The politics of farce.

I don’t remember who it was, but someone once said that politics is farce without the laughter…..or was it a good plot. Either way, the citizens of Illinois have been getting a front-row seat to the concept of politics-as-farce for some time now.
The shows curtain rose when Barak Obama was elected to the presidency. With the prospects of a US Senate seat up for grabs, and himself as the person in control of who would be filling the slot, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich saw he had something of value. He earned that qualifying “former” when he took the idea of “the best government money can buy” to its logical end and decided to hold what amounted to an auction. Whomever could offer him the best deal, be it campaign cash, political clout (and all the corrupt contracts that could arise from it) or just plain old cash-under-the-table, Rod was open for anything. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the citizens of Illinois) the Feds where paying attention and had his phones all tapped. Worse, dear ol’ Rod was stupid/arrogant enough to think that there was no way the Feds could come after him. Nope, they indicted him for several different forms of governmental corruption, which gave the Illinois legislature a reason to boot Rod to the curb. Pat Quinn, who had been the official #2 guy, stepped into the slot and made a mixed bag of his efforts to change things. Quinn did manage to do well enough to win a shot at being elected to the office he inherited, but Illinois law dealt him a massive wild card on election day. That card was called Scott Lee Cohen.
Cohen ran for the job Pat Quinn had held. He didn’t have to coordinate his campaign with Quinn because, under Illinois state law, the two jobs aren’t automatically tied together. Anyone can run for either job, and whomever gets the most votes on election day is the one who appears on the ballot. Cohen ran a good campaign, filled with plenty of photo ops and cheery, positive campaign commercials. He talked about his efforts in “green” technology growth, about how he’d helped create jobs, how much of a “family man” he was. It sounded great and enough people bought the message that Cohen won the spot. Then the proverbial shit started hitting the fan.
Cohen wasn’t involved in any environmentally friendly, or even useful, concerns. His money came from a string of pawn shops his family ran. His job creation efforts were there all right…..if you were an actor who wanted to appear as an “ordinary working Joe/Jane” in one of his campaign commercials. He was in debt and, better still, he had several years worth of back taxes he owed to the IRS. The biggest lie, though, was his “family friendly” stand. He was divorced, behind on child support payments, and his new “girlfriend” was a prostitute who worked out of a “massage parlor”. Even worse, she had once called the police and told them how, after an argument, Cohen had smacked her around and then put a knife to her throat.
Like a cockroach caught in the light, Cohen had made a mad scramble for cover, but once the details where out, he did one sensible thing: he stepped out of the election. Mind you, he staged the “press conference” to make the decision official in a local bar… the middle of happy hour…..without letting the bar owner know what was happening. He also managed some crocodile tears during the announcement, but for the most part, the people of Illinois were more than happy to give the late-night comics another reason to make them the butt of their monologues. End of story, right?
After a month or so out of the spotlight, like some massive mutant mushroom, Cohen began to appear again. Rumors began to surface that he was giving thought to running for public office. When the rumors started to firm up, and then when Cohen finally announced his “new idea”, he seemed to have decided that, if he couldn’t humiliate himself and the state of Illinois on a secondary scale, why not do the same job on a larger scale? Cohen came forward to announce his plans to run for…..the governorship of Illinois.
Some people seem to have a need for attention, for the glare of the media. With a background like the one Cohen has, you have to wonder what sort of mind would want that sort of attention. Then again, in a nation that seems to worship “reality” TV programs that revolve around people showing just how much they can debase and degrade themselves to “win” the show, maybe Cohen has hit the mark.     The politics of service are dead, long live the politics of the “show”! Gods help us all.


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