Monday, March 19, 2012



This (Monday, 3/19/12, page A4) morning’s Wall Street Journal featured a reasonably insightful article by Patrick O’Connor and Douglas Belkin on the Illinois primary entitled “Illinois Race Muddled by State’s Move Right.” I will write more on the substance f the article at the end of this piece. What really caught my attention, and stuck in my proverbial craw, about the article was the following sentence

The same year, a socially conservative candidate survived a crowded primary only to lose in the general election to the Democratic protégé of jailed former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Loyal readers know that I am perhaps the last person who would leap to the defense of Governor Pat Quinn (no relation). But to call the Governor Quinn (no relation) a “protégé of Governor Rod Blagojevich” is both an insult to Governor Quinn (no relation) and an indication of the authors’ seemingly complete unfamiliarity with the politics of our state.

Yes, Pat Quinn (no relation) was Rod Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor, so one could see how someone with at best a passing knowledge of politics in the Land of Lincoln might stretch to conclude that Mr. Quinn (no relation) was Mr. Blagojevich’s “protégé.” But someone who knew something about this state and/or took the time to do a little homework would realize several things.

First, in order of importance, there are separate primaries in Illinois for lieutenant governor and for governor. Then Congressman Rod Blagojevich ran in the 2002 gubernatorial primary with the backing of party regulars in Cook County, largely because he was sponsored by his father-in-law, 33rd Ward Alderman and Committeeman Dick Mell, and had helped carry Chicago’s, or at least its Democratic Machine’s, water both in Springfield as a State Representative and in Washington as a Congressman, two jobs he also got courtesy of his father-in-law. Pat Quinn (no relation) ran in the lieutenant gubernatorial primary with either the Democratic organization’s opposition or its indifference, depending on how one interprets the ill-fated candidacy of his main rival, political neophyte Joyce Washington. This stance vis-à-vis the Democratic Organization was in keeping with Mr. Quinn’s (no relation) traditional role as an independent, anti-Machine independent…when it suited his political ambitions. It was therefore only after the primary that Messrs. Quinn (no relation) and Blagojevich were joined on the ticket, and theirs was a partnership in name only, if that. The relationship was at best a distant one; in fact, after Mr. Blagojevich’s problems accelerated with his arrest in December, 2008, Mr. Quinn (no relation) claimed that he had not spoken with Mr. Blagojevich for long stretches of time, as long as a year in duration, during the time they ostensibly were a team.

Second, Pat Quinn (no relation) is eight years older, almost to the day, than Rod Blagojevich and has been involved in Illinois politics back when Rod Blagojevich was in high school. It would be difficult for Mr. Quinn (no relation) to have been the protégé of someone whose tenure in political life was perhaps half as long as that of Mr. Quinn (no relation).

Third, as mentioned before, Rod Blagojevich was a product of the Regular Democratic Organization in Chicago, a protégé of his father-in-law Dick Mell. While no one in that Organization, or at least no one smart enough to have achieved a position of any authority in that Organization, was silly enough to make Mr. Blagojevich an insider by any means, he was a creature of the Machine; if he weren’t, one suspects he would have wound up as a low-level participant in the automotive detailing business, or as a distributor for Fuller Brush, rather than as governor of Illinois, but I digress. Pat Quinn (no relation), on the other hand, has made his bones in politics by being, or posing as, an independent, anti-Machine, crusader, not as a protégé of perhaps Illinois political history’s most notable protégé.

Despite all this evidence of the contention’s laughability, the article in the Journal insisted on referring to Pat Quinn (no relation) as Rod Blagojevich’s protégé based on Mr. Quinn’s (no relation) having been lieutenant governor when Rod Blagojevich as governor. This is yet another lesson in what I think I will begin to call Quinn’s Rule, to wit: trust nothing about Illinois or Chicago politics written in national publications by national political reporters. While our politics is not nearly as unique as it once was, it takes genuine knowledge of, and experience with, our politics to write anything worth reading about it.

All that having been said, the overriding theme of the article, i.e., that the Illinois GOP presidential primary race is close because GOP politics in this state, as in most places, has moved to the right in recent years, is indeed true. It is this movement that will make this race interesting. On the other hand, a lot of other national political reporters have not been as astute as Messrs. O’Connor and Belkin in picking up this trend and continue to believe that the Illinois GOP is overwhelmingly moderate and that, therefore, Illinois should easily fall into the Romney column. This perception, though misplaced, makes Illinois almost, but not quite, a must-win situation for Mr. Romney in the sense that, if he loses here, the perception of his inevitability will be further tarnished, with negative, though probably not fatal, consequences for his chances at the GOP nomination, which itself rapidly seems to be losing value. But more on that last point in a later post.

No comments: