It seems that sleazy political tricks are oozing through every crack in the sidewalk. From Washington to Chicago to Mesa, political figures will say and do just about anything to get elected — or to prevent someone else from getting elected.
I grew up in Chicago where there was no shortage of political shenanigans. For example, there was a fabled alderman, Paddy Bauler, who ran a popular saloon not far from the Rush Street strip of night clubs, bars and restaurants. Bauler, responding to a call to clean up corruption, was widely quoted as saying, “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.” At least Bauler, who died in 1977 at the age of 87, was honest, sort of.
Then there was a tale about a Chicago alderman who was trailing badly in his bid for re-election. He needed something to pump up his campaign in his crime-ridden West Side district. A week or so before the election, about 3 one early morning, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of his store-front campaign headquarters.
Because no one was working in the office at 3 a.m., of course no one was injured. Damage to his campaign headquarters was substantial, but not to his campaign. Later that day the alderman proclaimed that hoodlums were out to get him, but that he would fight on. His political stock soared, so the story goes, and he won re-election handily.
Another example of what some would call political deviousness (corruption) in the Windy City involved a park commissioner who tried to pass a measure requiring softball players to wear gloves. In Chicago, where 16-inch softball was, and probably still is, the rage, no one wore gloves. It seems the commissioner had a good friend in the sporting goods business who would have benefited greatly if every softball player in the city had to buy a glove. The glove gambit never got to first base.
Today, in our nation’s capital, Republicans and Democrats squabble over just about everything, especially if it has to do with money, which just about everything in Washington does.
Without considering the merits of various programs and proposals to get the nation’s economy moving again, it seems that Republicans won’t buy anything that Democrats, and particularly President Obama, are selling. Republicans generally say that it’s another tax-and-spend liberal Democratic plan. Democrats, of course, disagree. They say the only thing Republicans are interested in — a full year from the 2012 election — is maintaining the economic status quo so Obama will be that much easier to defeat. Damn the economy — full speed ahead to another year of political posturing.
And in Mesa, where Senate President Russell Pearce is facing a Nov. 8 recall election, the political shiftiness taking place during the campaign would make Chicago pols proud.
It’s hard to believe that Pearce had no knowledge of what the alleged sham candidate, Olivia Cortes, was up to, why she was running, and who put her up to it. It has been well-accepted that she was there to siphon Hispanic votes away from Pearce’s No. 1, and now only challenger, Jerry Lewis. Cortes’ name remains on the ballot, though she officially ended her non-campaign earlier this month.
It’s also hard to believe that Pearce’s brother, Lester Pearce, a justice of the peace and former state senator, had no idea what his niece was doing when he rode with her while she was gathering petition signatures to get Cortes on the ballot. The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct flatly forbids a justice of the peace or judge from taking part in any political campaign other than their own.
And, it’s really hard to believe that Russell and Lester Pearce — as politically savvy as they are — were oblivious to what was going on around them.
Yet, I’m sure they realize that the real bottom line in politics, regardless of philosophical leaning, is getting elected. No matter how noble or nefarious a candidate’s goals are, he can’t accomplish them if he is rejected by voters.
Winning is everything. Sad, but true.
— Don Harris is copy editor and a freelance writer for the Arizona Capitol Times.