Thursday, February 12, 2004

Primary Colors

Last night I was at a fundraiser for Barack Obama's Senate campaign and I left feeling like I had attended a tent revival. I had been leaning towards Obama for weeks but last night pushed me well over the edge into activist territory.

The average voter won't have his mind made up until days before the primary, if then. That still hasn't stopped Blair Hull from flooding his campaign coffers with fifteen million dollars of his own money, with a personal fortune of nearly five hundred million more at his disposal. Obama, who has the support and endorsement of nearly every non-partisan political organization and Democratic machine in the state, faces a hell of a climb in the next five weeks if he is to become only the second popularly elected African American male senator in the history of the Senate.

Hull has the name recognition right now, largely because of the money he's been spending. However, in an age of attention deficit disorder and soundbytes, political campaigns are more like sprints. For all of Hull's money and media saturation, until four years ago he wasn't even a part of the democratic process. In other words, the man never bothered to vote.

The other thing that irks me about Hull besides his money is the feeling that he's capitalizing on the perceived cynicism of the voting populace. Peter Fitzgerald spent twelve million dollars of his own fortune in 1998 to oust Carol Moseley-Braun from the Senate. It was twelve million he didn't need to spend; a majority of Illinois voters were already disenchanted by Moseley-Braun's conflicts of interest and associations with African dictators that he would have voted for anyone besides her. Fitzgerald, in my mind, has acquitted himself very well.

The reliance on his personal fortune to finance his campaign has resulted in Fitzgerald being largely resistant to the lobby culture on Capitol Hill. Fitzgerald hasn't played the compromise game well, alienating both Senate Democrats and even some of his staunchest Republican backers on the Senate floor. The cries of gifts to the banking industry that Fitzgerald made his fortune have largely been wolf cries, as he has concentrated on making tough stances for the citizens of Illinois.

But his most notable achievement has been his nomination of Patrick Fitzgerald to the US Attorney's office in Illinois. An nomination that Peter Fitzgerald insisted he have final say over his senior Senate partner Dick Durbin, the Pat Fitzgerald nomination gave Illinois a bulldog of an attorney and resulted in an avalanche of indictments to the former power circle of former governor George Ryan, including Ryan himself, harkening way back from when Ryan was Illinois Secretary of State during the licenses for bribes scandal. Coupled with the reform-minded legislative victories of current Governor Rod Blagojevich, politicians from both parties are looking over their shoulder.

Peter Fitzgerald is the anomaly. Blair Hull has made affordable health care his primary campaign issue. As more information comes out about poorly conceived the Bush Medicare package really was, that's like taking a stand against sour milk.

Obama is also in favor for affordable health care. As a union lawyer he's also against the Patriot Act and the unlawful incarceration of people under it, fully realizing that these incarcerations are also violations of our own civil rights. Obama eloquently articulates his distaste for the Bush administration without becoming shrill and vindictive. His endorsements speak for themselves and he will not spread negative campaign ads in the upcoming weeks, hoping that his credentials speak volumes for him. He's an adept coalition builder- his state senatorial district stretches from the Gold Coast to the Oakwood/Kenmore neighborhood. In short, he represents both the richest and poorest citizens of Illinois in his district.

You can find out more information about Barack Obama by clicking this link.

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