Chicago Dems and the Illinois Green Party

•June 24, 2008 • 4 Comments

Like a mythical beast haunting the imagination, in recent years the Illinois Green Party has re-emerged on election day to the consternation of local Democratic party officials. Though as is often the case in Illinois, the Democratic challenger, (who now happens to be the city’s homestate senator Barack Obama), would most certainly make quick work of winning the state come November.

Nevertheless, bothersome chatter from the far left is noise the Dems probably wish to drown out if they can leading to the general election, when the party aims to draw in moderates and independents and so-called “Reagan Democrats”. The Green Party national convention, scheduled to open here in a little more than two weeks, will certainly produce exactly that kind of needling chatter.

Although the story is out in the blogosphere that Obama may have centrist underpinnings, to anti-war and left wing voters this reads like a headline from “Life”magazine: old news.

In addition, many locals on the left remain cautiously skeptical about the senator’s ties to Democrat officials such as six-term Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley is said to wield enormous influence over the city and its future. Many left voters are understandably wary and seem concerned over how much power and influence Daley would gain with Obama in residence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Richard M. Daley was elected mayor of the city in 1989 and is the son of Richard J. Daley, the the notoriously powerful Democratic Party deal maker columnist Mike Royko described in his book “Boss”. The Daleys make other family political dynasties seem subtle by comparison. In Chicago, the idea that one could virtually christen one’s own offspring with political positions is nothing new or surprising.

Further examples include Todd Stroger, current Cook County Board President, who stepped in to fill the position his father vacated after he suffered a stroke, only days before the primary election held. In addition, the state’s current Governor, Rod Blagojevich, is the son-in-law of a man many describe as the most powerful alderman in Chicago, Richard Mell of the 33rd ward.

When I grew up on the city’s northside, Mell’s name was a fixture on campaign yard signs in my family’s 33rd ward neighborhood as far back as I can remember. The message of the signs was evident. Imposing at nearly 4 feet high and almost as wide with bold yellow letters on dark blue spelling out the single word: MELL. Party affiliation and office were understood.

In a few short weeks, the Green Party’s 2008 nominating convention will be be held in downtown Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton — though you’ll find little about the event from local media until at best the convention commencement on July 10th.

Granted, many people still snicker at the idea of a Green Party exerting any real influence in the United States, but the environmental ideals of the party’s platform are gaining currency as the eco movement becomes increasingly mainstream. Since Gore’s loss in 2000, the Green Party has also worked hard to put the Ralph Nader spoiler myth to rest, focusing instead on building the party through state races.

The Green Party has made a few inroads in Illinois’ well-oiled Democratic machine locally. As of 2006, when downstate lawyer Rich Whitney took 10 percent of the general election vote in his bid for governor, the Green Party earned established party status in the state and now enjoys the same ballot access as the Republican and Democratic parties do. Despite reports of suspect voting “irregularities” during the Feb. 5th 2008 primary in which Green Party ballots were either non-existent or altered in several area polling places, their candidate numbers are growing.

Now, if some Illinoisans know little about the Green Party, it’s also no secret that there are many who know little about Obama as a politician. After all, he has not been our state senator for all that long and local papers rarely cover routine Senate votes avoiding the nitty gritty of issues such as war funding and surveillance measures.

In his defense, Obama has said a few things activists and environmentalists, who lobbied hard against Chicago transit cuts, want to hear. But when the senator continues to vote to fund the war under the pretense that he is for the troops, but not the war, anti-war voters and many of these same activists scoff.

In the past month, state ballot challenges facing the Illinois Green Party have been attributed to the state Democratic party. This month four candidates from the Green Party have been removed from the Illinois general election ballot. The Green Party has called foul placing the blame squarely on Democratic election officials.

In the weeks leading up to the Green convention, one thing is certain: Illinois Green Party activists and supporters will turn up the heat on local, state and national Democratic leaders, perhaps drawing in wider circles of the left in the process. Obama and city Democratic party bosses may work to contain that influence, hoping their problems just blow away, as political troubles so often do in the Windy City.

-crossposted on The Huffington Post

A Chance In Hell Winning Over Women: The Company McCain Keeps

•June 14, 2008 • 1 Comment

John McCain suddenly and at the last minute cancelled a fundraiser at the home of Clayton Williams, the Republican millionaire oil company owner who made his mark 20 years ago running for governor of Texas against the late Ann Richards, a Democrat.

According to a Washington Post report, when word got out that Clayton Williams was the same “gentleman” who once remarked that the weather was like rape “As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it,” and said of his campaign against Richards, that he would “head her and hoof her and drag her through the dirt” like cattle, the McCain campaign realized they should then scramble to cover their conservative backends.

In a report from local paper, the Midland Reporter, Williams, who has already raised $300,000 for McCain for the fundraiser at his home, illustrated the fear that grips him when he envisions an election win by Barack Obama. Williams said “he has no desire to see Obama’s “socialist” policies enacted and that all businessmen and entrepreneurs would be negatively affected should the Illinois senator win the White House.”

“It is a pittance to the taxes they (Democrats) will take from the industry,” Williams said of the $300,000 raised.

-crossposted on MOMocrats

Obama’s Chicagoland: My new column debuts

•June 6, 2008 • 1 Comment

My new column for The Huffington Post’s Off The Bus just debuted today. My focus will be local developments from Obama’s campaign, headquartered here in Chicago and the election ’08 outlook from the Windy City.

Check back frequently at Off the Bus as I’ll be updating weekly and expect to be updating often as November nears. Thanks for reading!


In the wake of Obama’s historic victory Tuesday as the presumptive Dem. nominee, Chicago continues to experience the repercussions of his resignation from Trinity United Church of Christ.

Vastly different views of Obama’s decision to leave the church abound, from renewed calls for keeping religion out of politics to the more critical view of Obama’s departure from what some see as the heart of the black community.

The priest at the center of the controversy that spurred Obama to resign, Father Michael Pflegler, heads the south side Catholic parish St. Sabina, at which he has served as pastor for more than 30 years. But he was removed from his post this week by Cardinal Francis George for at least the next “couple of weeks.” Sabina’s members have been pleading for the return of their pastor and say they would like to meet with the Cardinal.

While it may seem politically advantageous to jettison associations that bring the campaign controversy, critics charge that the Obama has missed a key opportunity to stand with the black community once again, a community that has clearly offered its support to him in several states during this long drawn out primary.

Pfleger, though unconventional in his delivery, has long been a vocal advocate for residents of his community in the city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.

Supporters of Pflegler believe advocates working on the street level bring about the change that Obama speaks so eloquently about. To turn away, they say, in the face of shoddy criticism preemptively is second guessing the role these activists play in their communities.

Writing in the Chicago Defender, Lou Ransom notes that Obama faces a glaring double standard when dealing with his relationship to the black religious community. The public’s tolerance for black ministry of the dramatic nature does not nearly match the public tolerance for white rightwing political “pulpitry.”

“When Father Michael Pfleger talked about white entitlement in the pulpit at Trinity, he didn’t say anything he wouldn’t say at his own St. Sabina. He didn’t say anything that wasn’t repeated at any number of Black churches.
And, the truth he told in his pulpit was no less the truth than what is told in the pulpit of any number of white ministers, who historically have used the pulpit, and the bible, to justify any number of racist behaviors, from owning slaves to banning miscegenation to advocating lynching. “

Currently, the Chicago arm of the GOP shows no departure from the skewed rightwing script on Obama and his religious background. They continue to float the Muslim rumors about Obama and his religious background, dredging up connotations of Arab ties.

From this point forward, it seems Obama will have to maintain the delicate balance of addressing criticism from those who believe he is either too black for comfort or not black enough. In the long history of presidential electoral politics, Obama is making up for lost ground on a path previously paved by white males.

Dockworkers Display War Opposition Strength in Historic Ports Shut Down

•May 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Rank and file members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which includes some 25,000 men and women, took matters into their own hands on Thursday to protest the war in the largest one day strike since the invasion of Iraq. All along the West Coast, ILWU members shut down the ports, grinding business to a halt.

J.B. Powell at The Huffington Post described today the estimated effect on business.

“A spokesperson at the Port of Oakland citing John Martin and Associates economic analysis, said that $1.2 trillion in business activity flows from West Coast ports each year. She reported that it costs between $50,000 and $100,000 for each ship delayed for a day from docking. Officials, she said, planned for the strike and diverted ships, but the action kept at least one ship from docking in Oakland. There are 29 ports up and down the coast.”

Acting on a motion from a a recent caucus of members, the workers defied the wishes of even their own International union’s officials who argued against the strike, but said they supported the members’ right to protest.

Jack Heyman, a local officer of the ILWU who wrote the resolution to strike, said in a Democracy Now broadcast Thursday the action of the ILWU members directly demonstrates the power of resistance workers possess.

“Well, what this action was was raising the level of struggle from protest to resistance, and we’re hoping that these kinds of actions will resonate to other unions and workers.

It’s already catching on with some of the port truckers. Actually, they’ve been doing actions for quite awhile. While it’s not mainly based on the war—I think they’re very much affected by the high price of fuel—they’ve been shutting down ports over that issue, but also immigrant rights, because many of them are immigrant workers.

And I hope that this will be an example to other workers that we have the power, we’ve got to use it. And that’s how we can bring this war to a halt.”

Telling of the committment to speak out, ILWU member Angela Benjamin, brought her 8 year old son, George, to the rally, missing a day’s pay to show her support for the war opposition.

“My father was a Vietnam Vet and he died in 1969,” Benjamin said. “So it’s important for me to be here to protest this war. I have a personal idea about what’s going on.”

Obama Talks Policy Online with MOMocrats Bloggers

•April 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

MOMocrats, punditry from a motherly perspective dedicated to putting a Democrat in the White House, today unveiled their exclusive interview with Barack Obama on issues close to the hearts and minds of American families.

The 23 contributors to MOMocrats, including myself, hail from across the U.S. and weigh in daily on the candidates and issues of election 2008. Most recently, following the ABC debate that angered bloggers and received poor reviews from the press, MOMocrats decided to draft a list of questions they wish had been asked of the candidates. They then sent these questions to the Obama campaign. Of the questions, Obama responded to 5 , submitted by both readers and MOMocrats contributors and ranging from foreign policy to family leave.

First off, the senator was grilled on poverty and affordable housing and responded:

“I believe that inserting simplistic tag lines or one-dimensional goals are
unlikely to be helpful in meeting this challenge.”

He elaborated further by describing his plan to tackle the problem of affordable housing with his Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“The Affordable Housing Trust Fund would use a small
percentage of the profits of two government-sponsored housing agencies,
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to create thousands of new units of affordable
housing every year.”

In addition, Obama wrote that he would

“ensure that all Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs are restored to their original purpose.”

Obama was asked in another question, what he would do as President to address the mortgage crisis and crushing debt burden so many U.S. families now face. His response:

“Six months ago, I announced my plan to put a middle-class tax cut worth $500
per person or $1000 per family into the pockets of workers who deserve it.
I also proposed eliminating income taxes for seniors making under $50,000
and creating a universal mortgage credit for homeowners who do not itemize,
which will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners.”

“And because this kind of relief can’t wait until the next President takes
office, I proposed a plan in January to provide an immediate tax cut of $250
for workers and their families and a temporary $250 bonus to seniors in
their Social Security checks. These tax cuts will help to stimulate the
economy by immediately putting money into the pockets of working Americans
who need it and will spend it. And if the economy continued to worsen, I
called for an additional $250 to workers and seniors to help them get by.”

He further detailed a Foreclosure Prevention Fund, and a Credit Card Bill of Rights that would ban

“unilateral changes to credit card agreements, applies interest rates
increases only to future debts, and prohibits interest on transaction

Most significant of Obama’s answers on domestic family issues was his response to expanding Family Leave for workers and supporting state paid leave programs.

“As a state legislator and a U.S. Senator, I have always supported family
friendly policies. As president, I will initiate a 50 state strategy to
encourage all of the states to adopt paid-leave systems, and I will provide
a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states
offset the costs for employees and employers.”

You can read more of Obama’s answers on raising the federal minimum wage, his view on torture, and Child Care and Dependent tax credits along with the full text of the interview here.

MOMocrats has also issued an open invitation to the Clinton campaign for their response to the questions.

Crossposted on The Huffington Post

On citizen journalists and the validity of accounts

•April 14, 2008 • 4 Comments

The fireball that has erupted over a comment made at a fund raiser has knocked me off my feet. Over the past few days, what amounts to a standard, though creatively written account of another political event/fund raiser by a citizen journalist has become the fuel for an insane amount of intolerance described here that is almost as hateful as the thinking Barack Obama is being labeled for with his remarks on economically disadvantaged small-town people.

Do I need to get into all the reasons why one might expect a man who has campaigned for last 15 months or so all over the U.S. to know better than to phrase his remarks as such? Well, that is not where I’m headed, and quite frankly, I say this with all honesty, it often falls on deaf ears. However, I do intend to speak out for my citizen journalist colleague, Mayhill Fowler, with whom I, and a number of other of other contributors, have written on The Huffington Post’s Off the Bus since June of last year.

Mayhill, as far as I have known, is unabashedly supportive of Obama. She also has very keen eyes and ears as her writing attests. She is very artful at describing the scene and the atmosphere as well as the reaction she experiences at campaign events. Over the last several months, I have read her many posts, of which a vast majority are favorable to Obama’s campaign efforts. And I have followed with a slight sort of envy her outright dedication to covering the campaigns, which isn’t always possible when you have young children under foot as I do.

Therefore, I am appalled at the amount of backlash she has received for having written her account of this expensive San Francisco fund raiser. I have attended numerous campaign events and throughout my years training as a journalist, I’ve covered events, people, issues I did and did not care about, much as a citizen journalist or any journalist for that matter would cover. Some were favorable to an idea or candidate I supported, some were critical. But, all were written from the truth as I believe Mayhill’s account was written.

What I don’t understand is how ordinary Americans can go on the defensive over the work of a citizen journalist, who is more like they are, than any big name paid reporter on any big news operation anywhere.

The value in the citizen journalist’s account is that, unlike the paid reporter, they work for free. They are beholden to no one but themselves. And therefore, they are under no  obligation to write, cover or opine about subjects but from their own unique perspective.

We must remember the amount of varying viewpoints, accounts, thoughts and questions citizen journalists may pose is the very cornerstone to the idea a free press, most crucial in this age of corporate controlled big media.

Let us not become so embedded in our support of a candidate at the expense of free thought and dissent that we forget the underlying foundation that allows our candidate his or her platform in the first place.

Sold out? Black voters and the Obama campaign

•April 11, 2008 • 2 Comments

Glen Ford, posted this column on Black Agenda Report a few days ago on why even if Obama wins, black Americans would find themselves with only a continuation of irrelevence in decision maker’s and politicians minds.

Ford makes special note of his disappointment in seeing Danny Glover, the actor and activist who has rallied for many progressive causes, band together with several other activists to endorse Obama formally in the past weeks.

It was Glover’s support of Obama that most surprised me of the four authors of the written endorsement, of which I detailed in my earlier post below.

In a refreshingly honest way, Ford does an excellent job of outlining from start to finish the theatrics that have come into play during the Obama campaign.

“Better yet, Obama was now free to more brazenly woo Republicans and Reagan Democrats, knowing Blacks had become so cowed (or even delusional) they would pretend not to hear the overtures to the enemy. In Selma, Alabama, Obama claimed that Blacks had already come “90 percent of the way to equality” – a signal to whites that the days of Black racial agitation were nearly over. In Reno, Nevada, Obama expressed deep empathy with those Reaganites who had been so repulsed by the “excesses of the 1960s and 1970s.” On Katrina, Obama declared that government “incompetence” after the storm “had been colorblind.” If that were true, then every act of man in the aftermath of the hurricane was racism-free. That’s Obama’s position.”