Tribune columnist and my occasional liberal sparring partner Eric Zorn recently called out Republicans, Mayor Richard M. Daley, myself and others who argue that state Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) rightfully should be the Democratic nominee for Illinois lieutenant governor after whozitts, the primary winner, dropped out of the race. The argument is that Turner came in second and when the first place winner drops out, the guy remaining you got the most votes should move up to the top spot.
Republican agitators have been making this very case for Turner's candidacy in what looks to me like an effort to fan racial resentments. Turner is African-American, and in such blog posts as "Racists oppose Turner for lt. gov" at ChicagoNow.com by my occasional conservative sparring partner Dennis Byrne, the right is planting the idea that Turner is the rightful heir to Cohen's victory.
I don't recall any of them making this "silver medalist" argument six years ago when GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan bowed out of the race against Barack Obama. Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis of Aurora had finished second to Ryan in the primary and badly wanted to step in.
You've got me there, Eric. If I made the silver medalist argument six years ago, I don't remember doing it. Probably wouldn't have because I didn't think that Oberweis had what it took to be the senator. Art Turner, however, has what it takes to the be the lieutenant governor (acknowledging at the same time that it doesn't take much).
But, Eric, I think that you've missed the point. Whether or not Oberweis should have moved up wasn't about race. But it is about Turner. We're having this discussion precisely because Turner is African-American, which Oberweis is not. The (racist) assumption is that a black Chicagoan would never win enough Downstate votes to win. Ergo, "we have to balance the ticket" with someone else. Which someone else? Well, I don't see any African-American names under serious consideration, even though I would assume that at least one African-American from Downstate could be found to lend the requisite "balance" to the Democratic ticket.
As I said in my post, if Democrats truly wanted to balance the ticket that white Chicagoan Gov. Pat Quinn is heading, they'd find a Downstate black woman. But, lacking that, they always have Roland Burris.
Obviously, this is not the discussion that Democrats want to conduct out in the open. They'd appear, well, racist if they did.
Which leads me to the point: I and others of my ilk are raising this issue, because we're the only ones left to do it. If Democrats and allied commentators were as committed to the post-racial society as they would have us believe, there'd be no discussion. I bring it up because it would have been something that I would have criticized when I first started my column at the Sun-Times and was considered to be the house liberal. Now, it seems that some Democrats have forgotten what they say they stand for, and glad to be here to remind them.