Thursday, April 14, 2011

The politician as a celebrity...

At least as far as Chicago is concerned. Well this is the conclusion of our NBC affiliate's Ward Room blog as to why there aren't celebrities in politics in my fair city:
First of all, celebrities like to start at the top. Think of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. The Machine required political aspirants to start at the bottom, often as doorbell ringers. Daley didn’t like self-made candidates, because their money made them independent of his organization. He’d worked his way up from precinct captain, and he expected everyone else to do the same. Even gold-medal winner Metcalfe had to start at the ward level.

“The rich guys can get elected on their own money, but somebody like me, an ordinary person, needs the party to get elected,” Daley once said. “Without the party, only the rich could get elected to office.”

In Chicago, politics is an all-consuming career, not a retirement hobby for bored millionaires. Look what happened to investor Blair Hull when he ran for the Senate. After using his fortune to build an early lead, he was tripped up when his divorce file was leaked to the press by an aide to Dan Hynes, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful political families. Hull lost the election to Barack Obama, who’d paid his dues as a state senator from the South Side. Obama then showed he was a real pro by tipping off the press to the embarrassing divorce file of his opponent, investment banker Jack Ryan. Career Politicians 2, Millionaires 0.

In addition, politicians are the celebrities in Chicago. We don’t have a lot of tycoons or movie stars. Who was our contribution to Celebrity Apprentice? Rod Blagojevich. As Slate put it:

The star power of Chicago politicians may also contribute to the city's continuing problems with corruption. Incumbents tend to be big personalities who get celebrity coverage in the local papers—which sometimes translates into ethical leeway from voters. (In cities like Los Angeles and New York, local politicians take a back seat to the media celebs.)
I know someone stated that point once. That Chicago's politicians are celebrities. Being larger than life gets you the attention, but being boring keeps you in the background. Who knows perhaps in some instance not being larger than life might be very smart.

Does one have to be similar to Big Bill Thompson - the last Republican Mayor of Chicago - to prove to be larger than life? He was largely hot air if nothing else and certainly was quite the character.

Or could one be similar to our state House Speaker Michael Madigan? He doesn't strike me as a very exciting man, but his political acumen can certainly make him larger than life.

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