Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Pushing for the special election for Obama’s Senate seat will backfire on Democrats

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Originally published on on Thu, 12/18/2008 – 11:19am

So when do we get a new U.S. Senator from Illinois?

The good news is that Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer says the controversial governor will not make the Senate pick. The rational is that the Senate won’t seat any replacement Blagojevich picks, so it won’t do any good.

The rest of the news is bad. As Democrats realize what they’ve done in calling for a special election and are now backpedaling, now Blagojevich, the man who shouldn’t have a say on this issue, thinks we should have a special election.

He is a little biased since if a special election occurs, the pressure to remove him as governor sharply declines, and if the issue goes away, it increases the chances of prolonging his stint as governor.

Blagojevich has said he will sign a bill, but only if that power is taken away from all Senate vacancies, not just this one. This from someone who allegedly wanted to have that power to gain something for himself.

When Dick Durbin jumped in and said the morning of Blagojevich’s arrest that we should have a special election, I seriously cringed. Then state Attorney General Lisa Madigan and even Lt. Governor Pat Quinn also piled on. Now just as quickly, Democrats are jumping off the bandwagon.

Those who were hoping for Lisa Madigan’s power play to the Illinois Supreme Court or a quick impeachment are totally out of luck and pretty much out of luck, respectively. Illinois politics move slowly to begin with under normal circumstances. And even if “everyone” wants Blagojevich out, they have a bunch of allegations, difficult to run with even in an impeachment hearing.

Blagojevich was the first Democrat since 1977 to be elected governor. That sounds sad. Having lived in a blue state under red governors (one of which went to jail) is very depressing. But Democrats finally had control of the governor’s chair, and Quinn, who is free of scandal, would actually make a great governor.

Now that the Democrats have some power, they want to give that up to have a special election. Not for democracy, not for a sense of the people, but to cover their own tails. They want to look “good” or “sincere” and they are willing to throw away the power lost to them for more than a generation.

In New York state, when Governor Eliot Spitzer fell from grace, he had the good sense to resign. And Lt. Gov. David Paterson got to do what the state Constitution requires him to do, become the next governor. While Paterson is getting grief for making his own Senate replacement, he is at least entitled to do so.

If this happened under a Republican governor in Illinois, the GOP would be firm, not calling for a special election. Yes, the Democrats would have called out for a special election, not being the party in power. But the Republicans are smart in hanging on to power, and the Democrats aren’t.

Republicans are also better at responding to “blood in the water.” All they need is a sniff, a push and who knows what can happen.

A special election for the Senate pick is a bad move for Democrats, short-term and long-term. In a normal election cycle, a Republican likely wouldn’t have much of a shot. In this shortened cycle, with the Blago taint in the air, and given the demographics of the Democratic candidates (Chicago-area), the Republicans have a much better than expected chance.

And a long-time issue with completely changing the Constitution just for that instance means that Democrats in future lost Senate seats will have more difficulty hanging on to those seats. The vast majority of states give the governor this power without issue or trouble.

The most recent state to change this around was, of all places, Alaska. After Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter, Lisa, to the Senate to replace him, Alaskans changed the way interim senators are selected. Well, they actually changed it twice, and aren’t sure which solution would be utilized.

The best thing for all parties involved would be that Blagojevich would resign or step aside. But anyone who have suffered under Blagojevich’s rule knows that more than being stupid or allegedly corrupt, Blagojevich is best known for being stubborn. The fact that he is fighting for a special election is reason enough not to have one.

Despite my best interests and wishes, it’s likely we will have a special election. A senator needs to be seated, and there’s a good shot it will be a Republican. If you think I’m being a little too cynical, think about Michael Flanagan.

Flanagan (R-IL) won the 5th Congressional District seat in 1994, beating the long-time House Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, in an extremely solid Democratic district. Flanagan won 54-46, and Rostenkowski was well liked.

If voters use the special election to punish Democrats, and elect a Republican to the seat, the presidency of Barack Obama will suffer. First, it’s one less Senator in the battle for 60. Second, it’s embarrassing to have the president-elect lose his seat to the GOP. And third, when Democrats want to spend money in 2010 to win more Senate seats, money will have to be diverted to beat a GOP incumbent in a midnight blue state.


Written by democracysoup

December 18, 2008 at 11:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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