Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sprout


The Democratic steamroll was the big news of the day in Illinois, but not unsurprising given the overshadowing unpopularity of Pres. George W. Bush. The other big story of the day is that Green Party candidate Rich Whitney garnered 10% of the vote statewide, while spending less than $40,000. Whitney's performance -- and the loyalty of Whitney supporters -- could redefine the political battle between the two major parties in Illinois over the next four years.

I think the loyalty of the Green voters tells us they weren't simply voting against Topinka and Blagjevich out of disgust (an assumption that I and many others made and got wrong) but actually hold to some core reform values and are willing to back candidates that reflect them. There is a reform movement sprouting in Illinois.

Yes, the Green Party has secured it's place on the ballot, but don't look for them to put forward a winning statewide ticket in four years, unless they can recruit a self-funded candidate who can also carry the reform mantle. Instead, what is more likely to happen is what usually happens when a reform movement sprouts from a third party: one of the major parties co-opts their agenda and the third party fades into the history books. Clinton's ability to pass Ross Perot's balanced budget is a great example. Look for Democrats and Republicans to woo those reform voters by putting forth their own reform agendas.

The ball is clearly in Democrats' court. If they can pass a government ethics reform agenda and an education reform agenda -- the top two issues of the Whitney campaign -- they will have a lock on Illinois for years to come. If Democrats stumble, Republicans will have the opportunity to make the case that Democrats are obstacles to reform. Of course, Republicans had the opportunity to make that case this year and blew it, in part because their education funding proposals were half-hearted, and also because their candidates were not credible on the ethics issues: Topinka, Rutherford and Radogno all tried to make ethics central issues in their campaigns, and in each case those efforts blew up in their faces because of their ties -- however tenuous -- to the GOP's corrupt past.

For Republicans to take advantage of any Democratic shortcomings, they must clean house and put forth a slate of fresh faces. It's a Herculean task, one that I'm not sure Republicans are up to. Still, Democrats would be wise to nip that opportunity in the bud by advancing a reform agenda, and should look carefully at Whitney's performance by legislative district to see where there are opportunities to add to their legislative lead. Start recruiting candidates now, force Republican incumbents to vote on key wedge issues now -- like the assault weapons ban, school funding reform, utility rate freeze -- and give yourself 18 months instead of three to build winning campaigns across the state. Given the huge money advantage Democrats should have and the Presidential turn-out advantage for Democrats, Democrats could pick up as many as half-a-dozen seats in the House and 1-2 more in the Senate in 2008.

6 comments:

Bill Baar 12:44 PM  

I think the loyalty of the Green voters....

Looks like Whitney got maybe twice as many votes as Samuels and the other Greens further down the ticket. (I don't have the latest numbers though either.)

People protested the Gov and then voted for the balance of the Democratic ticket.

I was more optimistic about the Greens taking advantage of this until I read RW spent 18 years with the SLP.

It's not Red part that's a concern, but that he spent 18 years with what's basically a cult centered around an obscure 19th century radical: Daniel DeLeon.

That's going to be a tough thing to overcome.

If there is a reform alternative, it's going to be lead by more practical politicans leaving the Illinois Democrats or Republicans.

Not lead by a guy who spent 18 years with the SLP and was editor their paper.

Bill Baar 1:06 PM  

From Whitney's Letter of Resignation from the SLP and as editor of the Party's Paper found in the 1993 proceedings of the SLP's convention. (PDF file)

“I can no longer continue my association with an organization
whose top administrator and executive body can so readily flout
the organization’s rules and principles, and abuse its human resources,
without reason.

“Much as I appreciate all that I have learned and gained from
the SLP during my long association with it—and I have certainly
tried to give something back to it at the same time—I
have now come to the conclusion that it is fatally flawed, and I
choose not to remain for the funeral. I shall work for socialism
through more viable organizations and more promising pathways
and methods.

“I hereby resign from the SLP.

“Enclosed is my newsstand report covering from January to
the present, and a check covering the funds collected. Also enclosed
is the key to the lock on the stand outside the Long’s Drug
Store on Milpitas Blvd. (near Lucky’s supermarket). The lock on
the other stand, near Save-Mart on Calaveras Blvd., was evidently
removed by a determined and desperate victim of capitalism
sometime prior to my last visit.


...and so it goes comrade.

dbt 3:18 PM  

sorry, everybody I know who voted for Whitney (and there were a lot) did it because of Rod, not because of the GP or Whitney.

Anonymous,  4:39 PM  

Bill Baar has been posting that same comment to just about every blog he can find. I think that he has made it his mission to try to discredit Whitney.

In response to the post, the Green Party will definately run a state slate in two years. There's no doubt about it.

Anonymous,  6:15 PM  

Bill Baar doesn't have a clue when it comes to why people voted for Whitney.

So what if Whitney is a former socialist. I'd take a socialist over the party crooks, hacks and cronies that run the political combine in this state anytime.

Bill Baar 5:12 AM  

We all know why people voted for Whitney.

The question is will Whitney know how to build on the success to get more people to vote for him again.

Go read the 1993 SLP convention proceedings. The problem with third parties is they get so wrapped up in their own sectarian worlds, they throw success right out the window.

I'm betting with Whitney's long history on the cult side of American politics, that's exactly what the Greens will do.

I'm the only guy who posts on this because I'm probably the only guy who knows who the SLP and Daniel DeLeon were.

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