Maybe it’s our neighborhood. Lots of old folks around, and they (I guess I’m getting to the age where I should say we) tend to vote. Plus, the area’s pretty white, pretty conservative, so I guess if I’m in charge of sending canvassers out to collect signatures to get Republicans on the ballot, I’d send them here, too.
But they are starting to irk me.
They must be running some kind of right-wing, canvasser-training boot camp, because I just had the second one this week, and they both used exactly the same talking points to kick off their conversation. Here’s there script: “Hi, I’m (insert canvasser’s name), and I’m collecting signatures to get (insert candidate’s name) on the ballot for (insert office). (Candidate) is a true conservative and a strong believer in Christian family values. I’m not asking for your vote, I’m just asking for your signature so that voters will have a strong, conservative choice.” (Push clipboard at voter.)
A few days back, some guy was pimping Jim Oberweis, a local millionaire who’s hit on politics as a way to spend his twilight years. I guess he figured he should start near the top, so he first ran in the Republican primary for the US Senate back in 2002 and again in 2004. Illegal immigration was his hot-button issue, and he demagogued the shit out of it. But don’t take my word for it – here’s one of his campaign commercials.
He’s right, of course. Illegal immigrants ARE taking American jobs. Oberweis owns a local dairy business and a chain of ice cream shops. A couple of illegal immigrants came forward and said they were paid half the minimum wage to clean his stores. Oberweis lost. Both times.
So, in 2006, he ran for Governor. While the barely veiled racism in his Senate campaigns hadn’t carried the day, he remained convinced that attacking marginalized groups was still the key to political success, so, during the gubernatorial primary, he figured he’d try his luck with gays and started banging away on the “Gay Marriage is a Threat to our Christian Republic” drum. Problem was, it was a Republican primary, and everybody was against gay marriage. Scheming to find his way further to the right than any of his compatriots, Oberweis started hammering on the theme that gays shouldn’t have any special legal protections at all. Oberweis lost. Again.
In 2008, he ran for Congressman and actually made it through the primary into the general election. Figuring that maybe the electorate in a general race might be a tad more moderate than the right-wing yahoos he was used to pandering to in the primaries (I mean moderates and, gasp, LIBERALS are allowed to vote), he gave up on targeting gays and minorities and started in on the reliable liberal-tax-and-spenders-are-coming-for-your-wallet angle, claiming that his opponent was pushing tax increases that would cripple the already beleaguered middle class. He sent out a mailer showing various regular folk and enumerating the exact damage that his opponent’s alleged tax schemes would do to them. Problem was, he made the whole thing up. Even the relatively conservative Chicago Tribune, long a champion of Republican candidates, took him to task, saying, among other things, “By the way, using Oberweis’ calculations, the Wadsworths must be paying $34,250 in taxes on their $73,000 income. And that’s before the $8,905 increase. They really need a new tax accountant. Oh, that’s right. They’re not real.”
He lost. Again. The first Republican candidate to lose the congressional election in this district since, I dunno, the Paleolithic era. The Democrat who won (Bill Foster, and I really liked the guy. Sensible, moderate, smart) lost the next time out to another Republican who knew how to play on all of Oberweis’s nasty themes, but with a much smoother edge.
So, a couple days ago, there’s a guy at my door pimping Oberweis for the State Senate. I guess Oberweis’s plan is to keep moving down the food chain until he finds a race he can just flat-out buy. We had another guy like that around here, guy named Cunningham, who ran for every freakin’ office that opened up and lost until he finally won the race for County Clerk. Of course, one of the County Clerk’s main jobs is running the elections. The first time Cunningham was actually in charge of an election, he screwed it up.
The Oberweis pimp at my door? He wants my signature because, you know, Jim Oberweis is a true conservative and champion of Christian family values. So I asked the guy if constantly wanting to slash programs that support society’s most vulnerable members so Oberweis can cut his own taxes another percentage point was a family value. I asked him if racism and intolerance were family values. Finally, I asked him why he wants to support a guy who can’t seem to win an election. The guy seemed insulted.
Cut to this morning. Doorbell rings again. This guy’s got a petition for somebody who wants on the ballot for County Auditor. Same spiel – I should sign because so-and-so (sorry, I can’t even remember the name) is a true conservative and a champion of Christian family values.
“How’s his math?” I ask.
“His math. He’s gonna be auditor, right? Add, subtract, stuff like that? What’s his background? Is he an accountant? Financial professional of some kind? Because I really don’t see what family values have to do with auditing. Or is this going to be another deal like we had with that Republican Coroner where we elect some guy with no qualifications because he’s a true conservative and a champion of family values?” (The corner is under criminal investigation and also faces a civil suit for, among other things, pissing on an employee’s chair.)
“Um, I don’t have that information with me.”
“Come back when you do.”