As things have unfolded over the past few weeks, and the Governor of my home state of Illinois has finally been removed, I’ve remained silent on the subject because some targets are just too easy. How do you lampoon a caricature? I mean, we’ve always had a good chuckle over Hot Rod Blagojevich’s hair, but as long as he was standing in the way of tax increases, installing open road tolling to make our commutes shorter, making medications cheaper for senior citizens and really doing a lot of great things for the state of Illinois, we really didn’t mind that much that he looked like a cartoon character.
Honestly, until this mess about selling Obama’s Senate seat came to light, most people thought he was doing a pretty decent job of being the governor. We looked at his hair and met it with a chuckle instead of an outright laugh. It’s okay to be funny looking in Illinois politics if you do a good job. Look no further than former senator Paul Simon for that proof.
And the truth of the matter is that until the scandal hit, Blagojevich didn’t go around acting like an ass either. He was typically well-spoken, poised and lucid. Sure, there were whispers of corruption, but it’s impossible to a politician in this state and not have corruption whispers. Hell, not long ago Chicago—the political corruption capitol of the world, arrogantly made it’s slogan, “The City that Works,” in what could only be a veiled reference to the fact that the system of corruption in place was a well-oiled, efficiently running machine.
Illinois residents aren’t really upset that Blago tried to sell Obama’s seat, though we’re not thrilled about the fact that he tried to extort one of our newspapers and a children’s hospital. We’re pissed that he, A) got caught, and B) acted like such as asshole after being caught.
The getting caught part is inexcusable and stupid. Richard Daley, the mayor of Chicago has been more crooked than a basket full of S’s throughout his long career as the mayor here. He gets things done though. He’s going to bring the Olympics to Chicago. He keeps our streets cleared of snow. He fills the potholes in front of our homes (as long as you’re a registered Democrat). Are there sweetheart deals in place regarding each of those things? Of course! Do we care? Nope. Will Daley ever find himself in a Blago-like mess? Of course not! Why? Because you can bet your sweet ass that while he waves the baton and conducts the orchestra, he’s always three or four steps away from the crime.
That’s what being a good politician means here. Get shit done. Keep the price tag low. We won’t ask. You don’t tell. Don’t make us look stupid. And that was Blagojevich’s second mistake. When he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar instead of having his cookies delivered to him, he went apeshit crazy!
When you look like a cartoon, you can’t afford to talk like one and that is precisely what Blago did. It took me a while to place it, but eventually I’ve gotten a handle on it. The absurd speech, the complete lack of sense and reason, the self-proclaimed martyrdom, the delusions of grandeur, the hairmet—he went from being the governor to being the Rick Moranis character Dark Helmet from the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs.
Coincidentally, when the leader of your state is running around, appearing on talk shows, howling at the moon and doing an impression of a Mel Brooks character, it’s pretty much the epitome of embarrassment for his constituents. And when the constituency is anchored by a city that disdainfully accepts the nickname of Second City and constantly puffs it’s collective chest when it betters any other American city in any way—you’ve officially committed the most unforgivable of sins.
And now we have a new governor. After Dark Helmet was removed from office by unanimous vote and banned from ever holding office in our state again, Patrick Quinn took over and promptly assured us all that corruption was over and better times were ahead. He told us that we the citizens of Illinois would have to sacrifice to clear up the $3 million in state debt, and then without blinking an eye, approved $30,000 to remove Dark Helmet’s name from every sign on every tollway in the state.
This move has been widely applauded. Better to pay the boys some overtime and have them remove signs over the weekend than to suffer a little more embarrassment by having to read Blagojevich’s name on the way to work. A state in debt happily pays to expunge it’s association with a caricature of a governor. We go a little further into debt. We’ll be asked to sacrifice a little bit more to clear it up. It almost makes you wonder if perhaps a cartoon state didn’t deserve a cartoon sheriff?