So Illinois had its primary elections on Tuesday, one office at stake being Lieutenant Governor. For whatever reason, the Lieutenant Governor here runs independently from the Governor in the primary, but they then run as a joint ticket in the general election, so the gubernatorial candidates have no real say in who they’re gonna be stuck with for the big show in November. And, since the Lieutenant Governor’s office is the political equivalent of your appendix – some kind of vestigial organ that has no discernible purpose and that no one remembers until it blows up on you – the candidates don’t really get vetted much by the media or the electorate.
Until after the primary, of course.
This year, the Democratic voters of the state, in their infinite wisdom, picked this Scott Lee Cohen guy – a career pawnbroker with no political credentials who owes his ex-wife better than 50 grand in child support, who purportedly attempted to force himself upon her sexually during their divorce two-step, who admits to abusing steroids because it was a rough time in his life and he wanted to put on some muscle, who went from the ex-wife to a woman he met at a massage parlor that, based on its legal history, ought to be called Madam Lee’s House of Happy Endings (his “massage therapists” girlfriend claims he later held a knife to her throat during a domestic dispute, by the way), and that – and this may be the most damning of all – dropped a gazillion dollars of his own coin on a primary election for Lieutenant Governor (although he may be crazy like a fox on that front, because this is Illinois, and the Lieutenant Governor is only a heart beat or an indictment away from the Big Chair). The current crop of candidates seem healthy enough, but, in this state, the Governor ending up in the clink ain’t exactly a long shot.
So Pat Quinn, the Democratic candidate for governor, either has to force this Cohen schmuck off the ticket, hold his nose and run with a Jerry Springer Show refugee, or drop off the ticket himself and run a third-party campaign. And it’s not the first time something like this has happened. In 1986, again in the Democratic primary, the Lieutenant Governor nominee was Mark Fairchild, who turned out to be a stalking horse for that model of modern good governance, Lyndon La Rouche (look him up under fascist whack job people, what do you think this is, a poly-sci class?)
You stack this type of stuff on top of other recent manifestations of politics of the absurd like, oh, I dunno, the Palin Vice Presidential Nomination, Resignation and Tea-Bagging Book Tour, and you have to check the masthead in the morning to make sure you’re reading the local paper and not The Onion.
OK, Dan, you’re asking yourself, that’s swell, but what’s this got to do with, like, writing or anything, ‘cause if I wanna get my political news, I might just check in with a real journalist or something instead of a blog where some guy did a page and a half on his colonoscopy not too far back.
Fair question, and here’s the answer. Before you pull the reins in on an idea because you think it’s too far out there, ask yourself What Would Scott Lee Cohen Do? My agent is shopping around a manuscript that has a lot of political corruption as a plot line, and I gotta admit, there were times when I was writing that I’d say to myself “Getting a little far-fetched here, don’tcha think, Chief?” But I never had a hooker-courting, steroid-abusing, dead-beat dad pawnbroker win a statewide election in my book. I mean, what’s next? Space aliens (although I do wonder what’s actually under Blagojevich’s Elvis mop).
So, you got an idea that feels like maybe it’s a little much? Run it out. You got way more baseline than you think.