Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

How could public perception of the President's Health Care Bill change so dramatically since it was passed? Polls taken before the vote (eg, Bloomberg & CNN) showed less than 40 percent of those polled favored the legislation, while more than 50 percent opposed it. Yet right after the vote, the USA Today/Gallup Poll asked if respondents thought "it is a good thing or a bad thing that Congress passed this bill?" 49 percent said it was a good thing, while 40 percent thought it was a bad thing. that's a ten percent swing among results expressing favoring the bill, and almost a 20 percent swing among those who didn't (using the CNN results). How could that be?

Republican pollster Bill McInturff's analysis appears to have been right. McInturff told the Rothenberg Political Report that:

“People have a stunning amount of information about the fight over health care reform and Democratic efforts to pass a bill. There is the perception that there have been backroom deals — with Senators from Louisiana and Nebraska, and with labor unions — to get support for a bill that isn’t to the public’s advantage.”

“People have come to the conclusion that it must be a bad bill, since if it were a good one, Democratic leaders wouldn’t have had to do what they did to get the votes to pass it,” McInturff continued.

I'd alter McInturff's conclusion just a bit: People seemed to have concluded that it must have been a bad bill (especially in light of all the negatives out there on both sides of the political spectrum), because if it were a good bill, Democrats would have the votes to pass it. Once Democrats *did* have the votes, the electorate flipped in its opinion about the bill.

We love our winners.

I love Art Turner. I voted for Art Turner. But I don't want the state Democratic Central Committee to vote him in as our Democratic Lt. Governor nominee.

I'd like to be able to tell you that I voted for Art Turner because he was the most qualified candidate in the race. But that's not why I cast my vote for Art. Rather, I voted for him because he was the only candidate to have asked me (personally) for my vote. I was trying to get him to come down to speak to our Team Obama group here in Flossmoor, but he was having none of it. "But will you vote for me?" Art persisted. So I did.

Art has shown that same persistence in the run-up to today's vote by the Democratic Central Committee members down in Springfield. He is the only one I know who has kept his campaign machinery intact, and used it effectively. Having said that, I don't think Art is the right person for this slot.

When Art Turner was running in the February primaries, we had no idea what the November ticket would look like. Justin Oberman was pounding Robin Kelly on television, and Robin never had the resources to answer. Raja Krishnamoorthi was on television touting his connection to Barack Obama, and David Miller was just introducing himself to the state. Outside of Lisa Madigan and Jesse White, we had no idea who would be on the Democratic ticket this November.

Now we do. We now know that three of the six positions for state government will be represented by African American Democrats. This should make us proud! No one can argue that African Americans would be demoralized by choosing someone other than Art Turner to run with Governor Pat Quinn.

No one has asked me, but it seems to me that one overriding concern and two secondary concerns should dictate who the State Central Committee chooses as our Lt. Governor nominee. First of all, who gives us the best chance for winning in the fall? This has to be the primary factor in electing a replacement for a(nother) candidate who would just have embarrassed Democrats. But a number of candidates would help Democrats win. So secondary consideration should be given to who will best help Governor Quinn and who would best help the Democratic party in Illinois?

Here's the unique aspect to this place that Democrats in Illinois have found themselves in: No downstate Democrat (meaning, no Democrat outside of Cook County) is likely to win statewide office in a contested primary. Look at what happened to Paul Mangieri of Knox County in 2006 (with the Democratic endorsement and its money) and Terry Link of Lake County in 2010. Cook County represents such a huge portion of the Democratic primary vote that it is difficult, if not impossible, for someone outside of Cook to win in a contested primary.

But this isn't the primary. Now we are talking about the general election, where Cook County is, at best, a third of the likely vote. My issue with Art Turner's selection is that this would lock Quinn and Democrats into a Chicago-centric race with an exhausted, and perhaps even demoralized, political organization being expected to turn out the votes. No political strategist wants a single pathway to victory, partially because it makes one's strategy obvious to everyone. Republicans would be handed the initiative, the ability to choose among various political strategies by which to neutralize Gov. Quinn and the Democratic ticket.

If I had my druthers, I'd have wanted a candidate out of Will County, just because it would geographically have optimized all possible paths to victory. Of course, there isn't a candidate from Will County, and hypotheticals get us nowhere.

Choosing a candidate from downstate gives the Democratic ticket not only geographical diversity, but it also gives downstate Democrats a reason to stay engaged in the party. Downstate Democrats could hope to be the next U.S. Senator -- or the next Lt. Governor. Regional diversity is just as relevant as other forms of diversity, and we shouldn't ignore it. We should also realize that there are not that many opportunities to promote regional diversity, so we should take advantage of this one while it's here.

The fact is Democrats could lose this fall. Mark Kirk is perhaps the strongest Republican on the ballot in recent memory. Rod Blagojevich will rear his ugly head this summer. Judy Barr Topinka begins her "I told you so, Illinois" tour at the same time. Republicans have targeted Democratic seats here in the Congress, in the state Senate and in the state House.

Sure, we'll still have Toni Preckwinkle, and Democrats in Cook County could very well begin a new era of Reform and Renewal under her guidance.

What Democrats of all kinds have to accept is that the Democratic Party is a BIG, F*@king tent and we don't always agree (let alone get along). We are a multicultural entity, even as we are constantly fighting for our own to get ahead. Today is the day for that tradition -- that albatross, at times -- to persist...


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