Chicago Sun-Times
Staff reports on all things politics - from City Hall to Springfield to Washington, D.C.

Recently in democrats Category

nickelback.JPG
Nickelback, more popular than Congress

The United States Congress has had a rough go of it lately. Adding to the historic amount of bickering and gridlock that has paralyzed the legislative body, Congress took a huge PR hit with the near-disastrous handling of the fiscal cliff debacle (and will revisit it in a few weeks when they have to take up the debt ceiling). And just moments after finally approving a lackluster fiscal cliff deal, House Republicans refused to take up a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief funds (though they later took it up after being bullied into it by people with common sense). Not that Republicans have been alone in facing the ire of angry constituents; Dems are still smarting from the recent scandal-ridden resignation of Illinois' Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Given all of the above, it's no surprise to find that Congress's approval rating is very, very low.

So low that responders to poll questions by (the admittedly Democratic-leaning) Public Policy Polling preferred cockroaches, lice, colonoscopies, and Canadian meh-rock band Nickelback to Congress.

It's gross to have lice but at least they can be removed in a way that given the recent reelection rates members of Congress evidently can't: Lice 67 percent, Congress 19 percent

Colonoscopies are not a terribly pleasant experience but at least they have some redeeming value that most voters aren't seeing in Congress: Colonoscopies 58 percent, Congress 31 percent

It may be true that everyone hates Nickelback, but apparently everyone hates Congress even more: Nickelback 39 percent, Congress 32 percent.


Other items more popular than Congress, according to PPP: Carnies (39 percent to 31 percent), root canals (56 percent to 32 percent) and those much-maligned enemies of freedom circa the Second Iraq War, the French, had a higher rating as well (46 percent to 37 percent).

But it wasn't all bad news for Congress:

By relatively close margins it beats out Lindsey Lohan (45/41), playground bullies (43/38), and telemarketers (45/35). And it posts wider margins over the Kardashians (49/36), John Edwards (45/29), lobbyists (48/30), Fidel Castro (54/32), Gonorrhea (53/28), Ebola (53/25), Communism (57/23), North Korea (61/26), and meth labs (60/21)


While this may seem like the nadir for Congress, they just swore in a new class last week, meaning they may be able to turn their image around. But given the need to revisit more debt talks in the coming weeks, there's still a possibility this new class could dig the hole even deeper.

[h/t The Hill]

kelly-CST-120312-6.jpg
Robin Kelly announced December 12 that she is running for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s 2nd Congressional District seat in a special election. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

*** Updated ***

With an increasingly crowded field of candidates vying for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old 2nd Congressional District seat, candidates are betting fund-raising will set them apart.

Robin Kelly announced today that she raised $200,209 from 514 individuals in the month of December alone.
So far, she is the only candidate to report fund-raising totals. Kelly of Matteson, resigned from Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle's staff last month.
Last week, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson announced raising more than $130,000
"While December is traditionally the most difficult fundraising month of the year, I'm so humbled by the outpouring of support I've received in the last four weeks," Hutchinson said in a statement.

Today is the deadline for candidates to file for the open seat. The special election is scheduled for Feb. 26, after Jackson resigned in November amid a federal inquiry and health issues. At least a dozen candidates are expected to file in all.

"I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my neighbors across Chicago and the Southland," Kelly said in a statement today.

curse_of_2nd.png
[From left to right: Mel Reynolds, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Gus Savage]

Last Friday, State Sen. Donne Trotter formally withdrew from the Second Congressional District special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. The announcement came three weeks after he was arrested at O'Hare for trying to pass through security with a concealed gun. At the time of his arrest, Trotter was considered the front-runner to win the special election. Of course, the special election had only come about because the avalanching shenanigans of Jesse Jackson, Jr. forced his resignation.

The incidents involving Trotter and Jackson are just the latest examples that show how the constituents of the second congressional district are cursed. Because there's no other way to explain the misfortune that has plagued the district's constituents over the last 30 years.

It wasn't always this way, though. For the first 150 years or so of the district's existence, it hosted a colorful collection of Congressmen.

James Woodworth, who held the seat from 1855 to 1857, also served several terms as Chicago mayor, was a founding trustee of both the "old" University of Chicago and the Chicago Astronomical Society, and helped make Chicago an economic center by guiding the Midwest's railways and water traffic through the city.

From 1903 to 1922, the congressman of the 2nd district was James Robert Mann, author of the Mann Act of 1910 (aka the White Slave Traffic Act) which prohibited the interstate transportation of women for prostitution.

Abner Mikva served as the district's representative from 1969 until 1973. In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals where he served until 1994 when he retired to serve as White House counsel for then-President Bill Clinton.

And from 1853 to 1855, just before Woodworth, there was John Wentworth whose two-year stint as the second district's rep was part of a long political career that culminated in his service as Chicago's mayor. Wentworth also served in Congress as a representative of Illinoi's first and fourth districts and during his Congressional tenure, he was offered a deal by Wisconsin that would have extended that state's border to the southern tip of Lake Michigan. His reward had he allowed the Badger state to expand? A seat in the U.S. Senate. Wentworth said no.

So, then, it's easy to understand why I can't help but view the district as anything but cursed. How else to explain that the last three representatives have been, in succession, a virulent racist, a statutory rapist, and a scandal-laden charlatan? How else to explain the ascension of Gus Savage, who held the seat from 1981 until 1993? Somehow, Savage held on to his seat for 12 years despite numerous challengers, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and accusations of verbally and physical sexual harassment of a Peace Corp. volunteer during a press junket tour of Ethiopia in 1989. He also had a habit of using homophobic slurs towards reporters whose questions he didn't like.

Finally ousting Savage in 1992 was an upstart reformer named Mel Reynolds. A graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, an MPA from Harvard, and a Rhodes Scholar, hopes were high for Reynolds. Instead, in August 1994, less than 2 years after his election, he was indicted on a host of charges stemming from a sexual relationship he carried on with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. In 1995, Reynolds was forced to resign his seat.

Winning the seat after Reynolds' exit was a charismatic up-and-comer, Jesse Jackson, Jr., son of the famed Rev. Jesse Jackson. For years, Jackson served without controversy, happy to build a reputation that helped him escape his father's shadow. Then, in 2008, he was connected to the pay-for-play scandal that ensnared then-governor Rod Blagojevich. Jackson allegedly offered up fundraising to Blago in exchange for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after he won the 2008 Presidential election.

In early June of this year, Jesse Jackson, Jr. made his last public appearance before disappearing into the ether. In the interim, he's been in and out of the Mayo Clinic for treatment of bipolar disorder, become the target of a federal investigation into misuse of campaign funds, and, jus weeks after winning re-election in November, resigned his seat in disgrace.

The curse's source remains unknown, the misery of the second district voters still intact as they prepare for yet another special election. Even Reynolds has risen from the political graveyard to run for his old seat, a specter of the past that continues to haunt the district. This, even after Savage, despite his morally repugnant behavior, managed to keep his seat for 12 years, never receiving less than 82 percent of the vote in a general election until 1990, the year after he was accused of sexual harassment, when he received "only" 78 percent of the vote.

Those dark cosmic forces maintained their veil over the electorate in November 1994 when Reynolds, just months after his statutory rape indictment, Reynolds, unopposed from any major party challenger, received 98 percent of the vote over several independent candidates in his re-election bid.

The curse's iron grip held fast when in November when Jackson, sight unseen, was never seriously challenged on his way to a startling victory in which he garnered 63 percent of the vote.

And so this curse of mysterious origins remains unabated, its cause still a mind-bending unknown, holding hostage the tortured souls of our state's Second Congressional District. No amount of voodoo seems to have reversed the cloud of calamity that has swallowed the area whole, keeping fraudulent abusers of power in place. There seems to be no magic remedy that can save them from this string of awful leaders who somehow, some way, manage to maintain their terrible cycle of darkness and dismay.

Even the once-mighty Cook County Democratic Party has been stymied, endorsing no one for the upcoming special election primary, handing over its faith to the fates and hoping for the best. And, that's all the district's voters can do: hope and pray that somehow this evil spell is broken, that, somehow, salvation will arrive and free the them from the malicious cycle that's held them captive for so long.

cliff_nov30.jpg

Beware the "fiscal cliff."

That's the warning that's been sounded by politicians, the media, and taxpayers since summer, gaining full force the moment President Barack Obama won re-election. While the term has only recently become part of the national vernacular, the build-up to this pivotal economic decision has been building for many years. The Democrats have refused to cut spending entitlements and Obama wants to raise taxes on the top income brackets. The Republicans, led by conservative super-lobbyist Grover Norquist, refuse to raise taxes and are opposed to losing currently implemented tax breaks. Also at stake is the defense budget that Dems want to scale back with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ending while Republicans are pushing back on any additional defense cuts.

FISCALCLIFF1.jpg
(Click to embiggen)

jessjr_nov28.JPG
M. Spencer Green // AP Photo


BY LISA DONOVAN
Cook County Reporter/ldonovan@suntimes.com

A panel of Cook County's top Democrats will gather Dec. 15th with the goal of slating a party candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. The beleaguered congressman resigned last week amid a federal investigation into his campaign spending and ongoing mental health problems that prompted him to take a leave of absence.

Roughly a dozen Democrats have either been mentioned or thrown their hats into the ring to represent the The 2nd Congressional District, which runs from Chicago's South Side to the suburbs, including small sections of Will and Kankakee counties.

Joe Berrios, the head of Cook County's Democratic Party, told the Sun-Times this week that if the party can agree on backing - or slating - a single candidate, it will be easier for him or her to raise money and get their name out there during what will be a short election season. Gov. Pat Quinn this week announced the primary date is Feb. 26th while the general election is March 19th.

If voter trends hold, a Democrat will likely win the seat.

Thornton Township Supervisor and Democratic Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, a powerbroker whom Berrios tapped to serve as chairman of the slating committee, says the slating process will be pretty standard: candidates will be interviewed during the December session at the Thornton Township Hall in South Holland and the 11 ward and township comitteemen - party bosses - representing various parts of the 2nd Congressional District will take a vote.

While Zuccarelli is encouraging candidates to contact him to be part of the December slating session so they can make their pitch, he's not exactly walking in to this with an open mind. He said he already knows that if state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), who has expressed interest in the job, is running, that's who he's backing. Trotter's legislative district, which stretches from the South Side to the suburbs, covers some of the same territory as the 2nd Congressional District, helping him understand the issues facing residents there, Zuccarelli said.

"Even though some people who've been mentioned (as candidates) might do a decent job -- nobody comes close" to Trotter, Zuccarelli said. "I'm going to conduct inteviews and I'll listen to what people say -- but the only way my mind would change is if Donne dropped out."

watchdogs-cst-111812.jpg

For Joe Berrios, the Cook County assessor who is also the county Democratic Party chairman, government is the family business. That got him in trouble with the county ethics board, which called for Berrios to fire three family members. But the Berrios family's presence on government payrolls extends beyond that, the Chicago Sun-Times found, with 13 family members now collecting a paycheck from the county or state, plus two more who recently retired and now get public pensions.

Dan Mihalopoulos has the whole report here.

Above, find the handy family tree created for the story by Sun-Times graphic guru Max Rust. Click the image to open the full-size version.

2012_Electoral_College_Map_Poster_Large.jpeg
The Electoral College breakdown map, courtesy of C-SPAN.
Click to embiggen


By Neil Steinberg

If you thought Tuesday you were voting for the presidential candidate of your choice, think again. Due to a historic quirk in the creation of the United States -- some old operating code, as it were -- American voters do not chose the president directly, but rather select electors to the Electoral College who do the actual selecting of the president.

It's a cumbersome system. Each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress --the House of Representatives and Senate combined. Illinois, for example, has 20 - down one after the last census. They can't be the elected officials themselves, however. In 48 of the states, whoever wins the popular vote also wins all the electors -- only Nebraska and Maine have a proportional system where electoral votes are divided up between the winner and loser.

The system is a relic of an age when travel was difficult and counting ballots even more problematic than it is today. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that numerous regional contenders didn't divide the nation.

Thus whoever wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2013. But every four years there is talk of scrapping the Electoral College system, though it does have its defenders. Here are the main arguments, pro and con.

Reasons to get rid of it

  1. 1. A discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of electoral votes creates the possibility of losing the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Three presidents have been elected on electoral votes while failing to win a majority of voters -- Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 -- an outcome that undermines the faith Americans have in the legitimacy of the executive branch of government.
  2. 2. The Electoral College is inherently undemocratic, skewing significance toward smaller, more sparsely populated states. Delaware, with 900,000 residents, has three electoral votes, while Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has 34, which means from an electoral point of view, a vote in Delaware is more than twice as significant -- representing 1/300,000th of an electoral vote -- than a vote in Texas, representing 1/750,000 of an electoral vote.
  3. 3. By focusing on assembling 270 electoral votes, candidates ignore "safe" states such as Illinois, where there is no point in fighting for more votes once a majority is reached, since all the electoral votes are already assured. Thus the majority of states, nearly certain to fall one way or another, tend to get ignored in favor of a handful of "swing" states.
  4. 4. Even if the Electoral College works perfectly, it still introduces unnecessary delay into the system. Give the likelihood of immediate electronic voting in the foreseeable future, having to wait for some mysterious conclave to put its seal of approval on the will of the American people is unnecessary, not only wasting time, but wasting the money required to run the system.
  5. 5. There is the remote but real possibility of fraudulent electors -- members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote the way the results require that they vote. This has happened, and while it has never affected the outcome of a race, it could, and there is no reason to allow the possibility that one individual could perversely negate the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Reasons to keep it

  1. 1. America is change averse and would rather cling to an arcane system than switch to a new one, which might have flaws of its own. If we can't get rid of the penny, we can't scrap the Electoral College so why try? To do so, would involve a change in the constitution -- Article II, Section I lays out the details of the Electoral College -- and whatever benefit isn't worth the trouble of doing that.
  2. 2. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be encouraged to treat the country as a whole, and campaign through the national media, or in urban centers where the most people are concentrated. They would never spend time in a place like Ohio, where an evenly divided population means its electoral votes are up for grabs.
  3. 3. The Electoral College can soften the sting of tight races, which we often see. Thus a candidate who only wins by a tiny percentage of the popular vote can still have a considerable victory in the Electoral College, leading to a greater impression of consensus, which is good for subsequent governing.
  4. 4. The Electoral College helps direct power toward the states -- without it, authority would be even more centralized than it already is.
  5. 5. If the Electoral College wasn't scrapped after the debacle of the 2000 elections -- which saw one of those fraudulent electors -- it's never going to be.

reidAP.jpeg
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been taken via ambulance to a Las Vegas hospital after what's reported to have been a five-vehicle crash on Interstate 15 involving his motorcade.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, a source reports that Sen. Reid had no visible injuries but his trip to University Medical Center Trauma was a precaution. While more details on the crash - other injuries and how it happened - aren't currently available, the Sun did report, "Trooper Loy Hixson said five vehicles were involved in the accident: two vehicles carrying Reid and members of his party; two Metro Police vehicles; and one civilian vehicle."

Reid's wife, Landra, was scheduled to speak at an event in Las Vegas along with First Lady Michelle Obama.

With the third and final debate in the rearview mirror, here are some memorable moments from Boca Raton, Florida, the site of the final presidential showdown.

Click all photos to embiggen.

514810777.jpg
US President Barack Obama (R) greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) following the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the crucial toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign.
AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Italy US Presidential_Newm.jpg
Two statuettes depicting President Barack Obama, left, and Republican rival Mitt Romney are backdropped by the Stars and Stripes in a shop which sells Christmas nativity figures in Naples, Italy, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, hours ahead of their third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida. (AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta)


After a whirlwind three weeks that's seen just about everything we thought we could see in an election, the two major party candidates for President of the United States - Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney - hold their final debate of the election season tonight. Going into the first debate less than three weeks ago in Denver, Obama was poised for a runaway win barring any major speed bumps. But that's what happend in Denver when Obama put forth a listless, lackluster performance by the president plus a new populist approach from Romney turned things around and put the wind at Romney's back, changing the entire course of the race. A testy, fiery Vice President Joe Biden turned up in the VP debate against GOP nominee Paul Ryan. And last week, Romney and Obama engaged in a heated, electrice debate, the candidates stalking the stage, often circling one another as they unleashed attacks on the other.

Tonight's moderator, CBS' Bob Schieffer, has experience with debates, having moderated one in each of the last two presidential election, and has already announced his list of topics for tonight's debate, centered on foreign policy:

  • America's role in the world
  • Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines - Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World

Tonight should be a lively debate and we've got our best columnists and pundits along to provide live commentary. Below you can find both live video via YouTube of the debate and, below that, the running commentary from the Sun-Times staff. Before we go live at 7:30 p.m. and throughout the debate, take some time to check out some of our other posts about the upcoming election and check out even more coverage at our Election Page.

Bears or Debate? What are you watching?
Roeper: Presidential circus continues
Ghosts of Elections Past: Ohio and Florida
Sifting through presidential endorsements
Googling the next president
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at last week's Alfred E. Smith dinner
Obama campaign rolls out new "Romnesia" stump speech
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver on The Daily Show