Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

04 March 2009

Is the machine stronger than Netroots?

Yesterday's special election for Illinois' 5th Congressional district proved one thing - You better have a machine in place before even considering running for office in Chicago.

The top three vote getters on the Dem side (it's a Dem district, no GOP candidate got 1,000 votes) are well established politicians who obviously have a machine behind them. Whether it is a Daley machine, a Stroger machine or whatever you want to call it, they have a solid base. Feigenholtz spent the most money, including $100,000 of her own, to come in 3rd.

But what has me really thinking this morning is that Netroots darling Tom Geoghegan came in a woeful 7th with only 6% of the vote. He had some superstar endorsements, but apparently no army to get the vote out. OK, no one really got the vote out, but Quigley won with more than 20% of those voting, which is larger than most pundits thought was needed back in Decemeber. There was talk that even 10% might win this baby because of the sheer number of candidates.

Thus I want to ask: If the Netroots helped propel Obama to the White House, how do we take that and relocate it locally? Is the Netroots just that? Only on the net? Is it a method for national progressives to rally together in a virtual room to affect change? What do we need to do at the local level to make change happen?

That shouldn't be seen as a slam on Quigley. I know he's going to be a fine Congressman. But in his victory speech last night he said:

"After all the recent embarrassments, this was the first chance that the voters had to voice their desire for change and they spoke loud and clear," Quigley told the Tribune. "They came through for me, and now I have to come through for them."

What we should really look at is the dismal turn out...that's the real message voters in the 5th sent. That they are so sick of politics, even this race couldn't get them to stand in line for 5 minutes. The polls were that empty my friends, 5 minutes is all it would have taken to vote. The fact that the plurality of voters went with Quigley does say something, that he has crafted his reformer message well. I hope he delivers on that message in DC, but the truth is that Congressmen & women need to bring home a lot of bacon to keep getting elected, it's hard to reform that.

Carol Marin is bit more optomistic about what Quigley's win means to local politics.

In a district the Machine has controlled since 1958 -- except for two aberrant years -- with congressmen named Rostenkowski, Blagojevich and Emanuel, the 5th was the ultimate insider's seat.

What exactly did an outsider like Quigley have that would change that?

Voter rebellion.

**snip**

Though his opponents -- some of them -- tried to paint Quigley as an un-reformer, the small number of voters who turned out Tuesday were highly educated on the issues. And they knew that in a large -- and largely talented -- crew of candidates, Quigley, as a commissioner on the Cook County Board, had been one of the lone voices raised in opposition to the patronage-clogged, outrageously inefficient government run by Board President Todd Stroger. And that Stroger had been the candidate handed to us by party bosses.

Yes, this was just the primary . . . and now Quigley must face Republican Rosanna Pulido and the Green Party's Matthew Reichel on April 7.

And yes, if Quigley wins again next month, the same ward bosses he humiliated in this election will still get to pick his County Board replacement.

But they would be wise to tremble just a little.

Because the earth beneath their feet just moved.


She knows far more than I so I'll take her word that this is a very good thing. It still bothers me that five years after Howard Dean sparked the Netroots and all the money poured into certain Netroot websites, that they can't do better than 7th in a wide-open race. Is it them? Is it Chicago?

There's a lot of cleaning up to do in Chicago, the question is who is going to do it and how.

3 comments:

If the Netroots helped propel Obama to the White House, how do we take that and relocate it locally?

Look at this more carefully, though. The Obama campaign leveraged social networks very effectively (especially myBO) but didn't particuarly reach out to the big "progressive" blogs, which is what most people think of as "the netroots"; and conversely I haven't seen any evidence at all that the big progressive blogs were a significant factor in Obama's victory.

By most accounts, it was surges in youth, blacks, and Latinos voting for Obama (and neutralizing McCain's hoped-for gains among women) that made the difference -- and all of these are groups that are marginalized in the progressive blogosphere. I don't know enough about the demographics of IL-05 and Geohagan's strategy

More generally, the netroots haven't consistently shown that they can have an impact on Congressional races -- see Darcy Burner, for example, where it's not clear they made any difference.

So I'd see this as another confirmation (following Darcy Burner) that the influence of the big progressive blogs, as opposed to the more diverse netroots, is significantly overstated. Even in an ideal situation where [despite your title] the outsider candidate could beat the machine -- but progressive bloggers couldn't pick a likely winner, or help their guy significantly.

jon

oops. i truncated a sentence prematurely.

I meant to say "I don't know enough about the demographics of IL-05 and Geohagan's strategy to know whether he was following the Obama model, or whether it was just that the boys at the big blogs thought he was great."

Matt Reichel, the GREEN true progressive of the remaining three to run in the April 7th General is our one option as a "net-roots" candidate. Chicago will be ours!
http://www.mattreichel.us