Monday, June 07, 2010

Fabricating Connections with Rod

You can't blame Republicans for trying. After all, Democrats would do the same thing. But, still, I had to chuckle at this item in the Hotline On Call blog from the National Journal:

RGA Ties Quinn To Blago

The GOP's biggest asset in their race to oust IL Gov. Pat Quinn (D) isn't the Dem or his GOP rival. It's Quinn's predecessor, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

Now, as Blagojevich's corruption trial kicks off in Chicago, the RGA is running ads linking the 2 governors, even though Quinn supported Blagojevich's impeachment last year.

You would think that, after all the controversies surrounding politicians fabricating their resumes, politicians would be more circumspect about fabricating connections between other politicians. The lesson from the resume-inflation scandal should be relatively simple: voters don't like being lied to.

So why lie here?

Anyone who has met Blagojevich or paid attention to Illinois politics over the last decade will realize that there isn't a lot to connect Rod Blagojevich with Pat Quinn -- or any other politician in the state. There were no "Blagojevich Democrats," as it were -- unless you want to count Capitol Fax Bill, the former governor's most loyal defender through it all.

And that's the way Blagojevich wanted it. The most outgoing of pols (Blagojevich couldn't pass up a hand to shack, even if you didn't want your hand shaken), he was the most introverted -- or, rather, isolated -- governor possible. People in southern Illinois may have complained about the (then) governor not spending any time in the Governor's Mansion, but everyone in Illinois had a right to complain about Blagojevich not spending much time in the Governor's office at the Thompson center.

And when he did come downtown, it seems like he had the whole building blocked off (presumably for his convenience, but Blagojevich also seemed to like the whole security detail aspect of it, which I assume fed his ego). Blagojevich claimed to have worked mostly out of his house (perhaps an imitation of his ambition to work out of the White House), and he intentionally kept the other Constitutional officers at arms length. Blagojevich was much more likely to take pot shots at his fellow elected officials (including Pat Quinn) through the press than talk to them on the phone, let alone face to face. Even in joint appearances, Blagojevich tended to be in and out, and it's safe to say that he spent little time with other politicians in Illinois.

So Republicans are largely reduced to inventing connections between Rod Blagojevich and other Illinois pols (Democrats or Republicans). Which is why the Rod Blajojevich effect on this November's elections is not likely to be that substantial.

Sure, Rod Blagojevich was corrupt. But this is Illinois, and corruption is not only a bipartisan endeavour, it is also largely ignored by the electorate. Don't get me wrong, it is shocking the level to which corruption is tolerated by people in the state. And there's not much to lead one to think that 2010 will be any different. Especially given the fact that the Republican candidate for Governor, Bill Brady, has already used his legislative position for personal gain -- something that hasn't exactly created an uproar around the state (or the Republican party).

But the Democrat's best defense in light of the onslaught coming during the Blagojevich trial is that no one was out there defending the governor when he was under fire by federal prosecutors. You won't find Democrats saying that it was a witch hunt, or that the (then) Governor was being rail roaded by those mean Federal prosecutors. Nor will you find Democratic legislators talking about voting to impeach Blagojevich as a "difficult decision," "tough vote" or even something they had to think long and hard about. Nope. I heard one longtime legislator call it "the proudest vote" he'd ever taken.

So the best Republicans have is innuendo, the inference from photoshopped images that suggest some form of connection.

I know this is contrary to conventional wisdom, but it's hard to see Blagojevich effecting Democratic prospects this November. Blagojevich did this himself, isolating himself from the rest of the party, carrying on his "imperial" governorship, whining constantly about the lack of respect he got from other party leaders -- which seemed to only isolate him even more.

Come what may, Democrats built their organizations, their loyalties, their relationships independent of Rod Blagojevich. And broadcast images won't change that. If Democrats do poorly in November, it won't have anything to do with Rod Blagojevich. And if Democrats do better than expected, it won't have anything to do with Rod Blagojevich. It's not the rest of the party that isolated itself from Rod Blagojevich, but the former governor who isolated himself from the rest of the party. Voters may be mad, voters may even be disgusted by the rather despicable budget quandry that Blagojevich left as his primary legacy, but the Blagojevich trial won't be the straw that broke the voter's back. And the voters who do come out and vote this November aren't as likely to be the low-info voters that could be more easily persuaded by these Republican tactics.

Blagojevich dug his own grave. He won't be taking Illinois Democrats with him, because he didn't have much to do with Illinois' Democrats. This is the pol that seemed to want to circumvent the party and take everything "directly to the people." Which doesn't mean that Illinois' Democrats have an easy path before them. They just don't have the Blagojevich albatross dragging them down. Blagojevich won two primaries and two elections, but he didn't take over the party. This election will be fought over the state of the economy and how well the recovery is creating jobs in Illinois. I don't think either party can (credibly) promise to end corruption in the state, but voters might be interested in which one can (credibly) return Illinois to a predictable, stable job-creating environment...


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