Thursday, October 1, 2009

Q the Eye/10.01.09

Dear LakeCountyEye,

I won a tough election in 2008 and get to sit out the next one but, you know, 2012 is just around the corner. I'm low man on a totem pole in a Party that is out of power and 2012 is, you know, a redistricting year. With a stacked deck like this, how does an incumbent get himself re-elected?

Head & Shoulders Above the Pack
Dear Dandruffy,

As your LakeCountyEye is sure everyone knows, politics is a cyclical business that operates on a boom & bust cycle. Come election night you're looking at either boom-goes-the-dynamite or at spontaneous human com-bustion. Add to the mix random uncertainties like redistricting, and your LakeCountyEye recommends a political career only to those stoutest of heart.

Fret not, however, your dire straits have a lining of silver called incumbency. Because once you got elected you statutorily became the incumbent. And according to the latest polling at FiveThirtyEight, a whopping 218% ± 3 of all incumbents are re-elected. You don't need a veteran handicapper like your LakeCountyEye to tell you those are excellent odds indeed.

Of course no incumbent should take their re-election for granted, the way to November it salted with the roadkill remains of Phil Crane, Dick Hyde, Gary Del Re, and many others. Nonetheless, it's no accident that incumbents keep getting re-elected over and over and over again. The secret to their serial success is name recognition. Voters tend to vote for ballot names they recognize. Which are usually the names of the incumbents (certainly not the challengers). As a corollary, voter apathy -- low voter turnout -- works to your benefit as the incumbent. Be sure to pack the polls with your people on election day and you'll be returning to elected office for life.

It's a given that voter turnout is proportional to voter education. The more educated your voters are, the more likely they will vote. Less educated voters stay home more often. So your LakeCountyEye has to admire one precocious incumbent who's taken this idea to the next level.

One perk of being an elected representative in Springfield is the General Assembly Legislative Scholarship Program. Every member of the General Assembly gets eight annual college scholarships to hand out to their constituents. You're no doubt asking yourself at this point, if an incumbent gives away eight college scholarships every year, won't that have the effect of raising the education level of his constituents? And doesn't that jeopardize his re-election chances?

The precocious incumbent in question must think this would be exactly the case, because he took the radical step of dropping out of the scholarship program altogether. According to the Daily Herald there won't be any college scholarships forthcoming from this particular pol's office. If you're some freeloading constituent yearning to better yourself through higher education, tough luck, get a job.

It was written in the Tao te Ching thousands of years ago ...
The superior man leads
by emptying people's minds,
by filling their bellies,
by weakening their ambition,
and by toughening their hides.
This seems to be one lesson not lost upon one of our forward-looking incumbents!

If you are an elected official, or a previously elected official, or just a private citizen under indictment, send your political questions to Q the Eye c/o ...


LC Truth said...

The awarding of educational scholarships is a standard practice throughout many industries and government factions in the U.S. There are right ways to award scholarships through competition. Obviously Dan Duffy wants to take the easy way out and hide behind the premise of "to hard to do due to misperception" by constituents. Transparency is the key...oh wait I forgot we are talking about Dan Duffy. What has he done for the 26th?
Dan...How do you go to bed knowing you are passing up an opportunity to further the education of children?...........if you read this, I would be more than willing to help you figure out how to do this without the looking like you are playing favorites. Consider it a non partisan endeavor!

Nicki said...

I'm certainly not opposed to the General Assembly scholarships, and I know of several legislators who form well-qualified scholarship committees that handle the entire process without input from the legislator. But I'm sure you saw the recent articles in the Tribune critical of the scholarships and the legislators who award them. In an environment in which everything is assumed to have a political motive, it's not surprising that some legislators would decide that giving out the scholarships is not worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

He should delegate the task to the local colleges! At College of Lake County there are scores of deserving and needy students.