Monday, November 03, 2008

Event: Illinois Constitutional Convention

In 2006 the Democratic Party was propelled by a slim but decisive mandate into control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. And yet, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both bodies failed to substantally challenge President Bush and the Republican minority in a substantive way on any major issue, from the unending and futile Iraq war to the recent punitive measures attached to the recent Wall Street bailout.

Many Democrats feel that we should secure a more substantial majority before "holding their feet to the fire." I don't see why we can't do both at the same time. As a result this year I am registering a protest vote against Jan Schakowsky of the Illinois 9th district who voted for both the Wall Street bailout and promised to vote down legislation to fund the Iraq war without a withdrawal timetable before repenting at the last minute.

But Schakowsky is partly a product of her political situation; the Illinois Democratic machine is the home of many stereotypes, and they are more justified here than in many other parts of the country. The moneyed and connected Democrats have a lock on primary nomination and guarantee of success in a general election (except Harold Washington). This system is in nobody's benefit. I write this from a progressive perspective: Illinois is not prosperous when Chicago is not prosperous, and the Democrats have the sane policies this generation. However, Democrats here still lack the spine or drive or temperament to act on their constituencies impulses, and the Schakowsky votes illustrate this.

A constitutional convention is one more opportunity (whether a successful opportunity remains to be seen) to disrupt the all-too entrenched and stubborn local political dynasties. I'm not optimistic about its hopes for success, but a chance is better than none.

Vote for the constitutional amendment. With Democrats perpetually in control of the state senate and house, there is little to fear. With ruling dynasties having benefited from the current constitution for as long as anyone can remember there is very, very little to lose.

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