Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stroger’s Worsening Condition Pushes Cook County Democratic Kremlin to Consider an Ultimate Decision. Will it be Similar to the One that Helped Hastert?

The best way to understand the Cook county Democratic party is to relate it to the model it greatly resembles: the USSR’s Kremlin in the days of the Cold War and draw appropriate conclusions. Cook county board president John Stroger’s worsening condition—the fact that his stroke is much more serious than was let on—means the local Kremlin must come to grips with the likelihood that he will never return to physical health. What should the Kremlin do now that Tuesday’s primary election is almost here—an election in which Democrats want a huge black turnout that a vigorous Stroger running for reelection would assure?

There are four choices for his succession, only one of which would guarantee a heavy black turnout. One, if Stroger dies or quits today—three days before the primary—challenger Forrest Claypool will automatically win the nomination. But Claypool while liberal is white and resultant black dissatisfaction may well see a lagging turnout.

Two, they can put Stroger on ice, or to be more euphemistic, life support and enable him to win the nomination which would be probable given voter sympathy. Then he would resign and the 80 Democratic ward and township committeemen would approve a successor. That’s the route to take to guarantee a heavy black turnout for the primary but not necessarily the general election unless an African American is picked.

Three, they can tax credulity (the only remaining thing Stroger hasn’t already taxed) and keep Stroger on ice or life support until the November general election. Then the board could meet before the new commissioners take office in December and elect one from their number to succeed Stroger. But even by Cook county Kremlin standards it might trigger a reaction to the point where it would be parodied on Letterman and Leno, harming the next electoral go-round for Richard M. Daley in 2007.

Four, they can keep Stroger on ice or life-support until December when the newly-elected board takes over and have the board elect one from their number to succeed him. That choice would either be Claypool or an un-defined black.

Probably the best choice for the local Kremlin is #2, enabling a wider selection for president and possibly increasing the chance that a prominent African American will be appointed. But who would be the African American? Claypool, a white originally from downstate, would have a strong claim anyhow. Strike the notion that the committeemen would pick John Daley, the mayor’s brother who’s being looked at by the feds. If they would, you can really see the machine has hardening of cerebral arteries: just as the USSR did when after Leonid Brezhnev’s death it picked Yuri Andropov who died a year and a half later and then Konstanin Chernenko who passed six months after that. (By not centering on Gorbachev until too late, it signed its own doom). A good bet is that the committeemen’s choice would be either Claypool or Jim Houlihan, the assessor but there is a downside. With Houlihan, it would be yet another Irishman holding forth where a black had been formerly: not good politically. With Claypool, it would be Stroger’s most bitter adversary succeeding a man who in death would be invested with hallowed reverence. Either or, the Cook county Kremlin could be slowed by lagging black participation.

Republicans shouldn’t enjoy the Dems’ difficulties too much. In 1985, as astute political analyst Jill Zwick reminded this blog the other day, U. S. Congressman John Grotberg, a first-term moderate, came down with terminal cancer. He was already re-nominated for 1986. He went to the Institutes of Health at Bethesda for an experimental treatment and fell into a coma from which he never recovered. The GOP establishment then didn’t want a movement conservative, Tom Johnston, to run (he had challenged Grotberg earlier)—and others were lined up as well. Denny Hastert was a state Rep, who had become a Grotberg ally when Grotberg was a state senator. Hastert was a moderate. The powers-that-be cut a deal with Grotberg’s people in behalf of Hastert. It was announced that Grotberg, who was unconscious, would resign not as Congressman but as GOP nominee. That meant that the district GOP would pick and at a convention they chose Hastert. As the world knows, Hastert won the election, went to Washington and through an interesting series of events (Newt Gingrich self-destructing; Bob Livingstone having a mistress), was picked as Speaker.

1 comment:

  1. Slight typo. Tom Johnson was my seatmate for eight years in the 1990's in the Illinois House.

    I drove John Grotberg home from Springfield one day the first year he was sick.

    "Cal, the biggest problem I've got is convincing people I'm alive," he told me.