diskord.

OC TOBER 2006

the journal for progressive thought

Finished?

How the 2006 elections will transform American politics

inside: Can the Democrats retake Congress? 3

The impending Republican implosion 5 Convictions, indictments, and ineptitude 6 Getting dirty in New Jersey 8

in this issue
ELECTION PREVIEW 2006
The Election Overview • by Sam Boyd • 3 The Impending Republican Implosion • by Will Bunnett • 5 Convictions, Indictments, and Ineptitude • by Matt Kennedy • 6 Iraq Makes the 6th District a Hard Place for Republicans • by Mario Diaz-Perez • 7 Getting Dirty in New Jersey • by James Kraft • 8 7 3

diskord.

the journal for progressive thought

Volume III • Issue 1 • October 2006 E diTORial B OaRd
Managing Editors Julie Fry & Sam Boyd Copy Editors Aaron Brown & Josh Segal Copy Assistant Branwen Francis Domestic Editor Julie Fry International Editor Aleks Ciric Politics Editor Sam Boyd Culture Editors Julia Simon Features Editor Burke Butler Design, Graphics & Layout Rachel Berkowitz & Luke Joyner Cover Art Rodrigo Ferrari

COnTRiBuTORs
Will Bunnett Sam Boyd James Conway Matt Kennedy James Kraft

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M issiOn s TaTEMEnT

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With our quarterly publication, Diskord, we intend to fill the void that exists between the student community, progressive causes, and the outside world at the University of Chicago. Our publication will provide a centralized hub for progressives to voice their causes and activities to the greater student body. We furthermore seek to underscore the relevance of campus student issues to real world current events through an accessible print publication. Because of our quarterly format we will provide in depth coverage and analysis of international, domestic, and cultural issues.

Images in this issue courtesy of Wikipedia, Julia Simon, Bob Menendez, YouTube, Whitney for Governor, Eric Fogleman, the McHenry County Blog.
The Center for American Progress has chosen to include Diskord in its Campus Progress network of student publications at universities and colleges across the nation. Campus Progress, an effort to strengthen progressive voices and counter the growing influence of right-wing student groups, will provide Diskord with a grant of $3,000 for the 2006-2007 academic year, opportunities to bring speakers and film screenings to campus, ties to other publications at schools such as Harvard, the University of North Carolina, Dartmouth, and the University of Wisconsin.

Also, we will provide a much needed progressive voice currently lacking in student media. Inquiries, concerns and letters should be directed towards Julie Fry (juliquah@gmail.com) and Sam Boyd (samtsb@gmail.com) Published with support from the Center for American Progress/Campus Progress www.campusprogress.org

For more information, visit www.campusprogress.org

diskord.uchicago.edu

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The Election Overview
by Sam Boyd
Waves, even political ones, are hard to see coming before they near shore. As election day approaches, many political forecasters are predicting a major Democratic surge. What was idle fantasy six months ago is now conventional wisdom. Political forecasting gurus Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg both predict that Democrats will retake the House of Representatives. They may even pick up more than the 15 House seats needed to put them in the majority. The Senate, too, is up for grabs. Democrats are almost assured of 49 Senate seats and another three are within reach. How did we get here? Corruption and scandal certainly played a part. Disgraced Republican ex-Congressman Mark Foley helped alienate the traditional values crowd and Jack Abramoff has already sent several Republicans to prison. Abramoff now spends so much time with FBI agents they’ve given him his own desk. Low approval ratings for the President also contributed, though his approval rating is twenty points higher than Congress’. Most importantly, the public is now definitively against the war in Iraq. Public opinion has turned so precipitously against the administration’s war that President Bush has taken to denying he ever used the phrase “stay the course.” Republican candidates are desperately trying to distance themselves from both the war and the President. Other, less tangible factors have also contributed. With the exception of the last two midterm elections—which were dominated by 9/11 and the Lewinsky affair respectively—every midterm election since 1882 has resulted in a loss of at least some seats in the house for the President’s party. Moreover, newly combative opposition leaders like Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chief Rahm Emanuel have learned from the drubbing their party took in 2004, when it thought it could simply let the GOP collapse under its own weight. Unlike last time, each blow the GOP takes makes the next all the more damaging. Once voters begin to think that House Speaker Dennis Hastert has failed to ensure the safety of a few 16- yearolds they start to wonder about how competent he is to protect soldiers only a few years older in Iraq. Negative perceptions of the party on one issue make voters more likely to accept negative interpretations of Republican policies, and the cycle continues until voters have become thoroughly disillusioned. In short, voters are fed up. Americans now tell pollsters that they trust Democrats more than Republicans on every single issue, including the war in Iraq, terrorism, and (for the first time in decades) national security. Congress’ approval rating currently stands at 16 percent, two points lower than Dick Cheney’s and only three points higher than Mark Foley’s. When you stand somewhere between a child molester and a man who shot his friend in the face, you know things are going badly. Desperate Republicans have turned to the issue that has won them the last two elections— evil terrorists who want to kill you. Republicans blast Democrats for opposing the PATRIOT Act and complaining about detainee treatment in Guantanamo. The Republican National Committee (RNC) is airing a campaign commercial that is disturbingly similar to an Al-Qaeda recruitment video—it features Osama bin Laden condemning America and insurgents brandishing guns—complete with a ticking clock, a beating heart, and the message that “these are the stakes. Vote on November 7th.” The commercial is beyond parody and the “vote for us or terrorists will kill this puppy” approach has worked in the last two elections. Democrats would be stupid to ignore it. Instead, they are hitting back harder than ever. A group called VoteVets. org has aired ads against Republican incumbents who voted against funding for improved body armor. The ads demonstrate how AK-47 bullets go straight though the body armor that American soldiers were supplied with and how a newer vest stops those same bullets. Rep. Heather Wilson (RNM) is the target of another ad that slams her for “missing a vote on a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq to go to a fundraiser with George W. Bush.” The White House has been reduced to once more claiming that it has a “new plan” for Iraq (this would be the tenth “new plan” Bush has proposed, according to one count). Meanwhile, endangered Republican Senator Conrad Burns has pulled a Nixon, claiming that Bush has a secret plan to win the war. Other Republican incumbents are trying desperately to shift the debate to the economy or smear their opponents. Things have become so bad for the Republicans that the RNC is spending all but a small fraction of its budget on negative attack ads against Democrats. Some of these are just silly. (One accuses a Democrat of calling a phone sex hotline despite records showing that it was clearly a wrong number and a similar number was called one minute later.) Others are fabricated. (One that accuses Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Sherrod

Things have become so bad for the Republicans that the RNC is spending all but a small fraction of its budget on negative attack ads against Democrats.
Brown of not paying his payroll taxes even though the State of Ohio says that he did. ) Still other ads are simply vicious. In Tennessee, the RNC is airing a race-baiting ad featuring a white woman with no visible clothing who says she met Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr., who is black, at a Playboy party. The ad ends with her winking at the camera and asking him to call her. Despite denunciations from the NAACP, other Republicans and the Republican candidate running against Ford, the RNC refuses to pull the ad. Similarly, in Massachusetts, black gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick has been hit with ads accusing him of praising a convicted rapist. He has denounced his opponent for sending orange-clad protesters to his home and the home of his campaign manager. Across the country, Republicans are running ads claiming Democrats want to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants. Immigration has proved to be less of an issue than many pundits expected, but it has nonetheless been used by many Republicans and is quite salient. On the other hand, Latino activists have recently switched from organizing marches to registering voters. Divisive Republican rhetoric on immigration may drive Latinos into the arms of the Democrats, just as it did in California in the 1990s. Democrats, for their part, have hit back hard—though without any racist rhetoric. Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, has starred in commercials for two Democratic Senate candidates. In both ads he shudders from the effects of his disease and asks voters of each state to vote for the Democrats who support stem-cell research. Democrats also are attacking Republican incumbents who voted against increasing the minimum wage even while they voted for higher pay for themselves. Democrats also continue to run ads linking Republican incumbents to the President. Clearly, this is the most favorable election cycle for a minority party since 1994. Pundits debate the similarities and differences endlessly, but several key resemblances are clear. The President is unpopular, scandals taint the incumbent party, and voters wish to punish the president for an unpopular policy (Hillary’s universal healthcare plan in ’94 and Iraq in ‘06). In fact, Bush is less popular than Clinton was, and Iraq is much more powerful an issue than

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healthcare. That said, Republicans are better prepared than Democrats were in ’94 and the last two round of redistricting have favored the majority party. 1994 was also the grand finale of a long process of political transformation in the South. While Republicans won all over the country, Republicans gained the most in southern states. The long transformation of conservative southerners into Republican—a transformation that began with Nixon’s southern strategy and put Reagan in the White House—culminated in the 1994 election. A similar, if less dramatic, change may occur in 2006. Northeastern moderate Republicans like Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island are in serious danger. According to the ultra-insider political magazine The National Journal, eight of the 30 seats most likely to change hands are in Northeastern states. Democrats also see opportunities in districts held by moderate Republicans that went for Bush or Kerry by only by a few points. Even more than in a typical election, the outcome this November will depend on turnout. Will evangelicals stay home out of disgust with Republican handling of the Mark Foley issue? How well will the muchvaunted RNC turnout program known as the “72-hour plan” work in this cycle? These are the questions that will determine if there really is a democratic wave. Predicting elections is a notoriously tricky business, but the following observations, taken from noted political forecasters and recent polls should give some idea of what the picture is as Diskord goes to press, about 10 days before the election: The House: For months now, Democrats have led in a generic congressional ballot—a poll that asks if voters would prefer to vote for a Republican or Democrat for Congress. Generic ballot polls of voters in “competitive” seats taken in this election cycle have favored Democrats as well. The Democrats’ lead is larger than the Republicans advantage was before the 1994 election. That said, the relationship between generic ballot lead and actual seat gains has been weak in recent years. Furthermore, the generic ballot tends to exaggerate Democratic chances for unknown reasons. Nonetheless, the national-level data, imperfect though it may be, suggests that Democrats go into the home stretch of the race with a substantial lead. As the campaign enters its final weeks, polls show many Republican incumbents behind or narrowly leading their Democratic challengers. Unfortunately, in some cases, one poll will show the challenger 15 points up, while in the next the challenger will be 15 points down. Many theoretically competitive seats have not been polled independently at all. However, most pollsters agree that what polling there is seems consistent with national-level trends favoring Democrats. Democrats currently need to gain 15 seats to win the majority, but the question on many forecasters’ minds is whether they will get the 20-30 they need to have a workable majority. Charlie Cook—recently

called “the prophet” by the Washington Post— puts likely Democratic gains at 25-30 seats. Stuart Rothenberg hedges, putting the number at 18-25 but “quite possibly more.” Congressional Quarterly, a Washington magazine, labels 25 seats as “no clear favorite” or more favorable to the Democrats. The National Journal, another insider magazine, does not make predictions but suggests that Democrats seem very likely to retake 15 seats and may, “if a sizable wave emerges,” take as many as 40 seats. Republicans hold the first 38 seats that the Journal ranks as most likely to switch parties The Iowa Electronic Market, which runs an online futures market where investors speculate on political and financial questions and has a good record predicting presidential races, puts the odds of a Democratic takeover of the house at 66 percent.

respectively) faces a rather bland opponent and is expected to win comfortably. Nonetheless each race is within 10 points and could tighten before election day. Incumbency is powerful. Maryland: Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin is

Even more than in a typical election, the outcome this November will depend on turnout.
expected to pick up this seat vacated by Democrat Paul Sarbanes but Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele has made it an unusually tough contest. Steele, the most prominent African-American in the GOP, ran a series of fun and clever ads, but his positions are simply too conservative for most Maryland voters and he seems unlikely to close the gap with Cardin. New Jersey: Governor John Corzine was elected from the Senate a year ago and appointed Rep. Bob Menendez to replace him. Republican Rep. Tom Kean Jr., son of popular former governor Tom Kean Sr., has run a cautious but tough campaign highlighting Menendez’s potentially corrupt dealings with a local politician in Trenton, NJ. Menendez looked like he was in serious danger at the end of September, but he has rebounded and opened up a respectable lead in the last weeks. Voters are starting to question if Kean, who has only been in congress for a few years, has enough experience. They are also figuring out that he is not the same person as his famous father. Tennessee: Here’s where things get interesting. This seat, vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, was never seen as competitive. The Republicans even got their preferred candidate in the primary, moderate former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker. However, Corker ran a limp campaign and his opponent, Rep. Harold Ford Jr., another prominent African-American candidate, ran a remarkable and highly effective campaign highlighting his religious values and moderate stands on issues. At the beginning of October Ford had a small lead, but Corker has counterattacked, highlighting the DC prep school Ford attended as a child and his lack of experience outside politics. Reaction to the RNC’s racially suggestive ad may decide the race. Voters will either be swayed by it or disgusted. Virginia: George Allen was supposed to cruise to reelection. But he found a tough opponent in former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb and shot himself in the foot when he referred, on video, to an Indian-American Webb campaign worker as “Macaca”—an ethnic slur used in Tunisia where his mother is from, as well as among certain whitesupremacist groups. This, coupled with a long history of dubious racial incidents and a crooked stock deal, has brought Webb within a few points of a lead. However, Allen is still flush with cash and his slump seems to have stopped. This is going to be extremely close no matter who wins.

Perhaps the most interesting comment comes from Frank Luntz—easily the most well known Republican pollster and key figure in the 1994 election. “I’ve given up on 2006,” he says. Republicans have “already made so many mistakes, there’s no way they can fix it in two weeks. But I’m worried now they’re going to lose all the marbles.” The Senate: Democrats are not as likely to retake the Senate, primarily because the Democratic minority is proportionally smaller than it is in the House. But Senate races tend to be more vulnerable to national trends than House races. Indeed, Democrats have come much further than anyone expected. In the Senate, unlike in the House, polling is sophisticated enough and races few enough that we can attempt a state-by-state breakdown of the most competitive races. The following races are competitive. They are listed in reverse order of the likelihood of a Democratic victory. Minnesota: What was supposed to be a marquee race after Democratic Senator Mark Dayton declined to run for a second term has turned into a snooze-fest as Rep. Amy Klobucher has buried her opponent, GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy. Washington, Michigan, and Arizona: In each race, a somewhat dull and unpopular incumbent (a Democrat, a Democrat, and a Republican,

continued on page 7

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The Impending Republican Implosion
by Will Bunnett
As we approach November 7th, things are looking good for the Democrats. Most forecasters’ predictions are falling somewhere between a gain of a couple of seats and a Democratic landslide. Hardly anyone is attributing the favorable environment to the positive actions of the Democrats, preferring to blame the shift on errors and miscalculations made by the Republicans. While the characterization of Democrats as feckless is not entirely fair (it was Democrats closing ranks that effectively killed Bush’s privatization of Social Security, after all), the spotlight is rightly placed on the Republicans. After six catastrophic years of Republican political dominance, the midterm elections are all their actions while in power. However, it is wrong to assume that the horrible Republican record is the result of mistakes. In fact, there is compelling evidence that Republican policies actually represent the perfect embodiment of the conservative worldview. Looking back over the last few years, we are reminded of ways our country has been let down. Republicans lied their way into Iraq, which they then screwed up beyond belief. Republicans embarrassed themselves trying to privatize Social Security. Republicans were totally unable to even moderate the horror of Hurricane Katrina. And most recently, Republicans intentionally covered for a sexual predator within their ranks in order to save a single seat in Congress. This may seem like incompetence, but really it makes perfect sense according to the logic of conservatism. The conceptual framework that is used to make this case comes from George Lakoff. In his book Moral Politics (and, more accessibly, in Don’t Think of an Elephant), he outlines the deep cognitive structures that form two archetypal political worldviews. The liberal, “nurturant” view highly values mutual responsibility, mutual care, growth as individuals, respectfulness, inclusion, encouragement, and so forth. The conservative, “strict” view highly values hierarchy, moral order, obedience to authority, discipline, strict paternalistic protection, and so on. I found this framework quite valuable, insofar

Looking back over the last few years, we are reminded of ways our country has been let down. This may seem like incompetence, but really it makes perfect sense according to the logic of conservatism.
as it helped me understand how the apparent contradictions in conservatism (think support of the death penalty and opposition to abortion) were consistent within their own logical system. So, let’s take a second look at those issues I mentioned: Iraq: Bush, the moral authoritarian at the head of the hierarchy, forces everyone to be obedient

to his authority because he knows how to protect them best. He doesn’t need a ‘permission slip’ because he is the moral supervisor, the adult. By asserting his authority Bush rejects the political dialogue that might help a more open leader chart a better course. Social Security: Part of the strict conservative family view is that you have to push children out of the nest, sink or swim. They need to learn to discipline themselves by facing the harshness of the real world, instead of having the government act like a parent making investments for their children – ironic, considering the generational wealth that allows so many conservatives to practice “compassionate conservatism” at a safe distance from actual poverty or anything closely resembling it. Hurricane Katrina: The “sink or swim” ethos got a particularly macabre chance to prove itself in the flood. The government doesn’t hold anyone’s hand – people knew the risks of living there. Because loyalty to superiors is highly coveted and rewarded, Michael Brown (a loyal donor) was rewarded with the director’s chair at FEMA—despite the fact that

his most significant prior experience was managing a horse racing charity. Foley Scandal: Once again we see the theme of “loyalty above all” emerge. Foley, it turns out, was instrumental in pushing against the 2000 recount in Florida. Since one of the most important conservative goals is preserving the moral hierarchy (which naturally puts Republicans above Democrats), Republicans were compelled to do everything possible to preserve their majority – even if it meant covering for a sex predator in their midst. In each of these examples, Republicans were in the wrong – all of the above were horrible things to do to the country – but these were hardly mistakes, unfortunate accidents, or the result of simple incompetence. To the contrary, they were the natural product of a radical ideology. Finally, Americans are waking up this realization and, as they do, they may very well turn the 2006 election into a moment of historic change. To modify Jimmy Hoffa’s famous quote, people may forgive some mistakes, but being wrong ain’t one of them. D

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Convictions, Indictments, and Ineptitude
In Illinois, It’s Politics as Usual
by Matt Kennedy
Stakes are low, apathy is high, and things are getting ugly in the Illinois gubernatorial election. The “choice” between a scandal-ridden Democrat, an unlikable Republican, and an unknown Green seems to have voters begging for a “none of the above” option. While Democrat incumbent Rod Blagojevich is struggling to overcome accusations of unethical hiring practices and the indictment of a top fundraiser, Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka is fighting the image of a corrupt and broken Republican Party and her own unpopularity with a relatively small campaign fund. And Green Party candidate Rich Whitney has no chance against a stillpowerful Democratic machine. Blagojevich took back the State House in 2002 with a near clean sweep of state-level offices, ending twenty-six years of Republican rule in Illinois. This victory was based in part on the promise that he would clean up state government after years of an increasingly corrupt Republican regime. These promises have not been empty—Blagojevich has pushed through ethics reform legislation and has a long list of impressive progressive credentials. However, even with these reforms, his administration has been tarnished by a constant barrage of scandals— ranging from a $1,500 check made out to his daughter from the husband of a woman who received a state job after failing the state’s civil service exam, to a top fundraiser’s indictment in early October on charges tantamount to massive extortion. The indictment of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a prominent Democratic fundraiser may prove to be one of the biggest hurdles Blagojevich will have to jump on his way to reelection. Blagojevich is not implicated in the charges, but it is hard to believe that he was completely unaware of the actions of his close advisor, who helped choose government leaders during Blagojevich’s 2003 transition (including the director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Stuart Levine). Rezko is accused of demanding kickbacks for state business. These charges have yet to be proven, and they stayed on the front page for only one news cycle, but the implications of still more corruption in Blagojevich’s administration are starting to annoy normally corruption-numb Illinois voters. Blagojevich’s Republican challenger, Judy Barr-Topinka, has been state treasurer for a dozen years, and was chair of the Illinois Republican Party from 2002 until the beginning of 2005. As a moderate, pro-choice Republican, it was her job to try to rebuild a shattered republican party after a near Democratic sweep of statewide offices. However, her efforts have failed and she is having a very difficult time gaining any traction against the Governor, even with continual reports of corruption. The 2002 election was a crushing defeat for the Republican Party, removing almost every Republican state-level officeholder their post, and pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy as donors withheld funds from the party. Topinka has struggled to rebuild the organization but has suffered from several devastating scandals, starting with the 2004 Senatorial campaign against Barack Obama. In that election, Topinka’s candidate Jack Ryan withdrew from the campaign in disgrace after admitting to having sex with his wife in public sex clubs in Europe. The circumstances surrounding Ryan’s resignation and his subsequent replacement by Alan Keyes comprised some of the most damaging blows the Illinois Republican Party has received, and it is against the backdrop of this history that Topinka must run. Alan Keyes was chosen to run against Obama in an effort to appease the conservative Republican base. But Keyes quickly became an even greater embarrassment to the Party, saying that fellow African American Obama took the “slaveholder’s position” on abortion, that Jesus wouldn’t vote for Obama, and calling Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter a “selfish hedonist” at the 2004 Republican National Convention. The Chicago Tribune reported that Topinka ducked behind a ficus plant to avoid talking to Keyes at the Illinois Caucus at the Republican National Convention. George Ryan, Blagojevich’s Republican predecessor and Topinka’s former boss in the State House, is currently on his way to jail after being convicted this summer on corruption charges. Blagojevich has worked hard to exploit the situation to his advantage, airing attack ads that show Topinka talking about her experience with superimposed pictures of George Ryan and captions that read, “Not the experience we need.” It is a difficult time to be a Republican in Illinois, and Blagojevich is taking full advantage of every opportunity to link Topinka with the most unpopular person in the state. The current scandals implicating Blagojevich in wrongdoing have failed to give Topinka much traction in the polls. There are several reasons for this. First, Topinka does not have anything close to the war chest that Blagojevich draws from. Consequently, she has been late in responding to Blagojevich’s barrage of negative advertising. Since she started her own negative ad campaign, she has raised Blagojevich’s unfavorable rating, while hers remain unchanged. Moreover, in a state that is increasingly numb to corruption, she has failed to effectively articulate attractive and exciting policies. Her most notable plan is her budget reform, which calls for the sale of a gaming license for a casino in Chicago, while the Blagojevich campaign has said her cutbacks in healthcare spending will throw seniors out of nursing homes and onto the street. On the other hand, Blagojevich has the benefit of incumbency and a long list of real public policy accomplishments on which to run. Blagojevich’s campaign website, RodForIllinois.com, boasts that 25,000 more children are eligible for preschool, 400,000 more people have healthcare, and $2.3 billion more has been invested in education thanks to his policies; 60,000 new jobs have been created in the past year, and 253,000 children now eligible for health insurance. Blagojevich is a product of the Chicago political machine—which is either asleep at the wheel on ethics reform or knowingly breaking ethics rules. However, his achievements show that, as far as policy is concerned, he is living up to his campaign slogan: “Getting things done for people.” The Green Party candidate, Rich Whitney, is polling around 10% on a good day, but he seems to be pulling votes away from Topinka as well as from Blagojevich. At this point, it seems improbable that he would be able to make a significant splash, except maybe as a spoiler. He has virtually no campaign cash and low name recognition. As sad as it is to say, there continued on page 8

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Iraq Makes the 6th District a Hard Place for Republicans
by Mario Diaz-Perez
For over thirty years Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), one of the most consistently conservative members of the Illinois delegation, has represented the 6th Congressional District of Illinois. Now that Hyde is retiring, this district in Chicago’s western suburbs has become a microcosm of the 2006 midterm elections. Republican State Senator Peter Roskam faces Maj. Tammy Duckworth, an attorney, veteran of the Iraq War, and double amputee. Over the course of his career, Henry Hyde fought against abortion rights and attacked the United Nations. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he led the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. Until the 2004 elections, Rep. Hyde was consistently re-elected with over 60% of the vote, but in 2004 shifting demographics including an enlarged minority population contributed to a record 44% vote for Hyde’s Democratic opponent.After surviving his toughest challenge yet, the 82-year-old incumbent decided to retire, endorsing Roskam as his replacement. W h i l e Roskam has the support of a powerful incumbent, Duckworth’s record is impressive—she was awarded several medals including the Army Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart after she lost her legs in a helicopter crash near Baghdad. Duckworth, who is now completely mobile with the assistance of modern prosthetics, became a national activist for veteran’s healthcare. It was this activism that brought her into contact with Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL), the powerful Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the man who personally recruited her as a candidate for the race. Duckworth, backed by the national party, went on to win a contested primary against the more liberal Christine Cegelis who had challenged Hyde in 2004. When the general election began, Duckworth was down by several points in polls despite her moderate stance and impressive personal story. Yet with the help of the DCCC and a revitalized local Democratic party Duckworth closed the gap and since Labor Day the race has been a dead heat. The race has since garnered national attention and both the DCCC and its Republican counterpart, the NRCC, have poured millions of dollars into the district, although the Democrats are at a significant financial disadvantage, with Republicans outspending them 3 to 1. In substance as well as style the race in the 6th mirrors the national contest. Duckworth supports the McCainKennedy proposal to grant guest worker status to illegal immigrants, a position supported by the President and some Republicans. Roskam has attacked her stance through direct mailings and has falsely claimed she supports amnesty for illegal immigrants. Duckworth hit back, accusing Roskam of supporting the privatization of Social Security and voting too closely with President Bush and the recently disgraced House Speaker, Dennis Hastert (R-IL). Iraq, however, may prove the defining issue of this campaign and this election year and it is on this issue that Duckworth is at her most eloquent and most effective. This past Sunday she gave the Democratic response to the President’s weekly radio address and attacked the President on the war: “I proudly fought and sacrificed, my helicopter was shot down long after you proclaimed ‘mission accomplished.’” The Duckworth campaign is using advertisements, direct mailings, and, most importantly, a very well organized grassroots door knocking campaign to get out the vote and convince people to go to the polls—a crucial task in a midterm election when turnout is normally lower than in Presidential election years. Part of her strategy has also involved recruiting several hundred field volunteers, especially college students (including the UC Dems) to go door knocking and canvassing in various parts of the district. Even with polls showing Democratic candidates getting a slight bounce just three weeks into the election, the race in the 6th is still a dead heat and will likely remain tight until Election Day. If the 6th does swing blue it will serve as a bellwether for a larger Democratic wave. Perhaps in a few years, we’ll say, “as the 6th goes, so goes the country.” D

OVERVIEW, from page 4
Missouri: Here we get to the likely Democratic pickups. State Auditor Claire McCaskill is running neck and neck with incumbent Senator Jim Talent. However, with both polling in the mid 40s, the race is McCaskill’s to lose because undecided voters usually break to the challenger and any incumbent significantly short of 50 percent in most polls is in danger. Montana: Democrats recaptured the Governor’s mansion and the state legislature in 2004 and now will almost certainly get rid of Senator Conrad Burns, who is the only Senator implicated in the Abramoff scandal. His opponent, Jim Tester, is a populist farmer with a beer-gut and gravel-voiced authenticity. Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee is easily the most liberal Republican in the Senate (or the House for that matter), but he lags challenger Sheldon Whitehouse in the polls. Whitehouse is as close to a generic Democrat as possible and given the current climate and the extremely Democrat-friendly makeup of his state, he has held his lead by repeatedly pointing out that a vote for Chafee is a vote for the Republican party. Ohio: The Ohio Republican Party achieved near total political dominance in the ‘90s then proceeded to near total corruption. The result? Liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown looks likely to demolish incumbent Senator Mike DeWine. Pennsylvania: Rick Santorum is finished. He trails in the poll by double digits and his comments— comparing Al-Qaeda to Sauron and the war in Iraq to the attack on the Black Gate of Mordor—have been justifiably mocked both for their lack of seriousness and for their complete incoherence as a metaphor (as Stephen Colbert pointed out, Santorum’s analogy suggests that America is Mount Doom or possibly Mordor). Governorships: The picture here is much murkier. Most forecasters predict Democrats will retake about 6 governorships, but there are also a few endangered Democrats. The implications of the national mood are also harder to predict. Democrats have wide leads in New York, Colorado, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Arkansas (all currently held by Republicans), but beyond that, things are more complicated. In Maryland and Minnesota Republicans look endangered, but no clear favorite has emerged. Meanwhile, Democrats could also lose Oregon or Michigan, though the latter is less likely. Finally, Florida, which was supposed to be solidly in GOP hands, may have suddenly become competitive if a recent poll is to be believed. This is still a long shot for Democrats and it only adds to the confusion. Democrats also have some chance of retaking a handful of state legislatures. Together with the governors’ race trends, this suggests that Democrats will have stronger state-level support going into the 2008 elections and the 2010 redistricting cycle. It also suggests that Democrats will have a better “farm system” in the future, creating more powerful candidates and thus more electoral success. D

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Getting Dirty in New Jersey
by James Kraft
The New Jersey Senate race is shaping up to be one of the nastier examples of negative campaigning in recent memory. Robert Menendez, the Democratic incumbent, was appointed by former senator Jon Corzine after he was elected Governor in late 2005. Tom Kean Jr., his Republican challenger, has made much of a taped phone exchange between a lawyer working for Menendez and a north Jersey family services charity, which he has characterized as an attempt at political strong-arming. Menendez, a long-time north Jersey pol who gained his streetcred by taking down the Union City machine back in the ‘80s, is a pretty easy target for corruption allegations. He was, after all, the representative of New Jersey’s 13th Congressional district—perhaps the most crooked in the country— for more than a decade. Besides Senator Menendez, the most notable product of Union City in recent decades is the violent Latin rap music genre Reguetón, which traces some of its roots to Panama and Puerto Rico through it. This is Tony Soprano territory; rustbound factory districts, crooked shipyards, strip malls and split-level condominiums remain its dominant characteristics. It’s not particularly surprising that a politician from such a corrupt district would end up with some kind of an ethics violation; what’s surprising is that he could remain ethical enough to be tenable as a candidate at all. Tom Kean, Jr., on the other hand, has the precise white-bread political clean-slate from which to launch a negative campaign. His brief state Senate career has been bland and uneventful enough that most New Jerseyans think of him in terms of the political franchise he represents; his father, Tom Kean, Sr. was one of the most popular governors in American history (he won his re-election bid in 1985 with a recordshattering 71% of the vote). The younger Kean is quite adept at using this political mantle to his advantage. In a recent televised debate where Menendez accused him of “shak[ing] down” the United Health Group, Kean responded by characterizing the accusation as an attack on his father (who sits on the board of the UHG), and asking, “How in the world would I shake somebody down, Bob? That is absurd.” Indeed, given the backdrop of the highly respectable Kean family, it would seem absurd for any New Jersey native to picture Tom Jr. shaking anyone down, whereas it would require very little imagination to picture Menendez in such a role. The facts of the case are murkier. Apparently, senator Menendez has been renting a large building in Union City to a local charity since the beginning of his Congressional career in 1992. Meanwhile, he’s been helping them get a hold of federal funding. The aggressively Republican state prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, has subpoenaed the charity for its financial records,

ILLINOIS, from page 6
is no viable third party in Illinois. Until a third party starts polling in the upper twenties or low thirties, it seems like the best chance for a progressive leader is in the Democratic candidate. Real pushes for progressive values in the Democratic Party should take place in the party primary, where a progressive, reform candidate can best shake up the old establishment. A vote for Whitney might send a small message, but is a poor way to advance progressive values until the structure of the political system is more hospitable to a third party. The latest poll by the Chicago Tribune (taken before the indictment of Tony Rezko) has Blagojevich leading Topinka and Whitney 43-29-9 respectively with 19 percent undecided. Neither major party candidate can boast about their popularity—Blagojevich’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 35/43 and Topinka’s 25/49. Asked whether they were satisfied with their choice for governor, 51% of voters said they were dissatisfied with their choices. Politics in Illinois has reached a very sad state indeed. All in all, apathy among voters could depress voter turnout and make this a very interesting November 7th. The stakes do not seem to be high because Topinka is a reasonably moderate Republican uninterested in pushing a radical social agenda. While Topinka’s policy initiatives will certainly be a step in the wrong direction for Illinois, a Topinka win might just teach Illinois Democrats that they need to get their ship in order before they can truly affect change. As long as Illinois voters don’t have a legitimate candidate capable of cleaning up Springfield, Blagojevich might be the best choice. He offers real accomplishments and progressive values. Another plus is that if he has to resign in shame, progressive, populist Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn would take the helm. Pat Quinn has long been popular among liberal Democrats for his efforts in the 1980s to found the Citizen’s Utility Board (which fights big energy companies on behalf of ratepayers) and his initiative to shrink the size of the state assembly in half, reducing inefficiency in state government. Bumper Stickers saying “Blago indicted ’06, Quinn Governor ‘07” have started popping up around Springfield. Sadly, this may be the best Illinois politics has to offer. D

which are now under scrutiny. Menendez, however has been neither indicted nor subpoenaed to testify, as he has repeatedly made clear. It is unusual for such investigations to be made public in a campaign season, let alone within 90 days of the actual date of the election, though Christie has vociferously maintained there are no political motivations to the inquiry. The Kean campaign has pounced on the issue, using it as grounds for a more general accusation of corruption. One recent radio ad features a taped recording of Menendez’s lawyer threatening an employee of another agency, partly substantiating this claim. The Menendez campaign has been built primarily around the issue of President Bush’s policies and other national issues like port security and the extension of federal health insurance programs. He also has been endorsed by all of the state’s major unions, an important base for New Jersey’s many industrial districts. His response to the corruption claims, however, has been rather weak. The Democratic Party, from its slow response, appears to have been surprised by the highly local character of the campaign—though Chuck Schumer’s objections to Menendez’s appointment in 2004 now seem to have been justified. Ethical issues have figured prominently in recent polls. Kean pulled ahead by a few percentage points in September, but in recent polling Menendez has closed the gap to a virtually negligible margin. Voters appear to have temporarily split on the corruption issue back in September, with 39% willing to call Menendez “honest and trustworthy,” 29% sure that they wouldn’t, and a significant 32% not sure. Now they are split 38% to 39% on the issue, with only 24% unsure. Menendez has more money behind him, $5.5 million to Kean’s $3.17 million for the remainder of the campaign, but Kean’s use of his war chest has been more effective thus far. Menendez’s union endorsements may help him especially in Atlantic City and the industrial north, where the 18,000 votes of several casino and hotel unions and the 25,000 votes of nurses and home health care employees should give him a boost. The New Jersey race appears to be headed down to the wire, and will likely heat up before it calms down. D

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