Thursday, March 22, 2018

Illinois Primary Results—Not News Any More So This Must be Analysis—State Races

J.B. Pritzker,celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton.  It is now his race to lose against unpopular Governor Bruce Rauner in a deep Blue state during a Democratic wave election.

Well the results are in for the Illinois Primary except for some squeaker local races here and there.  If you are a local or a political animal, you know how at least the top-of-the-ticket marquee races turned out.  In this post I once again pretend to be a pundit and try and explain what it means.  I will bore down threw the ballot narrowing as I go through the Congressional races in my neck of the woods to the nitty-gritty of McHenry County races in subsequent posts.  And I will do it through the biased lens of a partisan progressive Democrat, just so you know what to expect.
Governor and Lt. Governor
I know some progressive were heart broken when billionaire J.B. Pritzker romped to victory in the Democratic contest with at last report 45.10 % of the total vote almost 20 points ahead of left darling State Representative Daniel Biss with 26.22%, a hair ahead of liberal nostalgia candidate Chris Kennedy at 24.64%.  It confirmed for them all their charges that the winner bought the election with his unprecedented $53 million primary war chest and two years of relentless TV advertising.
But those progressives are not nearly as disappointed as both the winner and looser on the Republican side.  And for good reason.  Incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner, another billionaire who mismanaged the state to financial catastrophe with his 2 ½ year budgetless stand-off with the Democratic legislature, held on by a DuPage County eyelash over previously obscure movement conservative State Representative Jeannie Ives by 51.7 to 48.3%.  

Deeply unpopular Governor Bruce Rauner barely beat back a challenge from the far right of the Republican Party by State Rep Jeannie Ives.  He will struggle to win over her supporters in November.

Ives, who did well Downstate and dominated the GOP vote-rich collar counties, represented the deep bitterness of hard core conservatives who felt that Rauner abandoned them on their key holy social issues—abortion, opposition to LSBGT rights, and guns—and in the end “caved” to Speaker Michael Madigan and Democrats to end the budget impasse.  Her comments in defeat were not only far from gracious, she continued to savage Rauner and held out no olive branch for reconciliation or party unity in November. 
Many of her supporters will not hold their noses to vote for Rauner, despite his pleas in his victory statement.  There is already talk about undertaking the nearly impossible task of fielding an independent candidate or turning to the Libertarian Party whose activist nominee Kash Johnson could conceivably be persuaded to withdraw to allow a better-known politico to take his spot.  But I wouldn’t hold my breath for either eventuality.  More likely, many Ives voters will feel undermotivated to vote in November or be willing to leave the Governor’s race blank on their ballots or write in Ives or make some other protest vote.
Rauner can’t afford a single defection from Republican ranks.  The vote totals in the two primaries tell the tail.  Illinois has been tending deeper blue over the last several election cycles and that process has been accelerated by Donald Trump imploding presidency and Rauner’s own unpopularity.  But the primary numbers are staggering.  All Democrats, including the single digit three also-rans, got 771,819 votes as of the most recent numbers.  Rauner and Ives together got only 3018,791, significantly less than half of the Democratic votes cast.  While primary turn out is significantly lighter than in the General Election, that is a mighty deep hole for Rauner to dig himself out of, especially as the disparity reflects a high degree of Democratic passion and commitment.
That passion and commitment will build as progressives lay some of their distaste for a money-bags aside and discover that Pritzger’s platform is nearly as progressive as Biss, differing more in detail than in substance.
That’s good for progressives up and down the ticket.   But it is not the end of the silver lining to Biss’s loss.  Biss and Kennedy voters taken together topped Pritzker by 46,150 votes.  If progressives and liberals had fielded a single candidate, they might have won.  At any rate, it shows the potential for future races.
Also, since progressives are highly motivated to beat Rauner—and the Trump agenda—this fall, they will almost unanimously support the ticket in the fall and will be moved to hit the bricks in support of the many down ballot progressives who won on Tuesday.  Dems in general will not have to fret about a disunited party to the degree that has the Governor is sweating bullets about his.
Polls taken before the end of 2017 showed Rauner losing to a generic Democrat by as much as 20%.  A February poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University showed Pritzker besting the Governor by 15 points.  No one expects those margins to hold up in a hot general election.  Rauner will close part of that gap.  But any way you slice it, those are long odds to overcome.
But Democrats cannot be over confident.  They still must inspire a big turnout from all their base voters and be able to reap disgusted independents and Republicans.  Rauner has one long shot chance—to keep doing what he has been doing, running mostly against Mike Madigan, a figure who has been so effectively demonized, not entirely without cause, that he is widely despised across much of Down State and the vote-rich Collar Counties.  He needs to convince enough voters in both regions who are otherwise going against Republicans as a protest to Donald Trump, to split their ballots for him.  It’s a long shot but not impossible.
Attorney General
The Democratic race for Attorney General turned into a two-candidate sprint to the finish line after pulling way ahead of a crowded pack.  That field of five included two with progressive support, Aaron Goldstein and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and three former prosecutors who pledged to root out corruption—an implicit slap at Mike Madigan. Only one, Sharon Fairley barely broke out of the single digits.  

Kwame Raoul over came former Governor Pat Quinn's name recognition to win the Attorney General nomination.
State Senator Kwame Raoul, who had the backing of most organization Democrats as well as solid support in the Black community, nosed out former Governor Pat Quinn in a surprisingly tight race.  Quinn, who has appeared on ballots for assorted offices for more than thirty years with mixed results, had few ardent fans but benefited chiefly from simple name recognition. 
Other candidates in the field tried to tag Raoul as Madigan’s pick, a claim that was undercut when TV spots by a Republican PAC absurdly leveled the same charge against Quinn who as those with actual memories recall was at constant odds with the Speaker during his spell as Governor.
In his victory speech Raoul highlighted his family’s roots as Haitian immigrants and pledged to protect the immigrant community form Trump’s deportation frenzy.  He hopes to broaden his support with increasingly important Latino voters for whom immigration is a key issue.  In some parts of the country Haitian and Latino immigrant communities have been at odds.  But the much smaller number of Haitians in Illinois as given them more reason to seek allies

Erika Harold will be an attractive and formitable opponent--the Republican's best shot at winning state-wide office in November.
This fall Raoul will face probably the toughest state-wide race against former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate Erika Harold in November.
Harold will make a very attractive candidate in TV spots.  A lot of white voters will see the lightly sepia candidate of mixed White, Black, and Native American heritage and compare her to a big, scary looking Black man with a shaved head and vote against him while congratulating themselves on not being racist.  I’ll take flack for that statement, but it is the truth.
Harold will also distance herself from unpopular Trump and Rauner by claiming to be independent and even essentially non-partisan.  But social conservatives and former Ives supporters who cannot stomach Rauner, know that she is stridently anti-abortion and an opponent of LBGT rights and flock to her side.  Meanwhile she will let PACs fund attack ads tying Raoul to Madigan with out personally getting her supposed non-partisan hands dirty.
Raoul will have to rack up huge margins in the Black and Latino communities and other Democratic strongholds to overcome Harold’s appeal.
Other Constitutional Officers

Secretary of State Jesse White, Treasurer Michael Frerichs, and Comptroller Susana Mendoza will all sail effortlessly to victory this November.

Down ballot, the other popular Democratic state-wide offices holders who all ran un-opposed can relax.  Their campaigns for re-election this fall will be almost as equally stress free.  Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, and Treasurer Michael Frerichs will face three Republican challengers—Jason Helland, Darlene Senger, and Jim Dodge respectively.  The GOP trio are essentially sacrificial goats and place holders since no ambitious or promising pol would risk their reputations in a suicide mission.   The most that the hapless Republicans can hope for is that they will get a line in their obituaries that reads “one-time candidate for…

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fifteen Years After Shock and Awe in Baghdad and Vintage Murfin Verse

Americans watched the gloies of Shock and Awe live on their cable new stations.

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the unleashing of Shock and Awe on Baghdad, all covered live for your entertainment on your favorite cable news network.  Like a quickie Vegas marriage there was an initial thrill but things began to go very, very badly after a while.
We Americans tend to think of our own wasted lives and years, and the chaos that roils the region to this day.  But as Iraqi author Sinan Antoon who was a dissident in his country and who has lived in the U.S. since 1991 reminded us in an op-ed piece  on the anniversary in the New York Times reminds us, it is time for Americans to stop thinking about the Iraq War as a blunder.  He reminds us of the real victims, “15 years ago America destroyed my county.”
With typical narcissism I often thought of the invasion of Iraq as George W.’s nasty late birthday present to me—coming just three days after I turned 54 years old in the safety of McHenry County.
Less than a month before the bombs fell record numbers marched against an Iraq War in Washington and in cities around the world.
When it began, the huge anti-war movement that mobilized beforehand—and in which I took a very active part—kind of collapsed for a while into despair and disappointment. Americans, as are wont to do, rallied around their President and the troops and watched the cake walk to Baghdad with pride. In no time at all George was up there strutting on an aircraft carrier and declaring victory.
A moment of glory!  Americans were told jubilant Iraqis pulled down this statue of Saddam in Baghdad.  It turned out to be a stage propaganda photo op and American agents were on the other end of the rope
The Pundocracy of print, the cable news cowboys, the radio ravers united in both gloating and mocking the Left and the anti-war movement. To wit:
Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics’ complaints.—Tony Snow, Fox News
The only people who think this wasn’t a victory are Upper Westside
and a few people here in Washington.Charles  Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV
We’re all neo-cons now.—Chris  Matthews, MSNBC

I hate to be an “I told you so.” But I did. So did thousands of others before the war ever started. The war transpired pretty much exactly a we said it would—a quagmire of guerilla insurgency, the shattering of the country on ethnic and religious lines, the inspiration to wider hatred of the America among Muslims worldwide, the recruiting engine for Islamic terrorism on the Bin Ladin model, the shattering of traditional ties among allies, the isolation of America in the world, and even the devastating drain on American military power. We predicted it all before the first “Shock and Awe” bomb was dropped.
If an (at the time) elementary school custodian from an obscure Illinois county could have foreseen this, what the hell was our genius leadership thinking?
They were blinded by a combination of arrogance, hubris, righteousness, and greed. To this day they cannot admit to any fundamental error and only grudgingly own up to slight tactical miscalculations.
Worse, the current rhetoric against Iran mirrors that they used to build a case for war on Iraq.  We are actively meddling militarily in a cluster fuck multi sided civil war in Syria.  And despite multiple declarations of victory, we still have troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan that still occasionally take casualties and may blow up into greater conflict at any time.  Our rulers apparently learned nothing.
But the American people, as so often in the past, have learned. The thrill is gone. We recognize the plain disaster wrought by the original cabal in power, perpetuated with technological refinement by Barack Obama, and flouted with bluster, heedlessness, and utter incompetence under the Cheeto-in-Charge.

A year or so after the war began when  blood ran in manageable rivulets in the gutter and had not yet saturated to the bed rock, I wrote a poem.  The occasion was the unseemly, fly-by night evacuation of L. Paul Bremer, the Ambassador and American Administrator of vanquished Iraq. He had created  something called the Iraqi Provisional Authority—a collection of bought and paid for American clients, local war lords, cleptocrats, and questionable representatives of ethnic groups and religious sects. I put mock heroic the words into Bremer’s mouth. 
Ambasador L. Paul Bremmer leaves his apropriately regal headquarters in one of Saddam's golden palaces with a senior U,S, commander.  Bremmer prefered a bodyguard of expensive mercinary contractors to the usual Marines--he didn't trust grunts.
Bye Bye Baghdad

Oh, what glory there should have been!
            What herald trumpets in gilded flourish
            should have proclaimed,
            what dressed ranks of might in splendor
            should have processed in measured dignity,
            what sleek and fleet air armadas
            should have shattered heaven in their salute,
            what Princes of the New Imperium
            should have strutted before an astonished world,
            what Hosannas sung as He, wrapped in purple,
            should have deigned wave His hand,
            and what cringing minions
            should have crept to kneel before Him,
                        pledging fealty, and better, oil,
                        in exchange for the blessings of fiefdom!

Yet these wretched sand niggers never got the memo.
            They failed to be appreciative of our sacrifices
            on behalf of grand ambition for an ordered world
            safe alike for Halliburton, Exxon/Mobile, and Franklin Graham,
            in cheeky ingratitude bit the hand that fed
            the satraps put in place for them, after all,
            refused to bow before our manifest Goodness,
            as if we had not told them over and over
            just how fortunate they were.

Can you believe they want to kill Us?          
            Well, not us exactly, not Us who live to rule,
            but those brave boys and girls who we call to our service,
            the sons and daughters of the irrelevant Them,
            who had nothing better to do with their lives anyway
            but bleed for the greater glory of Us!

The ungrateful the fickle folks back home desert us!
            Did we not offer our gleaming sword and shield
            to defend them from swarthy menace,
            did we not carry the mangled bodies of New York,
                                    and Pennsylvania’s unsuspecting field
            before them, beating our chests and pledging vengeance.
            What more could they want?

A simple roadside bomb here, a beheading there un-mans them.
It leaves them trembling and unwilling,
asking craven questions of our majesty,
assuming they have some kind of voice
when our manifest brilliance should have
swept aside mere doubts
and hearty patriotism silenced traitors.

And so, on a dusty hell hot day in June
            As bombs and bullets punctuate our urgency
            we must call a furtive meeting,
            toss the hot potato to whoever will catch it,
            then run like hell to the first fast plane
            that will take us out of here.

So long, Suckers.

—Patrick Murfin