The Boss visits the QCs (no, not Springsteen)
Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan is visiting the Quad Cities today for an appearance at the Plumbers & Pipefitter's Hall at 3:00 p.m. While here, Madigan is expected to confer with area labor leaders as well as Sen. Jacobs, Reps. Boland and Verschoore, and County Democratic Chairman John Gianulis.
Reliable sources report that chief on Madigan's agenda for the visit is to push for Boland to get off the dime and make a decision on where he's going to jump in the coming election. There has been steady pressure from Springfield on Gianulis to get a decision from Boland for some time.
Madigan also was said to be seeking unity within the local Dem party, "suggesting", as only the powerful speaker can, that the animosity between Jacobs and Boland be settled or put aside and that the two politicians as well as Verschoore pull together for the good of the party. The other message Madigan was to impart was his desire for any potential primary challengers to any of the three to put aside their desire to run and back the incumbent candidates.
True to form, the state party apparatus is firmly opposed to any sort of "free market" approach to politics. Fresh blood and competition is strongly discouraged and/or suppressed, and it appears that anyone who entertains notions of a primary challenge, notably Dennis Ahern or Porter McNeil, or anyone else is likely to have a very difficult time of it against their own party leaders.
In any other competitive enterprise, be it business or sports, those at the top have to prove they're the best to stay in the game. How successful would a baseball team be if they simply decided to stick with the players who had been around longest and shut down their farm teams? Every year pro athletes (and amateurs alike) have to "make the cut" by proving their stuff. This ensures that only the most talented and able players make the team and therefore the team is as strong as possible and stands the best chance of winning.
What if repeatedly, every year, promising players who had done the hard work and had the skills were told that they had to stay in the minors longer yet simply because the team managers didn't want to let them compete because it might make the veterans look bad? How long would they stick around?
So why should politicians be shielded from having to prove themselves against legitimate and qualified challengers?
Unity and certainty are easily understood and desirable objectives from a party standpoint. It's not difficult to understand how this is thought to ensure a higher likelihood of victory.
Primary battles involve two things the party wishes to avoid like the plague, namely the expense - any money spent on a primary lessens the amount available for the general, and the potential negatives brought out during a primary fight between Dems which might hurt the eventual winner and/or help their opponent in the general. Both of these reasons are legitimate reasons for trying to avoid a potentially bruising primary fight.
But there are definite downsides to attempts to squash primary challengers as well.
Competition almost always results in a better "product". How are the people of the area served by being denied a free choice among candidates? They're not. And how does it benefit the party to continue to ensure that incumbents are only more firmly entrenched (and often detached from their districts)?
Causing incumbents to respond to a primary challenge is a good thing. It forces them to respond to and compete with new faces and fresh ideas from within the party, forces them to be less complacent and to be challenged on their often tired and out of touch ideas and views. (not to mention that the longer they serve, the more their views are almost entirely dictated by moneyed interests outside their constituencies.)
It gives the public as well as party members a chance to assess new and fresh candidates, as well as giving these candidates valuable experience at mounting and working a campaign.
It would show incumbents that they can't take party loyalists and activists for granted, that they can't simply pull a lever and activate the "machine" at will. Party partisans would have an actual choice as to who they choose to work for and support.
Suppressing primary challenges not only tends to stifle new ideas and new faces, but it also serves to deny the candidates of the future the chance to raise their name recognition and to gain valuable experience and contacts.
And in this day and age when less and less people are participating in the political process, and good people willing and able to put themselves forth as candidates and endure the meatgrinder of elective poltics is increasingly rare, can we afford to consistently shunt them aside?
What becomes of those who are willing to put in years of work with an eye towards running, only to be shunted aside time and time and time again? I'm sure that many, after facing this brick wall of "machine" politics have lost their faith in the system and simply thrown in the towel and pursued other more legitimate careers.
This is truly squandering valuable resources, and is short-sighted for the future of the party.
No doubt to many in the party power structure, the idea of them having less than complete control over who gets what is heresy and tantimount to anarchy, and the balance between the urge to suppress competition in the hopes of a marginally stronger candidate in the general election (a "known" quantity that the state and local leaders know are "team players".) and the benefit of having open and honest competition among candidates and ideas in a primary is a tough one.
What are your thoughts on the matter?