Tom DeLay just won his party’s nomination for this fall's mid-term election from his district in Texas and won it big-time. Some people find that incredible, what with Tom under indictment and who knows what revelations almost sure to surface from Jack Abramoff’s plea deal.
How could anyone possibly vote for such a questionable guy?
Easy. Not only easy, but predictable. Those Republican wannabes who lined up to take Tom’s seat away didn’t have a clue.
I learned this first-hand from having lived in Chicago during the Dan Rostenkowski scandal, back in the dark ages of 1994. Dan, or “Rosty” as he was affectionately known in the finer circles of Chicago politics, got slammed with seventeen counts of mail and wire-fraud and abuse of office for the way he ran his House of Representatives office. The most embarrassing charge was that he got franking stamps from the House Post Office and sold them for pocket-change.
Chicago never blinked an eye. From the 1890s to the 1990s, nothing much changed and alderman Paddy Bauler’s claim that “Chicago ain’t ready for reform” defined that heady century. Rosty was the Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and that power translated to Chicago’s benefit. By the time Dan got caught with his fingers where they shouldn’t have been, he’d been representing his Chicago district for 36 years.
Rosty was a crook, everyone knew he was a crook, but then everyone knew equally well that all politicians are crooks and he was our crook. Anyone who’s unclear about how much bacon the chairman of a powerful committee can bring home to his district, just doesn’t understand politics.
Anyway, Chicago is America’s womb of practical politics, ground zero for ward-heelers, Mike Royko’s city setting for “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago.”
Was Chicago ready to dump Rosty and his bacon for some newbie who would take thirty years to get where Dan already was? Not by the breath of a Stockyards breeze. His district dumped him in the ’96 election, not because of the indictment, but because he'd stepped down from his chairmanship and was of no further use.
The Hammer is an unknown quantity at the moment, power-wise and Houston ain’t Chicago by a long ways. If Tom can beat the rap in Texas, he’ll go back to Washington as a conquering hero and no one in Oil Town is ready to trade him in for a new broom.
The only things new brooms sweep, is power, clout and sizzlin’ bacon out the door.
So, Tom DeLay’s winning big in his district is no surprise to anyone from the Windy City. If you’d asked, they’d have laid off some pretty attractive odds for you. "I have always placed my faith in the voters, and today's vote shows they have placed their full faith in me," DeLay, said in a statement issued by his reelection campaign. Betting on horse races is about a lot of things, Tom, but faith isn’t one of them.
Tom and Rosty are harbingers of what I think's going to come in the November mid-term elections. There’ll be a moderate amount of stirring the congressional pot, but for the most part the big hitters, Republicans with clout will waltz into re-election, to the chagrin of Democrats who smell a big win.
A few old pols who are tired of the game, have their retirement years in grade and just don’t think Washington is as much fun as it used to be, may retire. That'll happen on both sides of the aisle, so don’t look for blood there, you hopeful Dems. A few more, but probably precious few and probably not any big names, may be indicted by the fallout from Jack Abramoff.
And again, you can take this to the bank, American voters are convinced, with more than a little justification, that all politicians are on the make. Thus, a Newt Gingrich-like wave of Democrats elected under a ‘clean-hands’ inspired campaign is unlikely to happen this November.
Voters are just less gullible after twelve years of Republican congressional control and a whole lot less inclined to expect much from either party, other than business as usual.