Gubernatorial Go-Go: A forecast
Five years ago I wrote that the Democratic trend in Illinois was so strong we might never see a Republican governor again—barring some major scandal. Well, the past year or two set the stage for a GOP revival, but the Democrats are probably too smart to let it happen.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is drowning in a cesspool of financial scandals, personal betrayals, bizarre antics and political miscues so pervasive as to drive his favorables down to Ahmadinejad territory—and the worst may be yet to come. I speak, as many do, of indictment.
His recent last-minute, grandstand play on the mass-transit bill—injecting free rides for seniors—will not rescue him from the feds, nor will it raise his scrawny support numbers much past Britney Spears’.
I cannot explain the overall behavior of this unusual politician because I am a political analyst, not a psychoanalyst. Let me confess, however, I voted for him twice and at least for a while sort of understood what he was doing with his worse-than-Clintonian triangulations.
Reflexively I took his side against House Speaker Michael Madigan as a matter of principle: One should always be against Michael Madigan.
But Blagojevich is not only against Madigan, he is against everybody—even himself, judging by much of his goofiness. How about running off to hockey games in the middle of serious legislative negotiations—let alone in the middle of a press conference?
When his own father-in-law, a Chicago alderman, complains about the governor’s ethics, you know you have a truly comic conundrum—a paradox wrapped in a contradiction inside an oxymoron.
Even should he escape the long arm of the law by 2010 it is difficult to see Blagojevich surviving a contest against any Republican short of Alan Keyes. Of course, the Republicans would have to disarm their circular firing squad and come up with a candidate of reasonable quality and respectable ideology, at least marginally acceptable to decent Democrats. Let’s say a U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk who, if he is still in office, may not want to remain in a Democratic Congress under a Democratic president.
However, the Democrats, as noted, are too smart to let it all happen. Much as they detest Blagojevich, they detest losing power even more, so they will do their best to erase Blagojevich in the primary election, as they did Dan Walker 32 years ago.
The logical candidate—who considered challenging him two years ago—would be Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Her independent, professional performance in office has helped her live down her family name among progressive and reform Democrats, while at the same time she has not alienated the regulars, especially her powerful dad. She would have massive support in the primary and easily win the general election.
Another logical contender would be Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, the maverick, progressive populist with big reform credentials but little capability of raising the millions of dollars needed for a battle against the Madigans. He has run for almost every office on the ballot except governor, with surprising—if intermittent—success.
So why wouldn’t he run too?
Well, the problem would be, what if the two split the vote and Blagojevich somehow slipped through? That would be very good for the Republicans, but very bad for everybody else, and there are more Democrats than Republicans.
The solution here would be for the Democrats to hand the attorney general’s office over to Quinn and give Lisa Madigan unobstructed aim at Blagojevich. The governor, who once boasted of his “testicular fortitude” would wind up doing his Elvis imitations as a soprano.
Unless he is already somebody’s bitch in the slammer.
Don Rose, legendary guru of liberal independent politics, is a regular columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer.