Yesterday, we elected our first African American to the Presidency of the United States.
Although he wasn’t my choice, I wish Barack Obama the best for the next four years. I’m not going to whine; we survived four years of Carter and eight years of Clinton. Let’s see what can be learned as we suffer through four years of Obama.
I had to wonder how we got into this mess. There is certainly plenty of blame to go around — on both sides of the aisle. John McCain obviously ran the most inept national campaign since Mike Dukakis rode around in that tank with that goofy helmet.
McCain certainly wasn’t my first choice. (Mike Huckabee dropped out several months ago; Fred Thompson never registered a blip on any charts.) Barack wasn’t my choice, either. A year ago, I lined up all the potential candidates on both sides in order of my preference. McCain was dead last on the Republican side and Obama was dead last on the Democratic side. Sometimes, you just can’t buy a break.
Back to how we got here...
It can all be traced back to the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991. Bear with me; this is the only place you’ll see this analysis. I’m going to share with you how an ill-qualified, unknown product of the Chicago Political Machine became the President of the United States.
The confirmation of Clarence Thomas was arguable one of the most contentious displays of dirty politics ever held in the United States Senate. George H. W. Bush was pressured on all sides to replace Thurgood Marshall with another African American. But the Democrats couldn’t bear the fact that a Republican would have the gall to nominate a conservative black guy to replace a liberal black guy. Of all the nerve!
So the televised mud-slinging started. Charges of pubic hairs on Coca-Cola cans and mentions of “Long Dong Silver” filled the air waves.
Since the Democrats had a 57-43 majority in the Senate, Bush needed to convert every Democratic senator he could to his side — while at the same time preserving his Republican base.
Bush and Thomas won with a vote to spare: 52 to 48. They did it by garnering the votes of eleven Democrats.
One of those votes cost a senator his job, and set into motion Obama’s trip to the White house.
Illinois Senator Alan Dixon was one of those turncoat Democratic senators who voted to confirm Judge Thomas. That single act so enraged Carol Moseley Braun — a former state legislator and the Cook County Recorder of Deeds — that she decided Dixon would have to pay. She decided to run against him in the Democratic senate primary in 1992
It was a bitterly-fought election. Moseley Braun had several things in her favor. She was black — always a plus when you’re a Democrat. She was a woman — how convenient. She was liberal — the trifecta of the left.
And she had the backing of the Chicago Political Machine. Icing on the cake.
Al Hofeld, a millionaire attorney, ran as a third candidate in the Democratic primary. He didn’t see Moseley Braun as a legitimate threat; he was only out to defeat Dixon. So he ran a series of vicious anti-Dixon ads to bring down the incumbent. The result was that he just split the vote. Moseley Braun barely won the three-way race and became the Democratic candidate.
She had no problem defeating a total unknown Republican, Richard Williamson, in the general election. Thus, she became the first African-American woman to win a seat in the Senate.
Once in Washington, Moseley Braun showed her true colors. Everywhere she went, she tried to out-liberal the liberal establishment. Her term was full of charges of corruption and was total embarrassment to the Democratic Party (and to politicians in general).
Not even the Illinois Democrats could salvage her miserable display. She narrowly lost her reelection in 1998 to Republican millionaire banker Peter Fitzgerald.
As much as Moseley Braun tried to out-liberal the liberals, Fitzgerald tried to out-maverick the mavericks. He was always at odds with the Republican establishment in Illinois. The home boys probably didn’t think he had much of a chance to defeat Moseley Braun in the first place and were frankly surprised by his victory. They did everything they could to make sure he stayed at odds with the party. And he obliged.
In 2001, his was the only dissent in the 99-1 vote to aid the airline industry after the September 11 attacks.
Seeing the writing on the wall, lacking support of his local party, and not needing the job, Fitzgerald decided not to seek reelection in 2004.
Moseley Braun, by this time, had enjoyed a nice stint as the us Ambassador to New Zealand. She was spending her Senate pension, running a private law firm in Chicago while working on a run for President. She said she wasn’t interested in being a Senator again. (Later, she wisely withdrew from her presidential bid and threw her support to Howard Dean. Maybe that’s why he screamed in the Iowa caucus.)
That left a huge vacuum for the position of junior senator from Illinois. Barack Obama was biding his time in the Illinois State Senate, having been groomed by the Chicago Political Machine. He was now ready to strike.
The primary race involved 15 different candidates. Obama hired political strategist David Axelrod, who launch an advertising campaign featuring former Chicago mayor Harold Washington and the daughter of the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon. The voters rewarded the campaign with 52% of the primary vote. The only thing that stood between Obama and the us Senate was the Illinois Republican Party. They proved to be as effective as a wet paper napkin.
In a crowded Republican field, one man was left standing after the torturous primary. Millionaire Jack Ryan barely garnered more votes than Jim Oberweis (36% to 23%) for the privilege of challenging Obama. Other than being rich and beautiful, Ryan’s primary claim to fame was being the ex-husband of former Miss Illinois and Star Trek:Voyager actress, Jeri (“Seven of Nine”) Ryan.
Jack and Jeri had split up several years prior. In order to protect their son, they both agreed to have their divorce records sealed. The judge obliged and nobody cared. At least, nobody cared until Jack became the only roadblock between the aforementioned Obama and the Chicago Political Machine’s quest to fill the us Senate vacancy.
The Chicago Political Machine contacted the Los Angeles Political Machine and finally found a judge that would over-rule the wishes of the parents and the best interest of the child and open the court records. Allegations of public sex tumbled forth, the Illinois Republican leadership withdrew their support, and Jack Ryan, seeing the damage done, withdrew from the race in June, 2004.
Meanwhile, what was Obama doing? He was busy writing a speech that would change the history of America. It’s very rare that a sitting state legislator would give a keynote address at a major political convention. But never underestimate the power of the Chicago Political Machine.
The Democratic Party was set to nominate John Kerry in Boston. The Chicago Machinery — aligned with the Kennedy machinery — was eager to humiliate their arch-rivals, the Clintons, while on Kennedy’s home court.
Obama — admittedly a great orator — spoke of change to the convention. Bush was bad, socialism is good, widows and orphans are starving, the Iraq war was a mistake, the Democrats have a better plan. He conveniently belied his own liberal agenda as he proclaimed, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.”
The audience went wild. The news pundits drooled and crowned him the successor to Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson.
And two presidential hopefuls in the audience — Hillary Clinton and John Edwards — put on their poker faces and gamely smiled. Behind those smiles, their jaws were on the floor as they could only mutter to themselves, “Oh ... my ... gawd!”
Meanwhile, back in Illinois, the Republican Machinery — who by now couldn’t get a dogcatcher elected in Peoria — were desperately trying to fill the gap left by Ryan’s fall from grace. Remarkably, not one Republican in the entire state was deemed worthy. Not one candidate — not even Republican primary runner-up Jim Oberweis — was either willing or able to be a worthy opponent to the newly-anointed Kennedy-esque black messiah.
When their last chance of a Great White Hope — Da Bears’ Coach Mike Ditka — declined to run, the Republicans sunk to a new low in stupidity.
In one of the most amazing examples of futile desperation in modern political history, the Illinois Republicans reached all the way to the state of Maryland to persuade Reagan-sidekick-turned-talk-show-host Alan Keyes to carpet-bag his way to the ticket. Keyes, already coming off several failed attempts to be a Maryland senator, obliged. He rented an apartment and a post office box in Chicago and said “Where do I sign up?”
He didn’t need to sign up. Three months later, the Illinois voters saw through the transparent sham and sent Obama to Washington with 70% of the vote — a mandate by any standard.
Keyes went back to Maryland to prepare for his 2008 presidential run. Obama went to neighboring Washington dc to prepare for his 2008 presidential run.
His run for the presidency culminated last night.
It’s been said that we walk through life backwards — only glimpsing at the present, ignorant of the future, while staring at the past.
In this case, we stare at the bold nomination of a Supreme Court justice, the fateful vote of a senator from Illinois, and the rage that ensued — and we now realize that it set into motion the election of a President, and the future of our nation.