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Fishing in the Tainted Pond of Politics


My state ghosted the primary.

Well, not everyone did, but more than enough did to make turnout historically low. Nearly four out of five registered voters in Chicago, for example, skipped the election. (That's to say nothing of the folks who never registered in the first place.) The figures are a bit embarrassing, but I can't help shuffling at least some of the blame onto the plate of the politicians from which we had to select. It's not a problem just in Illinois. Voters everywhere are fishing in tainted ponds.

Admittedly, politicians aren't all duplicitous or demented. They're also sometimes hapless.

An example: I once saw Sen. Bernie Sanders in O'Hare Airport. It was a long time ago, before he'd run for president, and it took me a second to place him.

Boy, that guy looks a lot like Bernie Sanders, I thought, as he squinted at the flight information board, and I squinted at him.

But he was, in fact, a U.S. senator, wandering alone, with the air of a man hunting for his reading glasses. He looked like he needed help but was darned if he was going to ask. Behind him, he dragged a rolling suitcase, a raggedy thing that looked to be held together by Black Jack chewing gum and the goodwill of the world's patchouli wearers.


It wasn't the suitcase of a hedge-fund liberal but of a true socialist, of a man who, if you suggested he spend some of his $174,000-a-year-salary on new luggage, would snort, "All it needs is a little more duct tape."

But Sanders, principled and authentic enough to carry beat-up luggage, couldn't win the presidency.

Later, I realized that I'd seen Sanders in town campaigning for mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia. If you know anything about Chicago politics, you know that Garcia would win first prize in the most-likely-to-be-endorsed-by-Bernie-Sanders beauty pageant.

Garcia's an intractable, labor-loving liberal, with so many principles he'd feel bad about taking a cent from the "need a penny take a penny" tray at the gas station.


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