His alleged acts of corruption include conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and attempts to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. While most politicians and political analysts believed the veil of shame and disgust surrounding him would be enough to prevent him from making the appointment, Blagojevich proved them wrong. Asserting his legal right as governor to appoint a replacement senator, he selected former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Obama’s senate seat.
Rod Blagojevich should never have had the opportunity to appoint Burris. Immediately following Fitzgerald’s accusations, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “I think the Illinois legislature should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy of Barack Obama. No appointment by this governor under these circumstances can produce a credible replacement.” He was absolutely right.
A special election would have shortened the life of this scandal considerably, reducing the political difficulties it has caused for Democrats. But more importantly, it would have also reflected the power and will of the people. The citizens of Illinois deserve a senator that they know is not in office because he made a dirty back-room deal with a sleazy governor.
So, given Durbin’s subsequent backtracking and statements that he would consider allowing Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn to make the appointment, we must wonder what caused his sudden change in opinion. The answer is simple: politics.
After presenting the citizens of Illinois as victims of Blagojevich’s self-interested ploys, the Democrats hustled and scrambled in self-interest to secure their own power. In the midst of the scandal surrounding Illinois and national Democrats, a special election had the rare potential to result in a Republican win. It also offered the rare possibility of bringing dignity to Illinois politics.
Democratic backtracking left Blagojevich with the power to continue playing politics with the Illinois Senate seat, a power that Democrats claimed they had to deny him in the interest of integrity. But when they had the chance to do so, they opted to sell their own integrity for power.
Surely, Burris’s gratitude for finally being seated in the Senate will ensure that he always votes with the right (or really, left) people. Surely, everyone will come to overlook the taint by which he arrived in Washington. Surely, the name of impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich will eventually be pushed to the recesses of our minds. We will see a return to politics as usual, and that is a shame.
Rod Blagojevich may be leaving his dirty mark on the United States Senate, but he is certainly not the first and certainly not the last. While Patrick Fitzgerald is a fine attorney, he simply cannot wiretap everyone. Power deals will continue to go on in back rooms and in front of cameras as the American people continue to watch their rights and interests being squandered by those whose number one concern is themselves.