Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Nothing succeeds like success succession primogeniture

News Item: Todd Stroger, son of former Cook County Board President John Stroger, is slated by the Cook County Democratic Central Committee to take his father’s place as candidate for the presidency of the Cook County Board. John Stroger recently retired following a stroke he suffered earlier this year, in March – mere days before he won renomination in a hotly contested primary.

If elected in November, Todd Stroger will not be assuming his father’s separate seat on the Cook County Board. That office will pass to Alderman Bill Beavers – clearing the way for Beavers’ daughter, presently his chief of staff, to assume his aldermanic office.

Comment:Say, who should we complain to about this?

President Bush?

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan?

Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes?

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley?

No, wait, these politicians all got their jobs because of their Daddies. (The list could go on... and on....)

I know! How about Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich?

No, that won’t work either. He got his job through the good offices of his father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell – although they’re feuding now.

This kind of stuff always comes as a shock to newspaper editorial writers and other people who you’d think would know better.

When I first ran for judge, 12 years ago now, I had to go door-to-door to collect signatures to get on the ballot. People would ask me about my credentials – but not what kind of a lawyer I am, or the kinds of cases I work on. No: They wanted to know, almost without exception, who my father was. Was he a judge? Police? Fire Department? Streets and San?

When I told them that my poor father had only worked as a lawyer for nearly 50 years, most of them with various title companies, and – excepting only a stint in the Army – never on a public payroll, my neighbors regarded me, not with disdain, or pity, but with a knowing look that said, “You’ll never get anywhere with this.” Some of them said this out loud. In those cases I always replied that this was certain to be true if they wouldn’t sign my petition – and most then did.

But, of course, I did lose. Badly.

In the tangled politics of Chicago, I was – well – not a peasant, not exactly – but certainly not royalty. My neighbors asked about my pedigree because they wanted to evaluate my chances. Might I be the slated candidate? Or was I just spitting in the wind? They knew what the editorial writers can't quite seem to understand: One must be born to the purple to get elected here.

Ah, democracy.

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