Friday, December 12, 2008


On replacing a Senator

Unless you’ve been climbing in the Himalayas for the past few days — and perhaps even then — you’ve heard about the meltdown in Illinois, where Rod Blaga Blogo Bragado Bollix the governor was caught on wiretap saying very bad words. Oh, and trying to sell a Senatorship. Some wags have been joining the fun by putting auctions up on eBay and other online sites. And one clever guy has registered the domain name, and is selling that on eBay.

Of course, at this point no one wants to be knighted by Governor-not-much-longer Blagojevich’s ceremonial sword (or, at least, no one will admit to wanting it), and the state legislature is running about trying to figure out how to take the power to make the appointment away from the governor tout de suite. NPR talked about the options on Thursday’s Morning Edition:

Ill. Politicians Distance Themselves From Blagojevich

Morning Edition, December 11, 2008 — Just a few days ago, some Illinois politicians were jockeying to fill the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. But with Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich facing federal corruption charges, those hopefuls are now trying to avoid the taint of the governor’s scandal.

One option is to call a special election — an expensive proposition, to be sure, but certainly the one that best represents the people of Illinois. The state’s other Senator, Dick Durbin, agrees with that approach. But political scientist Dick Simpson worries about the feasibility of a whirlwind campaign (listen about 3 minutes into the audio):

Well, if you’re only appointed by one person, it’s much easier to convince one person than an electorate. If you have to run for the office, you have to raise between 10 and 20 million dollars, and have a campaign organization that stretches across the state. And when Barack Obama did that, it took more than two years of effort to pull together a successful campaign. To do that in a matter of two or three months is going to be a very difficult task.

But isn’t that thinking a large part of the problem? The fact that the last campaign cost what it did, involved the sort of organization that it did, and drew itself out as long as it did is an artifact of what we’ve set up for ourselves. Wouldn’t it be nice to try a two-month campaign that made the candidates target their money, their organization, and their presence more precisely and carefully? Honestly, two months is plenty of time to go around the state making speeches. It’s plenty of time to do the talk-show circuit and say things that are covered by the news media.

No, it’s not enough time to raise millions of dollars for television and radio ads telling people why your opponent is the spawn of the devil. And wouldn’t it be nice, too, not to have to put up with those?

What a great opportunity this could be to show that we can run a U.S. Senate campaign in two months and with a limited budget. Yes, we can!

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