And Conservative Democrats Lose Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson

by: Matt Stoller

Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:17


One little noticed part of the corruption problems encompassing Democrats like Rod Blagojevich in Illinois and William Jefferson in Louisiana is that they come from the more conservative/DLC/New Democratic wing of the party.  Blago, when he was in the House, was the only Illinois Democrat to vote for the war, and as Governor pursued culture war issues like cracking down on violent video games.  Jefferson was one of the few CBC members to vote for the war in Iraq, and has a well-trod history of voting against corporate regulations.

New Democrats are kind of struggling to find their niche at this point, ideologically speaking.  There's not a lot of oomph left in the free market Democrat mantra, and the corruption scandals here suggest that this is in some ways simply about low rent pay to play.

Matt Stoller :: And Conservative Democrats Lose Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson

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I am surprised (0.00 / 0)
I thought Rahm voted for the war too. Guess I was wrong.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

He took office after the vote. (4.00 / 1)


[ Parent ]
I'm sorry to tell you this Stoller (4.00 / 5)
But as an Illinoisan, Blagojevich is definitely NOT a conservative Democrat.

He's a scumbag, he's corrupt, he's got a Bush-like delusions of grandeur.

But he's not a conservative.  He is wanna-be populist, and did accomplish a number of very progressive goals as Governor.

The most significant is All-Kids, which insures every child in the State.  But, he's also worked to expand educational funding for low income areas, he's pushed for stricter environmental regulations, expanding the State EITC, prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, he has continued the moratorium on the death penalty, he's held the line on the sales tax (even though we desperately need new taxes - unfortunately pushing through income tax increases is almost impossible), expanded access to pre-school, amongst other things.

He also attempted to get a universal health care package through, but failed.  

He is a scumbag and a terrible governor.  But his legislative accomplishments are very progressive.

If he wasn't scumbag with delusions of Granduer and a Bush-esque blindness to reality, he could have been a great Governor.  His pissing matches with Michael Madigan are an embarrassment and have prevented a more progressive agenda from getting through.  That and the corruption.

Fortunately, his successor is also a Progressive, and a Progressive with ethical standards and a brain.  

Governor Pat Quinn will be the most Progressive Governor in the country.

He is not, in any way, a Conservative.  He's a corrupt populist.  


Pat Quinn??? RU serious (4.00 / 1)
I moved away from Chicago to Atlanta at the end of 2000.  But Pat Quinn is --- you're quite right --- a real populist, with a long record of consumer advocacy and whatnot, also corrupt, but a real wild card in many ways.  Gonna be interesting back home.??

"If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other people, then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding..."
Zora Neale Hurston


[ Parent ]
Yeah. (0.00 / 0)
I always kind of thought Quinn was a little too much stick-up-the-ass righteous, but damn, do we need him right now. Whether he or any Dem can get reelected next time around is another question.

[ Parent ]
It still depends upon (0.00 / 0)
the ability of the religious right and the commercial right calling a truce and coming together. Even then all a Democrat has to do is appeal to downstate and any recovered balance on the Republican side is countered.

Jeff Wegerson

[ Parent ]
I'd love to see Quinn elected. (0.00 / 0)
Seems like he doesn't have much downstate appeal, though, and it's hard to see voters turning to the Dems for reform now. Is there any reason to think that what happened to the Reps after Ryan won't happen to the Dems now?

If there was ever a time for a well-financed and capable third-party push to succeed in a state, it's now. If the Dems' great hope is now the Madigan cabal, maybe an all-out third-party push is Illinois progressives' best scenario.

BTW, I see Durbin is calling on the legislature to mandate a special election for the Senate seat. I didn't know they could do that, given the clear wording of the state constitution. Seems like it would be better to work on getting Blago the hell out of there so Quinn could name the senator.


[ Parent ]
I thought the Senate could call a special election? (0.00 / 0)
Something int he Constitution about Congress determining when and how officers are appointed to the Congress I thought.

[ Parent ]
yes, that was my impression (4.00 / 3)
and i think perhaps a better formulation than what matt suggests would be "pols who are in the business to Get Some," vs "pols who are in the business to change the world."

we want people in that latter camp. people who aren't doing it for themselves and their own enrichment. people who have ideals, and goals, and understand that they work for the electorate. we even want people like this in the republican party, even if their goals and ideas are different than ours.

a lot of progressive are going to get burned by this, that's my prediction. it's a shame, but it's also true: there's no ideological test for corruption. true progressives don't work with corrupt players, ever, and this is a perfect example of why.


[ Parent ]
um (0.00 / 0)
He ran as a New Democrat and was often featured on the DLC website as a progressive hero of the group.  The ideological lines blur, but let's be clear that much of the policy agenda you put forward can be put into the DLC tent.

[ Parent ]
But, that willfully (4.00 / 1)
ignores the reality that he governed Illinois as the Progressive fighting for the people's interests against Conservative Democrats like Michael Madigan.

You're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  Blagojevich and Jefferson are both corrupt Democrats from deeply corrupt states.

I won't judge Jefferson's credentials, I don't know anything about him.

And Blago's aborted universal health care package was to be paid for with a Gross Receipts tax, which was virulently opposed by the business community in this state.

He may have once been a DLC'er and a New Democrat, but his governing philosophy was far the DLC/ND's left.

Except for the corruption of course.

The conservative Democrats in Illinois are led by Michael Madigan, not Rod Blagojevich.  


[ Parent ]
The lines don't blur. (0.00 / 0)
You're wrong because you want to believe another blue dog got creamed. Blago is far too erratic to be a poster boy for the gray ghosts of the DLC. For example, he steadily refused to mitigate our killingly regressive sales tax with a hike in income taxes on the one hand, while mandating free public transit rides for seniors (without doing anything to fund it, of course). His style, if not his substance, was populist left when it came to the details, and "no new taxes" when it came to the basics. He's basically a much more corrupt version of Huey Long.

[ Parent ]
I consider myself a populist (4.00 / 1)
and yet I never had the slightest use for Blago.  Blago is just a corrupt fool and how he managed to survive reelection is a black mark against the Illinois Democratic Party.  He's not a blue dog but he's no progressive and no populist.  

The senior discount on transit was just a stunt.  Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it.  Blago pulled it out of his hat at the last minute as his way to resolve a transit funding impasse that had gone on for months and it wasn't funded.  

Labor?  Hah.  Talk to AFSCME.  They HATE him.  He apparently got in bed with SEIU and shoveled whatever crumbs he had to them, while royally screwing AFSCME who had originally supported him as had the rest of the labor movement.

He's a read-my-lips-no-new-taxes Democrat.  Even the Sun-Times Outdoors editor rails against him for what he's done to the State Parks budget.

As always, Illinois politics cannot be understood in left-right terms.  It's always been about corruption above any principles.


sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.


[ Parent ]
He's a bad populist. (4.00 / 2)
My point was that there can be such a thing, and Matt's attempt to make him a DLC blue dog is an example of how we tend to go into denial about that. I'm sure the senior free ride thing was, in Blago's mind, the kind of cheap trick that would con the stupid oldies that he was on their side. Didn't work, near as I can see.

I lived in the so-called 3rd world for some years, and Illinois-style pseudo-populist corruption is like I never left there.


[ Parent ]
no (0.00 / 0)
Blago was the most conservative Democratic member of the House from Illinois and he ran as a New Democrat for Governor.  

[ Parent ]
Exactly. (0.00 / 0)
Blago is too much of a loose cannon to be progressive OR conservative. On the one hand he accomplished all that you list, on the other he's refused desperately needed tax reforms and given the northern part of the state, at least, some of the most regressive sales-tax rates in the country while schools, transit, and infrastructure all crumble for lack of funding. I think he's an object lesson for progressives on what can happen when we quit caring about corruption, fairness, and simple sanity as long as somebody seems like a populist.

I just finished listening to Fitzgerald's press conference, and it was surreal. Blago is charged with soliciting contributions to release funds for Childrens' Hospital, trying to sell Obama's Senate seat, and threatening to block the Tribune Cos. sale of the Cubs unless they fired staffers who were attacking Blagojevich, among other things.

Most surreal of all, Blago will STILL get to name the next senator from Illinois unless the legislature somehow manages to impeach and convict him with impossible speed, or he just resigns. It being fantasy time, I keep thinking of him becoming George Ryan's roomie at the Wisconsin penitentiary. Illinois Number One. Yay.

Anyway, to get back to the point, it's ridiculous to try and dismiss Blago as a "conservative". Comforting, but ridiculous.


[ Parent ]
Don't call him a progressive (4.00 / 1)
It's all show.

Held the line on the sales tax and the income tax?  That's "read my lips - no new taxes" from a Democrat.  So he's cutting budgets left and right.  There's nothing progressive about it.

All-Kids sounds good until you look at the details.  Ask the people of E. St. Louis all of whose hospitals are in Missouri.  Illinois people were turned away because the State wouldn't pay.

We are well rid of him.  Let's not tar ourselves as progressives with this brush.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.


[ Parent ]
The lesson with Blagojevich (4.00 / 1)
is that we need to be vigilant and clear in assessing our own, and ensure that the corrupt are not allowed to become significant representatives of what Progressivism stands for.

It is good that the progressive blogosphere is coming out hard against Blago (if the situation were reversed, I think Republicans would be crying conspiracy, that the arrest was politically motivated).

We need to be vigilant in policing our own.

We need to be clear that corruption will not be tolerated, no matter how progressive the elected official is.

Progressives in Illinois dislike Blagojevich because of the taint of corruption and the damage a corrupt Governor can inflict upon the party.  We do support his well planned efforts though, especially on things like AllKids.  


Mike Flanagan (0.00 / 0)
Blago's victory over Flanagan owed to Rosti's still-intact machine.  Too much powerful for "good gov't" vigilance to overcome.

[ Parent ]
He was never one of "our own" (0.00 / 0)
at best he was a quasi-populist.

Jeff Wegerson

[ Parent ]
Another lesson (4.00 / 1)
is that progressives can't live in a fantasy world where pet projects are passed while the pols insist on keeping regressive taxes that don't finance the projects. To the extent that Blago is seen as a "progressive", the movement will be badly damaged here. He did exactly what the right says we do: pass a lot of populist giveaways without doing anything about how to pay for them. Blago was conservative at least in his "no new taxes" bullshit.

[ Parent ]
There is talk that Obama's team turned him in. (0.00 / 0)


well, they sort of have to, don't they? (0.00 / 0)
regardless of the degree of "connection" (and i'm not suggesting there is any) with blago, the obama admin is in a lose-lose situation if they don't take an agressive stance in all this. so yes, if i were obama, and i'd been briefed about this (and of course he must have been aware, the investigation is long running) i'd have said to someone working for me, "make this happen, now. before it gets out of hand. and make sure we're standing right there with the sheriff holding the gun on the guilty."

cold, hard, political logic, but necessary.


[ Parent ]
Not a word on that (0.00 / 0)
on the Chicago media. The impression I got from Fitzgerald is that the investigation was totally secret in order to allow them to bug his phone lines. I can't think how Obama's team would have been in the loop.

[ Parent ]
Charles Rangel (0.00 / 0)
Since we're talking about Democrats with ethics problems, what is to be done about Rangel?

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

Nomenclature: 'New' Dems? 'Old New' Dems? '1992 New' Dems? (0.00 / 0)
There's nothing new about them anymore except their name.  Time to fix the name.

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