Political Circus: Is There a Method to Blago's Madness?

You have to give Blagojevich credit --- he knows how to make politics interesting. This latest gambit is a real pip. But there is some method to his madness, I think. He's trying to divide the Democrats both in Illinois and Washington and he did it using a powerful tool.

Michael Tomasky lays it out:


Then Bobby Rush showed up. The south side congressman -- the only man ever to defeat Barack Obama in an election -- introduced the racial angle and dramatically raised the stakes.

It must be said that Rush made an entirely fair point. In 2004, when they elected Obama, the voters of Illinois chose an African American senator. And so, in determining who should fill out his term, it's reasonable that race count as a factor. He pointed to Illinois' recent history as the only state that's elected two black senators (Obama and Carol Moseley Braun), arguing that the state has a history on this score that's unique. That's all fair.

But Rush wasn't pleading. He was warning. He was daring Reid and the other senators to deny this black man the seat. I couldn't quite believe my ears when he used the word "lynch," but sure enough he did: he urged the members of the media "not to hang or lynch the appointee as you castigate the appointor." He went on to say that he and his congressional allies would push Reid to reverse his position and said of the prospect of a bunch of white senators denying Burris the seat: "I don't think they wanna go on record doing that."

I covered lots of racial-politics conflagrations in New York in the very racially heated 1980s and 1990s, and I've heard rhetoric like Rush's before, and I've seen its effects. When a black figure issues a public challenge like this, including one of the most heavily freighted dog-whistle words in American political history, to a white politician, sides start to line up. Tempers start to inflame. Whether the white pol stands firm or assents, somebody is going to be really, really unhappy.

Reid is in a spot. There's a chance that is is going to be on black radio all over the country tomorrow morning, and if it is, it's going to have nothing to do with Blago on those stations. It'll have to do with whether the white Democratic leaders of the Senate, "who take our vote for granted in November," etc., will spurn this obviously qualified black man.

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