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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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Top of the ballot:

Should the citizens of Illinois hold a Constitutional Convention?

I wrote about this issue a few weeks back. And the answer is that yes, they should. The only compelling argument I've heard against the Con-Con was that it could endanger state and local employee pensions. That seems to be unlikely if not untrue — due to the federal Constitution's so-called "contracts clause," and also because pensioners are probably the most well-organized constituency group against the Con-Con, so I don't think they'll be left weeping on the sidelines when the Con-Con comes.

The reasons to support it are myriad.

First of all, the problem with Illinois politics is not the current "bums," and therefore the solution to the problem is not one that could be solved by throwing the current bums out. The problem with Illinois politics is a system that concentrates an enormous amount of power in very few hands; a districting system that allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than vice versa; and an education funding formula that makes equal opportunity nearly impossible.

Secondly, the fear of "special interests" dominating the Con-Con process is ridiculous on its face, particularly because it is being offered by a coalition of special interests. But the system is blind to which special interest is benefitting from the system. Sometimes, progressive or "good" interests are able to dominate the political climate in Springfield; sometimes, it has been the "bad" interests. I don't want to be in the position today of supporting a system because my "team" benefits, and then be left with no arrows in my quiver when the other team takes control.

Third, the left has an ideological duty to support measures that devolve power to the greatest possible number — as close to "the people" as possible. We cannot say we are for democracy sometimes, but then oppose it when we fear its outcome. Certain rights cannot be infringed, even by majority whim — the right to vote, the right to privacy, due process, etc. — but most of the rules that effect our civic lives get their legitimacy from majority rule, and every chance to bring the policy making process to the grassroots level should be supported, or we risk making hypocrites of ourselves either in the future or in the past.

Rich Miller has provided the most elegant argument about how the concentration of power compromises the political system. And it's a simple argument: Carefully constructed legislative districts make only a handful of seats competitive, and the majority party's leadership controls the legislative process from beginning to end. There is no chance for elected officials to meaningfully buck their parties, or forge a policy or legislative consensus outside of party leadership. If you want to get something done, you have to deal with Michael Madigan, and Madigan alone, in the House. Ditto (for the time being) for Emil Jones in the Senate. This kind of concentration of power constricts the "marketplace of ideas" that should reflect the diversity of opinion in the state, while also ironically making it easier for the largest organized interests to buy their way into favor.

And, at the end of the day, the voters still get a chance to vote the new constitution up or down. Personally, I believe in the people's ability to govern themselves — even if the process may seem chaotic to us.

Vote Yes for a Con-Con. If you're afraid of what the results could be, pay attention to the process. Organize. Be a delegate. But don't ever say no out of fear — because that's the message the anti forces are sending out: "If we call a Con-Con things could get better; but they could also get worse." Americans — left, right, center — have a voracious appetite for change right now. But change doesn't come to the timid.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "Timid men... prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty." I'm not scared of a bit of boisterousness — are you?

Other Illinois Races, in Two Clever Sentences Each, With Some Cheating Via Judicious Use of the Semi-Colon:

Aaron Schock versus Colleen Callahan (US House - IL18)
Schock is a wunderkind, but may also be a careless notary. Colleen Callahan is probably Irish.
Prediction: Schock +12%

Marty Ozinga versus Debbie Halvorson (US House - IL11)
Ozinga looks like a cartoon character of a plutocrat, sans cigar. Debbie Halvorson is from Crete but, sadly, is not a Minoan-American.
Prediction: Halvorson +4%

Mark Kirk versus Dan Seals (US House - IL10)
Kirk has been a friend to Assyrians, and well serves his constituents. Unfortunately for him, Dan Seals will have a (D) after his name in Barack Obama's home state.
Prediction: Seals +2%

Jan Schakowsky versus Michael Younan (US House - IL09)
Michael Younan is himself Assyrian. Also my Facebook friend.
Prediction: Schakowsky +30%

Dan Kotowski versus Mike Sweeney (Il Senate - 33)
Mike Sweeney was the Elk Grove Township Clerk, a job with many duties, including the most important, filing the annual tax levy on or before the last Tuesday of December. In 2006 he failed to do that.
Prediction: Kotowski +7%

Anita Alvarez versus Tony Peraica (Cook County State's Attorney)
I don't care how many mildly crazy Peraica supporters storm the County building when he loses an election, I like him. Unfortunately, I like him in the same way I like Sancho Panza.
Prediction: Alvarez +5%

Pete Roskam versus Jill Morgenthaler (US House - IL06)
Morgenthaler doesn't live in the district; that's bad. Roskam compared women who seek abortions after a rape to the guys who raped them; that's crazy.
Prediction: Roskam +7%

Judy Biggert versus Scott Harper (US House - IL13)
Yes, Illinois has a 13th District; you may not have guessed, since you never really hear about it. Perhaps you thought they skipped it, like with hotel room floors.
Prediction: Harper +<1%

Paul Froelich versus Anita Forte-Scott (Il House - 56)
Froelich, of Schaumburg, switched from Republican to Democrat a few years after John Kerry won Schaumburg Township +10. He also switched from Republican to Democratic a microsecond before everybody decided they loathed Rod Blagojevich.
Prediction: Froelich + 2%

Brent Hassert versus Emily Klunk-McAsey (Il House - 85)
I'm pretty sure Brent Hassert's (R) family has a street named after them in the Bolingbrook-Romeoville area. Don't bet against the guy with a street named after his family.
Prediction: Hassert +8

Elizabeth Coulson versus Daniel Biss (Il House - 17)
Beth Coulson is a Republican that keeps winning in the Democratic north/northwest suburbs, because voters know and like her. In a Presidential year, with Obama on the ballot, there will be plenty of brand new voters who do not know her, and do not like the R after her name.
Prediction: Biss +3

Barack Obama versus John McCain (Appointer-Of-Federal-Reserve-Chairman-In-Chief)
A year ago, I said a bucket could run against the Republican in 2008, and win. Barack Obama is considerably better at campaigning than a bucket.
Prediction: Illinois vote, Obama +31; National Popular vote, Obama +5; Electoral College spread, Obama 364 to McCain 174

Appointment for Vacant Junior Senate Seat
Um... Tammy Duckworth? Or someone else.

What are your predictions?

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Jason / October 29, 2008 8:54 AM

If you use history as a guide, Obama's 2-3 point lead nationally won't turn out to be reality. Kerry had a significant lead, as did Gore, going into the final days and it didn't pan out.

Given the absolute bias in the media and misrepresentation of poll respondents, I don't think those numbers are accurate. There are reports of pollsters dropping people into the Obama camp based on party affiliation or subjective answers to policy questions. If you want to see something interesting, take a look at the Hillary supporters. They are voting republican in droves because they believe their party has been hijacked the far left much like the republican party was hijacked by the far right.

After evaluating policy, voters look at trust in a presidential candidate. In this regard, Obama has failed miserably to instill that bond with the American people.

Pete / October 29, 2008 9:31 AM

I was wondering about Obama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat too. Who decides how that would be filled? The Illinois Democratic Party, the guv (paging Mr. Rezko!), or whom? As for replacements, Duckworth seems a bit green for the job, but what about Rahm Emanuel moving over from the House?

Duder / October 29, 2008 11:25 AM

Nice try, Jason. The spread isn't one or two points, it's six or more. Even Fox News is giving Obama a +8 lead over McCain. There's not a single reputable poll that less than a +3 for Obama.

Jason / October 29, 2008 12:22 PM

Are you familiar with Gallup?

But, again, this proves that polls have been misrepresented.

and just go and see for yourself:

C-Note / October 29, 2008 8:32 PM

All polls are misrepresented. Expect the worst, hope for the best, count on litigation, but I think Ramsin's right. I just think this goes to show that Duverger was right. In a reasonable world Mr Obama would be much further ahead than 3 points. There is no reason to vote for Mr McCain. Zero. I won't hear of it.

Ramsin / October 30, 2008 1:36 AM

I have to say, Senator Obama has really grown on me--although, my intense desire to see the country repudiate the radical right and phony populist identity politics may have prejudiced me over the last few months; I can't say that I wouldn't be suddenly enamored with Senator Clinton, whose nomination I dreaded more than any other, if she was fighting this hard against the right wing. Senator Obama might be the all-time best counter-puncher since Truman basically invented the political counter-punch in 1948.

Remember when McCain made that debate point in the Town Hall about Senator Obama being careless and telegraphing his "moves" the enemy, and Senator Obama, like he was waiting for it, said, basically, "Yeah? I'm not the one who sang 'Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran' and 'Next Stop, Baghdad!'" That was like watching a Foreman right hook circa 1974, or Larry Bird winning that three point contest with his warm-up jacket on, or, I don't know, Mark Spitz swimming the shit out of some water. You get the point.

Or, maybe more accurately, it's kind of like Buster Douglas: they thought he was a second-tier fighter, but he didn't just knock Tyson out in the 10th, he ended Tyson's career.

Frankly--and I'm not someone you could ever accuse of being in the tank for Senator Obama--I think my prediction was conservative. There is a new generation of voters coming into political maturation, and I really think there's going to be a national facsimile of what happened in Chicago in 1983: black voters, seeing there was a viable, sincerely populist black candidate turned out in enormous numbers--75%, voting for Rep. Washington at a 97% or so clip. Those gigantic numbers can tip places like NC, MO, and VA. Not only that, but it will affect the national popular vote, because places like IL, NJ, NY, PA, and CA will help run up the score.

And from what I'm hearing about Senator Obama's ground game, even states he loses, he will lose by considerably smaller margins than Kerry did--so places like SD, MT, IN (if he doesn't win it), SC, etc. etc. The enormous margins in blue states and the narrower margins in red states could mean more than a 5% margin--it could be as high as 8%. There could be 160,000,000 voters, with 53% going for Obama and 45% for McCain with the balance for third parties: that'd be 85,000,000 to 73,000,000. That'd be 30,000,000+ more votes than Bush had 2004.

That's no joke.

cletus warhol / November 1, 2008 2:30 PM

The wacky rumor I keep hearing is that Blago will appoint himself to the vacant Senate seat in an attempt to escape the walls closing in around him. I don't really put any credence to it, but if anyone has the chutzpa to do something so slimy, it would be him.

Can he pardon himself as his last act as Governor before jetting to D.C.?

Ramsin / November 2, 2008 12:23 PM

Anything's possible Cletus--and to answer Pete, the Governor appoints the Senate replacement, and I'm fairly certain it's by fiat, there is no approval process. I really have no clue who will end up getting picked; also, could the Governor surprise pick somebody, who would then be put in the position of having to decline it?

It's not worth your sanity to try to predict how Blagojevich will behave.

Osky / November 3, 2008 12:16 PM

I thought Jesse Jackson Jr. was supposed to get Obama's seat.


About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon studies and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at

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