Now that the wide variety of political shenanigans that have come to exemplify the 2011 Chicago mayoral race have been exhausted, it seems there’s nothing left to do but wait for Tuesday’s electoral returns. At that point we may stop referring to former U.S. Congressman and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as the “presumed favorite,” move beyond his Goliath campaign and start seeing the new CEO of Chi-town in action.

After all, there’s no way anyone could take him at this point, right? Rahmbo has five times more campaign funds at his disposal than nearest fiscal competitor, Gery Chico. His slick print ads and television spots depict the handsome, well-dressed former ballet dancer as a family man who cares about the middle class, ready to make the “tough choices” that will put Chicago back on the fast track to claiming its status as an affordable, world class city. A few of his TV plugs contain public endorsements from not one but two U.S. Presidents, current POTUS Barack Obama, as well as immediate predecessor William Jefferson Clinton.

Continue Reading Rahm the Inevitable »

Ever since the November 2010 mid-term election “shellacking” of the Democratic Party, an outcome that many viewed as a direct rebuke of the Obama administration, it has been clear that Team Barry is direly in need of a leadership shakeup. When we learned just before Thanksgiving that White House senior advisor David Axelrod would be stepping down from his post, many on the Left breathed a collective sigh of relief. Axelrod may be a presidential campaign wunderkind, but to say he’s struggled with messaging for the sitting POTUS is something of an understatement.

On January 5th, we were informed that press secretary Robert Gibbs would also be making his way toward the exit. CNN may wish to wax nostalgically that “Gibbs had an easy, joking relationship with the press,” however the party’s base can still recall with cringing clarity the head spokesman’s bungling of the health care messaging war, the PR debacle that was the Gulf Oil Spill, and countless other instances in which the Obama staffer struggled to find his verbal footing.

But the first of Obama’s major players to announce his departure, way back in September of last year, was chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel.

Continue Reading Another Step in the Wrong Direction »

It is fair to say that when Barack Obama accepted the mantle to become America’s first African-American President on an unseasonably warm evening in November of 2008, the proverbial world was his oyster. Unlike the shaky “mandate” that George W. Bush declared on behalf of himself and the GOP in 2004, a claim that ran up against unprecedented electoral polarization, it was hard to imagine two years ago that the inspirational “Yes, We Can!” message, which resulted in the new President’s receipt of 365 Electoral College votes to McCain’s 173, could be harpooned.

An energized and gleeful Democratic party, which had succeeded in a full sweep of the White House as well as both Chambers of Congress, got to work right away with a transition team and the development of a first term policy agenda (because really, how could there fail to be a second?). In the meantime, the presumed dead GOP retreated to the political wilderness to lick its wounds and try to develop a comeback plan.

Although hindsight is always 20/20, I doubt that either side of the aisle could have envisioned that the key to Republican resurgence would present itself in the summer of 2009 ,with the young President’s plan to tackle an issue that had stymied every Commander-in-Chief and one tough First Lady throughout the 20th Century – an overhaul of our nation’s wasteful, overpriced and under-performing health care system.

Continue Reading A Time for Fire? »

Dear Peter,

I saw the fear in your eyes on TV on election night. I’ve known you for decades, and this is the toughest letter I’ve ever written to you. I never thought that I’d live to see the day when a hedge fund manager in New York could buy and dump enough money into a campaign to threaten you in the 4th Congressional District, but it’s happened. The great right wing conspiracy has been honing its game for decades, and this election was the shot across the bow. The next time they’ll succeed, and frankly, I see this as your last term. Thanks to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision from the Supreme Court and Fox News, the Republicans are setting things up to take total control of this country in two or four years. American democracy as we know it, is effectively dead.

We are already existing under a plutocracy. The results of this election prove that we truly have the best government that money can buy, and there is no stopping them. The future of America is grisly. We will all be given the choice of death or booga-booga. My most likely scenario is that this election was a repeat in many respects of 2004.

Continue Reading An Open Letter to My Congressman »

Midterm Voting: A Metaphor

I hear from disillusioned progressives who can’t seem to get motivated to vote in the upcoming midterms: Obama hasn’t come through. We’re still in Afghanistan. Health care reform was a sham. DADT repeal is worse than a joke.

I have found there is no effective retort to win over people who are disillusioned to this degree. I think it comes down to expectations denied. I favor keeping them low – all the better to exceed them.Because sometimes the dysfunction of government overwhelms our ability to see the people who use it to do, or try to do, good things. I happen to know that Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are stand-up people by any measure. Not only are they well intentioned, but they have resumes that show them to be effective leaders who simply dig in to get the job done. And I could name any number of members of the House of Representatives who fit this description.

That doesn’t mean that the Senate isn’t rotten to the core—and it is—a dysfunctional, decrepit old debating society owned by special interests.

Continue Reading Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite »

Black voters unite! The Democratic Party is once again in need of your blind faith and loyalty to avert a collapse of historical proportions during November 2nd’s midterm elections.

In an October 25th piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, journalist Laura Washington – who I had the “pleasure” of having as a professor at DePaul University – details how key Democrats in Chicago and all across the country are depending on the traditionally Democratic African-American vote to carry hotly contested local and statewide seats. Illinois Democrats are hoping to recoup the 800,000 voters in Cook County alone that sat on their hands during the February 2010 primaries after a monumental turnout in 2008 for the election of our nation’s first black president.

Toni Precwinkle, the former 4th ward alderwoman and current Democratic nominee for the embattled position of Cook County Board President, has started a grass roots get-out-the-vote campaign to make sure that black voters turnout in record numbers on November 2nd. In addition to working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to shake black voters out of their “midterm doldrums”, Precwinkle is also sinking $400,000 of her own campaign funds into motivating African-American voters in an off-year election.

Continue Reading Recouping Loyalty as November 2nd Nears »

In the little over two years since the release of The Family, Jeff Sharlet’s initial report from inside the walls of one of Washington’s most private and perhaps frightening fundamentalist lobbies, it is clear that the author acutely realizes that the stakes have grown dramatically in the days leading up to the publication of his latest work, the aptly titled, C-Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy.

And although his first work created major ripples documenting the indiscretions of former Family associates such as John Ensign and Mark Sanford -primary examples of an organization whose evangelical-influenced fallacies emphasized their perceptions of God’s will for those in power- it’s Sharlet’s latest that assembles the most damning portrait of the group yet, the Family’s involvement with Uganda’s recent “Kill the Gays” legislation.

Jeff Sharlet spoke with RootSpeak regarding his latest book, his time spent on the ground in Uganda and the Family’s recent statements elevating him from one of their enemies…to the enemy of the organization as a whole.

Continue Reading C Street Author Jeff Sharlet | In Conversation »

The sideshow before the big event has arrived. I am of course referring to the commercials, debates and forums that comprise the lead up to the November 2nd midterm elections. As if the attack ads, public speaking gaffes (beheaded bodies in the Arizona desert Gov. Brewer? Do tell!) and the hot button issue of how many anticipated Ohio voters disapprove of Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner’s tan (for the record, according to a recent PPP poll, it is a full 57%) were not entertainment enough, we citizens still have to do the hard work of deciding where to cast our vote.

I’ll go out on a limb and state for the record that “none of the above” never seemed like such an attractive option as it does this year. The frustrated left side of the political spectrum wants revenge for the failed conciliatory efforts of the Obama elite, retribution for the perceived breakdown in delivering on a November 2008 mandate. Reform health care? Yes, we can….dilute an initially strong attempt into weaselly, convoluted nothingness. Banking reform? We’re so angry at you Wall Street. We’re fired up! We’re ready to go…away with consumer protection, which proved to be as forsaken as the public option.

Continue Reading A Changing of the Guard? »

The annual battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder has arrived early for me in 2010. Typically, my serotonin levels begin to drop as the days grow shorter and colder, but this year, my brain is slipping into despondency before the heat even dies. It has been a hot, wet season and that’s my wheelhouse, so I suppose it seems curious that I have chosen to take up residence in Chicago. It seems logical that if you want to fight the winter blues, maybe leaving a City that is damp and dark for nine months of the year would be your first step. What can I say? My masochism is twofold. Apparently I require the bracing, biting cold to remind me of summer’s beauty and value, and I can’t shake this morbid fascination with Illinois politics and all the carnivalesque oddities it brings.

This year, early onset SAD is hitting me in profound ways. I don’t want to let go – of the beach, the street festivals, the outdoor restaurant seating. One of my favorite sights this year has been the scene of children playing and riding bicycles until 10:00 PM, as I sit and quietly sip wine on my balcony. The season of fun and frivolity is now behind these kids. Do they feel the loss as I do?

I am also in no humor to welcome the Fall, for reasons that have nothing to do with a Peter Pan-like desire to extend fun in the sun.

Continue Reading The Waning Days of Summer »

I live in a nice building in a not always so nice neighborhood. Two nights ago, an intoxicated member of the “99 Weekers” club took it upon himself to smash the exterior intercom unit of my residence with a baseball bat. “99 Weekers” is a cute name for a tragic situation facing growing numbers of Americans, who have exhausted the maximum unemployment insurance benefits available to them, 99 weeks, without the end result of finding new and meaningful employment.

These individuals don’t want a handout, they want a job, but with increasingly anemic private sector growth, face the prospect of finding themselves permanent members of the new underclass. Without income and with dwindling marketable skills, the disenfranchisement of these former members of the middle is slowly turning to misplaced anger, directed not at the government or corporations, who are ultimately responsible for the nation’s tailspin. Instead we are witnessing the beginning of a modern day class war, waged between the frustrated and desperate “have nots” and the perceived “haves.”

Continue Reading Let Them Eat Bitterness »