Thursday, December 11, 2008

Illinois politics -- cesspool, not swamp

This week Illinois Gov. Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. Yawn.

Chicago was a swamp before it was a city. Underneath its spectacular architecture it is still a swamp.

Slimy politics are an Illinois thing. Consider it a kind of identity politics in which some take pride.

Vote early and often. If you're dead, even better. Pay-to-play is nothing new. Machine politics require lubrication, so don't be surprised if the Illinois slime-o-meter needle has smacked the end of the dial at a time campaigns have become obscenely pricey. Governor Blago is worse than we ever imagined! Lincoln is rolling in his grave! Nah. Blago had something lots of people wanted: a fresh Senate seat open to the highest bidder. How different is that from multi-million dollar campaigns selling candidates on television? If anything it's a more thrifty method of getting the seat filled. Skip the voters; it costs less. Aren't we in an economic crisis?

And speaking of record breaking campaign finance, there's a reason Obama won. There's a reason Obama appears so cool in the face of global crises and the next Great Depression. He made it through the proving ground of Illinois muck. He has seen things that fine, idealistic, morally pure voters cannot stomach and he has risen to the top. He has waded through the cesspool of Illinois politics and can still utter words like 'hope' and 'fairness' with a straight face.

He can see the world as it is, not as he might like it to be, and still function, perhaps more effectively than someone with more delicate sensibilities.

Some have speculated that Illinois is the most corrupt state in the country. Not a chance. The dance partner of machine politics is a passionate political activism that seeks transparency and justice, which opened a way for the FBI to gather information and make a case.

Relax. This is politics.