Smile Politely

District 13: The center is the revolution

A month from now, on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, local voters will face the first of two elections that will have a clear opportunity to have a historical impact. In effect, the revolution, previously televised in Madison, Wisconsin last year and by the Occupy movements this year, is coming to town.

Due to our new Illinois Congressional District 13, created by the Democrats’ control of 2010 redistricting, our new local district’s congressional race represents the “best chance” that the State of Illinois can add one more Democratic vote to the House of Representatives, currently controlled by the Republican majority caused by the dismal results of the 2008 elections.

Tim Johnson, our local four-term incumbent Republican congressman, who is again running, now in this new IL-13, is the only Republican candidate. He’s been campaigning in the new (very new) district and he will be almost impossible to beat for various reasons. This new IL-13 stretches from Champaign County on the East, across the State to the West, all the way to Calhoun County along the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis and St. Charles, MO.

On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, two candidates are running for the democratic nomination to run against Tim: David Gill and Matt Goetten. These two men are drastically different candidates and movement voters must make a difficult decision for that primary vote.

David Gill, an emergency room physician from Bloomington, has been the candidate against Tim Johnson for the past three elections. He lost each time by significant numbers. Tim is a formidable “maverick republican” campaigner and politician. David is a liberal democrat (or better perhaps; certainly he hits most of the right keywords when he campaigns). David has the endorsement of many of the liberal democrats and movement folks of our community.

Matt Goetten is a State’s Attorney in Greene County, a farm county in the western part of IL-13. His father, Norb Goetten, was the State’s Attorney for Greene County for many years before him and then was appointed the head of the State Appellate Defender Office in Springfield, where he still serves. Basically, Matt Goetten appears to be a standard-issue centrist Illinois democrat. He served a tour of duty in the IL National Guard recently in Afghanistan (and hired another attorney with some of his own money to handle his prosecutor’s job while he was overseas). Greene County is small and he’s the only attorney for his office. He’s sort of a solo practice prosecutor.

To consider the merits of these two candidates as possible opponents against Tim, it is important to understand this new IL-13 and its drastic difference from the old district that Tim dominated for four elections.

The old district started up here, in McLean County (Bloomington-Normal where Gill lives), then east to Champaign County and then south, all the way down the Illinois/Indiana state line. It was full of small agriculatural counties that responded well to Tim’s maverick brand of republicanism and his farm committee legislative services in congress.

The new district is similar, but not at all the same. The Democrats have been praised by the pundits for their efforts to carve this particular district out of the statistics of voting histories in order to create a chance for a Democrat to beat a Republican.

Tim’s a wily politician, candidate, and congressmen. He breaks from the republican party line regularly, including his opposition to the Iraq War when Bush II started it, which Tim stated just as early as Obama did. My recollection is that Tim’s opposition was more like Ron Paul’s anti-war isolationist stance though. You know, we can’t afford it (true) and we shouldn’t waste our armed services fighting petty dictators (true). And that’s just an example of Tim’s maverick voting, which often gives him a chance to vote “like a democrat,” often on environmental issues.

The old district had some substantial colleges and their more-liberal populations, notably UI-Springfield and the UIUC here. This, and Tim’s own maverick personality, justified Tim’s often liberal votes. The new IL-13 has an even greater collegiate population. Not only IUS and UIUC, but also Springfield’s west side where the UI-Springfield campus lies, and, in a blatant gerrymandered slice into Madison County at the southern end of the district, most of the SIU-Edwardsville neighborhood and voters.

The chart below is my own and is, admittedly, full of approximations and “about the right numbers.” I care about politics, but I don’t really like statistics and don’t really want to take the time to get all the numbers accurate. HOWEVER, I believe that this chart reasonably demonstrates the situation in IL-13.

The *’s mark counties that were in our old district, where Tim routinely beat David Gill. The ^’s mark counties that are not entirely in the district: McLean County where David Gill lives in Bloomington-Normal includes the twin cities and the college communities; Champaign County includes Champaign-Urbana-Savoy; and Madison County has that special cut down to SIU-Edwardsville. Two vote lines for a county refer to the division of that county in two by the “old” 2010 districts divisions.

I pulled most of these numbers from CNN’s website reports of voting in the three separate IL Congressional Districts for 2010 that each included several of these counties at that time. Again, I do not assure any of you that these figures are exact, or even accurate, just “approximately right.” 

My argument is not about the rocket science of political voting analysis (which it can be; more power and honor to those who practice it and report it like actuaries). I just want everyone that cares about the future of the real movement/revolution to understand what this particular circus in our local politics represents.

Tim Johnson’s problem, no matter how often he has voted right on some issues, is that he is still a Republican. That is not the way you progress to Obama’s movement and assurances during the 2008 presidential campaign and his victory. Obama needs a strong second-term victory and as many Democrats as possible replacing Republicans in the congress, particularly the House. IL-13 has a chance to do that, if we pay attention and work at it.

Matt Goetten’s problem is that he may be a wonderful guy and a family man, but he’s the son of a politician (like Tim, whose father was the long-time chair of the Champaign County Republican Party) and he’s a prosecutor, a cop dressed up as an attorney. Many of the Sheriffs of these counties have already endorsed him (though I think I saw the Sheriff of Piatt County on David Gill’s website’s list of endorsements). But, he’s run for office before and he can expect lots of support in the small counties in the district, especially with his military service.

David Gill’s problem is that he may be a clear movement voice and an experienced candidate, with lots of liberal/movement endorsements, but he’s lost three times to Tim, including in his own home community in McLean County and in Champaign County and the other counties that were in the old district and are now in IL-13. 

So, friends and neighbors, this appears to be a sad case of good guy Gill having no real justification or right to stand in the way of a democratic candidate, with clear party credentials, who might, just might, beat Tim if he has enough money (and he will; don’t doubt that the national money will flood in to pay for campaigns in these swing districts for the 2012 congress).

This is not the only reason that our democratic US Senator, Dick Durbin, just endorsed Matt Goetten, but it’s the most appropriate one. It’s certainly also true that Durbin has been friends and co-politicians with Matt Goetten and, of course, his father, Norb, for many years. Durbin tried to make his endorsements seem nice and kind to Gill and his many supporters, but he’s clearly throwing his weight behind Goetten.

And, folks, let’s face this too: Durbin has done a great job in the Senate. His own voting record and position on issues tie him closely to Obama and the Obama Administration. Those who care at all about the chance for the American political scene to become more progressive and functional for the benefit of the real and general population of these United States must acknowledge that Durbin has admirable expertise and some authority behind his endorsement. 

Matt Goetten is not just Durbin’s family friend, he’s a candidate that might beat Tim Johnson.

In this article, I have referred to the two Democratic candidates by their first and last names. I have never met either man. I’ve met Tim many times and sometimes represented Clients with Tim as opposing counsel before he ascended into full-time politics. I even like and, in some ways, admire Tim. He’s a crafty politician and, in my experience, he has always provided excellent staff and personal assistance to his consitutents, whether as a state representative or lately as a US congressman. But, Tim is still a Republican congressman. That makes Tim a wolf in sheep’s clothing, if we want Obama’s re-election and a new Obama congress.

So, If you care about Change and the real movement that you see up there in Madison and in the Occupy efforts, face West and vote for Goetten in the primary, then get off your butts and on your e-mail, your cell, your iPhone, and any and all of your other devices, Geek-Warriors, and join the campaign through the Fall and the day of the November election.

The clowns and monsters in the Republican presidential race should be a lesson to every one of us on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the good side, the intelligent and intellectual side, perhaps even the effete corps of impudent snobs. 

But that lesson should be that those idiots don’t know how to make a real revolution: You raise your issues and votes high and occupy the center. You convince the people, the common man and woman, the General Public, that you’re right and those idiots are wrong. 

When you do this, you have the One Per Cent at your mercy. If you do not, you are (and have always been) at Their Mercy.

After the primary, each of us needs to ask ourselves if we know anyone on another IL-13 campus. We need to push for Obama and Goetten hard, to every single voter that we know or might reach in IL-13. Each campus in the district has a local media. We need to reach out to them and help rouse the vote and get those people to the poles.

That means progressive media like the Smile Politely crowd need to text, facebook, and tweet to all possible sites at those other BLUE enclaves that have been “carved” into IL-13. McLean County has ISU and also Illinois Wesleyan. Macon County has Millikin in Decatur. Sangamon County has UI-Springfield. And Madison County has SIE-Edwardsville. And there are loads of smaller colleges out there too: Parkland, Richland, Land of Lincoln, and Lewis & Clark. 

Those who care need to face the music, accept the centrist candidate Goetten, and fight to get him elected. In this case, we cannot accept T.S. Eliot’s cynicism and fear: “The Center will not hold.” Indeed, the Center must hold, whether we like it or not.

Get on your tweeters, geeks. If the Egyptians in Tahrir Square can work the vote over their devices, so can you.

So, folks, boots on the ground.

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