Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) selected Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate vacancy. Democrats are trying to stop Burris from fulfilling the appointment.
Much has been – and will be – made of the legal and political wrangling over Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich‘s appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama‘s Senate seat. The story’s twists and turns alone are exciting enough to track every development. But what exactly are the consequences if Burris makes it to the Senate?
Writing in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne asserts that “Republicans would be merciless about the taint that would attach to Burris’ Senate vote and argue that the nation’s Democratic majority was hopelessly wrapped up in Chicago politics at its most corrupt.”
Dionne probably gives Republicans too much credit; I doubt they would be quite that assertive (whether it is obsequiousness to Senate customs of collegiality or lack of moral confidence in their own cause, Republicans there often seem a timid bunch). Nonetheless, Burris’s presence would be an obnoxious one for Senate Democrats. Even if he is personally clean, his singularly most consequential effect of serving in the Senate will be to remind the media and the public of scandalous Democrat politics.
Worse, his appointment brings to mind what was never supposed to enter the public mind about Obama: that he is the product of a corrupt Chicago political environment and never once while there did anything that might rock the boat. In fact, there are even some similarities between the two men, despite their obvious differences. Both are conventional liberals, reliable partisans and enforcers of the status quo, always seeking personal advancement regardless of thin records of actual accomplishment in public service.
The bottom line is this: Roland Burris is to Barack Obama as Chicago Politics is to Change We Can Believe In. The public realization that it’s all the same is what Democrats have to risk if Roland Burris makes it to the U.S. Senate.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) has a certain amount of pluck – or is it audacity? No matter, he has learned well a principal lesson of the Democrat Party – he has skillfully played the race card.
At a press conference yesterday, Blago announced his appointment of veteran state pol Roland Burristo the Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama. Burris would be the only black member of the Senate if confirmed, a fact emphasized by his backers. Democrats from Springfield to Washington D.C. reacted with outrage and indignation, signaling they would use all means available to stop the appointment from going through. Their reaction is in one sense yet another act in this comedy of errors.
Why should Democrats be surprised at Blago’s desperate use of the race card? On what grounds do they object? Doing so is one of the Party’s foremost tactics, their stock-in-trade; it is among their most time-honored traditions.
Democrats have not only long used the race card, but long sought to categorize by and reduce individuals to their skin color, and divy out society’s loot (like U.S. Senate seats) accordingly through the use of quotas and the like. Why are Democrats and the punditry class now, all of a sudden, despairing the use of the race card? Because this controversy threatens to damage Obama? It’s a question worth asking.
Democrats, it seems, have painted themselves into a corner in regards to the controversy surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The corruption case against Blago threatened to touch the incoming administration, or at a minimum serve as an unpleasant reminder of Obama’s connections to an unsavory Chicago political scene. Thus, Democrats rushed to condemn Blago and remove him from the scene.
In disgrace and under pressure, the Governor’s latest act of defiance is to proceed to appoint Roland Burris to Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat – the seat he was accused of attempting to parlay into a lucrative job following his term as governor. Before the appointment, however, Senate Democrats said they would not accept any appointment made by Blagojevich. While the Senate has the power to refuse to seat or to admit a member, it’s unclear exactly how – and how long – they can wield that power (I can’t recall any recent example of the body taking this action).
Two big things here: Legally, Blago does have the power to make the appointment. I have yet to hear a good explanation of exactly what power the Senate has to block him from taking the seat. Is Roland Burris a U.S. Senator right now? Presumably not, because I don’t believe he has taken an oath of office yet, but I don’t know with certainty. Will the Senate be content to leave one state without representation until the Blago mess is sorted? Will Democrats be content to be lacking a reliable partisan vote from Illinois? The second big thing is race. Burris is black, and would be the only black member of the Senate should he assume the role. He would be filling Obama’s seat, that of the first black president. It is considered a “black” seat and many black politicians and their constituencies might become upset if a black does not continue to hold it.
All this to say, what do Senate Democrats do now? They made a lot of noise early, and again when it appeared as though Blago would go ahead and make the appointment, and now it’s unclear whether they’ll be able – legally and or politically – to act. The entire situation is unfortunate, sure, but not entirely humorless, either.