Politicians will often try to excite their base of fundraisers by sending out press clippings that prove how their policies have infuriated opponents or how they're being targeted by biased reporters. The idea is to show their supporters that they're angering the right ...
Politicians will often try to excite their base of fundraisers by sending out press clippings that prove how their policies have infuriated opponents or how they're being targeted by biased reporters. The idea is to show their supporters that they're angering the right people or being unfairly persecuted (and, of course, to pluck out a few contributions in the process).
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger tried just such a tactic this week when he sent out Ben Joravsky's recent Reader article headlined "The Straw Man." His email to supporters was titled "That Old Double Standard Strikes Again." It included the full text of the piece followed by a link to his campaign's contribution page. Using that title as our only guide, I think it's safe to assume that Stroger wanted to highlight this observation by Joravsky:
I’m not defending Stroger or his policies, or saying he doesn’t deserve some of the flak he takes. But there are others who deserve it and don’t get any. It’s like all these outraged populists just found out that it takes connections to get ahead in this town—they’re acting like Stroger is the first son of a ward boss moved to the head of the line. Hardly. Congressman Dan Lipinski benefited from a similar power play. State House speaker and Democratic Party chairman Michael Madigan compelled more than a few underlings to help get his daughter Lisa elected Illinois attorney general.
It's a valid point and one that all local political observers should take note of. But is this really the way Stroger plans to repair his political image in preparation for the 2010 primary? By pointing out that he's no worse than so many other white politicians who come out of Chicago's entrenched, nepotistic, patronage-oriented political establishment?
Indeed, the rest of article paints Stroger as ineffective, desperate for good press, and still benefiting from his father's legacy rather than his own. It's easy to imagine the piece energizing those who care about reforming Chicago government or improving local media coverage or bridging the racial divide in the city. It's just hard to see how it would inspire someone to write a check to Stroger.
For instance, here's Joravsky on the board president's failure to gain influence despite his prominent position:
From the amount of bile spewed against him, you’d think Stroger was the most powerful and incorrigible figure in local politics.
He’s not even close. Offhand I can think of more than 30 other local politicians with more clout than Stroger, including three mere aldermen -- Ed Burke, Richard Mell, and Fritchey’s uncle-in-law Bill Banks. Stroger’s not even the big man on the county board -- that role falls to commissioner John Daley. In fact, while he controls more jobs, I’m not even sure he has more influence than his nemesis, commissioner Forrest Claypool, who’s cultivated a cultlike following in the press.
Here he is cracking wise about the fact that Stroger reached out to him for an interview:
Last week I had a chance to ask Stroger what he thinks of all this. I didn’t even have to reach out to him—his people called me. As he gears up for reelection, Stroger’s looking for folks beyond the south side who, as one of his aides put, “might be fair.” I view it as the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass: if you’re a machine politician and you’re asking me for help, you must be desperate.
And here he is on how Stroger views his role:
As Stroger sees it, he’s following the long tradition of strong black politicians -- going back to Congressman William Dawson -- who used their clout within the regular Democratic Party to win jobs and contracts for their people. He said one of his proudest achievements as president has been ensuring that minority contractors get 35 percent of county business. By contrast, the city has struggled to bring its minority contracting share up to 10 percent.
It's a great article (one we highlighted in the Around The Horn last week). I'm just not sure how much good it does Stroger. After all, Joravsky isn't really sticking up for the board president -- he's just saying that many others deserve the same degree of scrutiny.