emanuel went to Wilmette Jr. High and hadn't lived in Illinois for years, helping out Bill and Hill in the White House. But no matter, he wanted a slot and with the help of the Chicago Dem Machine muscled in--or perhaps executed a forceful Grande Jeté.

Then we had new boy-wonder Barack Obama breeze in to the South Side from Hawaii and California via New York to express a few grievances on behalf of the local yokels. They needed someone to organize them you see. Bored with that, Barack went off to Harvard Law, and then found himself a job in a small, but well-connected Chicago law firm, the perfect springboard to Springfield. Along the way he knocked out of the way a fellow Dem, a little old lady who had served the district for years. No matter, Barack wanted a change, the man from Hope, uh Hawaii, uh the embodiment of hope.

In the last congressional election cycle Rahm attempted to ram down our throats outsiders symbolic of this or that. It didn't work very well around Chicagoland.

There is Democrat Rep. Melissa Bean who still doesn't live in her district after being elected and re-elected.

We had the invasion of crooked carpetbaggers in 2006, with their dubious baggage. And this round we have the amusing spectacle of the two Democrat aspirants to the 10th congressional, neither of whom live in the district, bickering over who lives the closest to the district, or whether a recent rental counts. This inspired a challenge from a former resident of the district, who at least grew up here, to initiate his own run with the slogan "El Rider For Congress - I Don't Live There Either!"

Lately this has evolved to having barely lived in the state, or in the real world for that matter.

The latest entrant is an assistant math professor who has taught at a Hyde park institution of higher learning since 2002. Already he is looking for another job, uh further afield. I opened my U of C alumni magazine to find a story on one Daniel Biss. He was enraged by "the war" (not by 9/11), so he's running for state rep in Springfield. (Against Elizabeth Coulson in the 17th, the northern suburbs.)

Perhaps he is attracted by the civil war among Democrats raging there. Biss is from Indiana and started fundraising for Illinois Fellow Travelers, un Kerry Travelers, which provided him a fundraising base of his own from the national nutroots. (Since he didn't have any roots here of his own--oh yeah, he's running as an outsider). Biss has big ideas to fix Illinois' problems:
Politics in Cook County and the state seem like a circus—they’re fairly machine-driven,” he says, “but we have an opportunity to build a community of people who can, in a small way, change the way we do local politics.”
(Emphasis mine.) Perhaps an unfortunate choice of phrase...Does the person to the left in the picture look familiar to you? His name is Madigan, no idea if he is any relation:
“It’s all about November 4 now,” Biss says to James P. Madigan, JD’00, one of nine supporters in the dim room. “It’s a two-year term and it’s crazy, but the race takes up three-quarters of the term itself, which seems like a big waste of time.”
A big waste of time. Yup.

An insider outsider. The Chicago machine modus operandi bigtime.

---this appeared Friday as a column for the
Chicago Daily Observer.

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