© 2008 Karen Van Fossan
I don't go around thinking I'm an expert on Illinois politics. But being born, raised, and corn-fed in the Land of Lincoln -- I feel a certain privilege to speak on the subject.
That Governor Rod Blagojevich! What was he thinking? people ask themselves. Trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat?
Honestly, I'm surprised no one thought of it sooner.
1) Kids from Illinois -- like Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) -- grow up with a skewed sense of heroics. I was arguing over Kant in my dorm room before it occurred to me that Al Capone might have been a bad guy. My dad had friends who lived in one of Al Capone's old houses, strategically tucked along the Kankakee River. Going there was the coolest thing on earth when I was a kid, what with all the hiding places and tricky ways to escape. Groping for identity, halfway between Hollywood and New York, we took to Al Capone like flies on honey. He was our Midwestern claim to fame.
2) Like Al Capone, the first Mayor Daley of Chicago captured the public's attention for scandalous reasons. As far as I know, he never bootlegged. But when he was getting elected, even dead people managed to give him their vote.
My favorite joke ever:
The Pope, the President, and the first Mayor Daley are on a boat. The boat starts to sink, of course. There's room for just one person on the raft. The Pope says, "I should get the raft. I'm the leader of the most powerful religion in the world." The President says, "I should get the raft. I'm the leader of the most powerful nation in the world." The first Mayor Daley says, "I should get the raft. I'm the leader of a really important city. Well, anyway, let's just take a vote." All three cast their ballots. The results come in --
Pope, one vote.
President, one vote.
Mayor Daley, five.
3) It's pretty much a tradition for Illinois Governors to get themselves arrested. When news of Blagojevich's arrest was announced, a North Dakota friend, David, was eager to discuss it. But I just couldn't arouse myself. "Yeah," I said, "I heard. He's not the first." As it turns out, Blagojevich is the sixth Illinois Governor to face arrest. The most recent ex-Governor, George Ryan (R), went to prison for his own ingenious scheme -- selling phony truck drivers' licenses.
So you see, in Illinois, you can buy just about anything: A truck driver's license. A vote. Bootlegged liquor.
Even a U.S. Senate seat.
Or maybe not.