Chicago voters are easy

First, take a minute to watch this video. I’ll wait.







Done? Ok., good.

Now please allow me to relay a story that immediately popped into my mind as I watched this.

I was volunteering for the Chicago Marathon back when Blago was serving his second term (and of course I use the term “serving” loosely). They needed interpreters to be on hand in case the foreign athletes wanted to talk to the media. I didn’t even realize my countrymen (and women) from Russia were such good runners, but I digress…

As it turned out, there was little for me to do and I spent my time chatting with the ABC7 cameraman who was filming the post-race press conference. As it often happens with me, the conversation turned to politics.

I was pleased to learn that Mr. Cameraman was NOT a fan of Todd Stroger. Good, I thought. Good. I then asked him what he thought of Governor Blagojevich and this is where the nightmare began.

“I think he’s ok,” he said.

“REALLY??!!” I responded.

He then proceeded to tell me that he thought the governor was a swell guy because he had done so much for breast cancer research.

It then came out that the guy’s wife had succumbed to breast cancer and they had set up some sort of a foundation in her honor and to make a long story short, the governor attended one of their fundraisers. In person. Himself. This was a big deal to this guy. Just like it was a big deal to the elderly man in the video that Rahm took an interest in him.

I didn’t say anything to Mr. Cameraman, but can you tell me who in this whole wide world is AGAINST breast cancer research? Raise your hand if you WANT more women and men to die from this disease. No?… No one? Shocker. So of course we should love a politician who supports research to deal with this disease. We should worship him in fact.

This kind of thinking had clearly not entered this guy’s mind though and it’s not because he’s stupid. It’s because he thinks politicians are Very Important People who are Very Busy and Important and if one of those people comes to his event or takes up his issue, well, he must be a great guy.

Think for a moment about what this means. Mr. Cameraman didn’t say anything about Blago’s policies, the budget, etc. The governor came to his dead wife’s fundraiser and that was enough to buy his allegiance. And “buy” isn’t even the right word. What would attending have cost Blago? Cab fare?

Our city and state of course has a long and (not quite) proud tradition of this sort of thing. Blagojevich was only the most recent large-scale example. Dan Rostenkowski anyone? Politics here is all about taking care of individual voters’ problems or at least pretending really well that you give a damn about them. And we’ve seen over and over that voters will reward corruption and incompetence with another term in office so long as they guy came to their event or fixed their sidewalk or got them a job.

It seems that Rahm has learned this lesson extremely well.

4 Comments

  1. Hubbit Ducreux December 28, 2010

    Politics here is all about taking care of individual voters’ problems or at least pretending really well that you give a damn about them. And we’ve seen over and over that voters will reward corruption and incompetence with another term in office so long as they guy came to their event or fixed their sidewalk or got them a job.

    From 1994 until 2000 I lived in a 6-flat south of Devon whose super was an crusty, colorful old Chicagoan named Fred. Fred once told me that back in the Richard J Daley years, the ward bosses would canvass the neighborhoods before and during Election Day, making sure the citizens got to the polls and helping them with their choices, if need be – which was usually the case. You, the citizen, were told how to vote; in return, your streets and sidewalks were kept clear and your trash was picked up on time.

    So nothing much has changed, it seems. The average citizen, from what I gathered from Fred the super, neither knew nor cared who was in City Hall or what they were doing or how much it was really costing the people of Chicago, so long as the Things They Would Notice were taken care of in a timely fashion.

  2. Anna Tarkov December 28, 2010

    No, sadly very little changes. You would expect that maybe younger, more educated, more affluent voters might care more. Nope, those are the young professionals who might as well be in NYC or San Francisco. Place has little meaning to them and they don’t get involved in local politics or know anything about it. People who know nothing either don’t vote or are easy to manipulated. So… same problem with them as with the crusty, colorful, old-school Chicagoans. I’m really not sure what the solution is.

  3. Anonymous December 28, 2010

    All I can hope is that a Mayor Emanuel would use the same kind of tenacity to tackle the bigger issues and problems the city faces, while not wasting tax dollars and getting bogged down in corruption for personal gain a la Blago. That’s extremely optimistic, I know.

  4. Anna Tarkov December 29, 2010

    I’m willing to give Rahm the benefit of the doubt. First, he hasn’t been elected yet so there’s that. If he wins the election, we’ll be watching like hawks… but will hope for the best.

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