Belmont Club

The End of Blagojevich

A roundup of reactions from political figures all across Illinois expressed relief over the conviction of former Governor Rod Blagojevich on several counts of corruption, including the attempted sale of Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. But there was some doubt over whether the conviction would mean an end to corruption in a state whose largest city, Chicago, is a byword in wheeling and dealing.

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked “What happened?” after he was found guilty of 17 of 20 charges in his corruption retrial. … Blagojevich was convicted of all 11 charges related to his attempt to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

The L.A. Times says the trial did not bring down anyone else in a wider scandal, something for which many other Illinois politicians are probably grateful.

Given the nature of the charges, critics of Obama eyed the case closely for any hint that the president or his close associates — among them new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel,Obama’s former chief of staff — had abetted Blagojevich’s attempts at wheeling and dealing.

But wiretaps and testimony showed an incoming White House both wary of Blagojevich and largely unresponsive to his attempts to land a cabinet post, ambassadorship or other lucrative post as the price for naming a senator to Obama’s liking.

In the end, jurors agreed with prosecutors that Blagojevich had tried to sell the Senate in a variety of ways, including an attempt to steer it to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for $1.5 million in campaign cash promised by Jackson supporters.

For the moment, the Rod Blagojevich show has ended and with any luck without an apparent encore. But the show, even the spectacle of the governor’s conviction, no longer entertains. It only reminds the public how many more corrupt politicians there are to go. Recently, two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices fought a wrestling match in chambers, an incident that is now going to be investigated by two separate probes. Things like this tend to undermine the public’s confidence in the ability of the status quo to heal itself.

The Tea Party no longer trusts establishment Republicans. And maybe the blue collar Democrats have stopped trusting the Democratic establishment. Both parties have now become the party of incumbency. But it’s not helping anyone. Not only are one in ten families out of work, but one in five families are working as hard as possible and still unable to pay the bills. This is creating the pressure to find alternative ways of doing things.

To show their anger with some of Hatch’s votes over his 34-year career in the Senate, Kirkham and FreedomWorks planned to march on the National Republican Senatorial Committee today to protest what they see as support for Hatch. …

At a press conference featuring posters reading “Retire Hatch,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said voters have “given up” on Hatch for supporting efforts like TARP and the auto bailout. David Kirkham, spokesman for the state party, added that Hatch’s more conservative votes since the party helped oust former GOP Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010 haven’t changed his view that Hatch is a big government Republican.

Just today, the health care compact passed both the Texas lower house and the upper house. The health care compact, readers will recall, is an idea based around moving power away from the federal government back to where voters can more easily get at the policy issues. It’s going national and that says something.

What it says, I think, is that the “mainstream” by its failures has worn out its welcome. Jena McGregor, writing in the Washington Post, notes that Chris Wallace’s question to Michele Bachmann — “are you a flake?” — is likely to boost her popularity. “Mark my words: The evangelical feminism that’s inspired by Bachmann, as well as Sarah Palin, is sure to get a boost from Wallace’s condescending query.” But it isn’t a feminist backlash that will drive the rebound. It’s the ironic demonstration by Wallace that he, not Bachmann, is the flake, an argument Andy McCarthy seriously makes.

That would surprise Wallace. He still thinks that the narrative carefully constructed in the late 1990s is normative and normal. It isn’t. That old narrative is hanging in tatters and is barely credible. Barack Obama is the epitome of the perfect media candidate and he is as strange as a man from Mars. What propels Bachmann and Palin’s popularity isn’t so much the content of their politics (though it does) as much as the possibility that the public now trusts plain folks far more than the badged Ivy League/media product. The old elite has gotten so precious that it is now the Other. That distrust of the establishment is going to fuel a widespread search for alternative solutions to current problems. Nobody’s going to wait for the Fitz to clean up Chicago. They know he’s not going to do it.

That means the search is on for some other way for the public to do it themselves. Who knows if they’ll succeed. All that is clear is that the old ways aren’t going to do the job.