Missing on Election Day #2: Jesse Jackson, Jr.

With Rod Blagojevich locked up in one place, another one of our political luminaries sits in another kind of exile. Jesse Jackson, Jr. spends this Election Day in Mayo Clinic’s mental health division being treated for his apparent Bi-Polar Disorder. His disappearance may be far less self-inflicted than Rod’s, and therefore more deserving of compassion, but I wonder how he looks at this election day, if he does at all.

Jesse is still a player. Virtually guaranteed re-election, he has said little and done less about communicating with his constituents. His wife and father have asked for patience and understanding, and my kinder side is happy to grant that. But what is today like for him?

Look at the pressure he’s under – accusations of wrongdoing, investigation by the feds. Trials and sentences must inhabit his dreams, the place formerly inhabited by imaginings of the Senate. And that diagnosis is no walk in the park on any day.

Last year, before all of the uproar, I sat at a Gold Coast outdoor café – you know the one, where the fancy tricked-up cars pull up and disgorge beautiful people out onto the sidewalk right in front of you. They stride along Rush to the admiring glances of the assembled tourists and locals, always finding someone to greet. So busy, so on the way to the next important event, which will revolve around them.

On that sidewalk, Jesse Jackson, Jr. appeared. Dapper, busy, striding, he fit right in. He looked just like on TV only shorter, and he reminded me of someone. As he passed our table and I saw the searching eyes and the jumpy mannerisms, I realized that I was looking at Rod Blagojevich all over again. Look at me, like me, make me feel important, elect me.

Today, Jesse will get the latter. I wonder how it will taste to him, whether he will get the same ego-boosting rush that the other politicians will experience today. I wonder if victory has the same importance that it used to.

I wish him well in his recovery, of course. But my curiosity trumps my compassion. What is it like to be him today? What does he wish for most? Does it have anything to do with politics, or is it about health and balance and normalcy, the things the rest of us take for granted today and every day? When he reappears, we can ask him.

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