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Monday, July 24, 2006

Fiefdom politics in Cook County

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Aristocracy --Government by a small group of people, especially hereditary nobility.

Or maybe feudalism is a more apt description of Cook County government as run by Democratic Party bosses, as they demonstrated last week by installing the unqualified Todd Stroger as the next lord of the realm.

Feudalism --The dominant social system in medieval Europe in which the nobility held lands from the crown, in exchange for military service. Vassals, in turn, were tenants of the nobles. Their serfs were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labor and a share of the produce, in exchange for military protection.

Just substitute "government jobs" for "land" and you're on your way to understanding the dominant political system in medieval Cook County. Like serfs and vassals, the patronage workers give the lord homage, labor and a share of the political produce, in exchange for job protection.

It took Europeans centuries to free themselves from the servitude of feudalism. How long will it take for the voters and taxpayers of Cook County? If they don't do it now, they'll never do it.

Because they will have demonstrated that there is no insult, no abuse they cannot endure.

Yet, there's hope. They'll need a plan to combat the blindly loyal serfs as they come marching out of Castle Stroger during the campaign to inflict grave wounds on the citizens of Cook County. It would take:

- An uprising of Democrats. Not as far-fetched as it seems. Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool received almost half of the vote in the Democratic primary for County Board president. True, Todd Stroger's father John, the incumbent Claypool challenged, had just suffered a stroke, making his ability to handle the job suspect. And some Republicans were crossing over to vote for Claypool, believing it was their best bet for cleaning up government. Still, many Democrats did show an ability to protest the many failings of the "system" by voting against the elder Stroger.

- Fed up African-American voters. Predictions that they'll dutifully vote for Todd Stroger because of his race imply an insulting stereotype. Perhaps some black voters may look at it this way: Stroger is a creature of a political organization headed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the same man who as state's attorney outrageously ignored the warning signs that Jon Burge and other police detectives were torturing African-American suspects.

Moreover, some black voters might not buy the deeply flawed logic that the endless nepotism of white politicians justifies the same fault in black politicians. And some black voters might be just as sick as white voters of "the way things are," as they most assuredly are in county government. And that the Stroger anointment is simply another example of fiefdom politics as practiced by the Daley vassals on the Cook County Democratic Central Committee.

- Democratic social liberals with a conscience. As much as they would loathe to vote for anyone who doesn't share their views (such as some social conservatives), they might dampen their ideological purity to do something right and vote for Todd Stroger's opponent, Republican Commissioner Tony Peraica.

- Seriously reinvigorated county GOP. Might the business and civic leaders who have signed on to the Daley-Stroger-Democratic organization decide for once to support their natural allies in the GOP?

Those are a lot of ifs, but with regular GOP voters, maybe they can build a new reform coalition that can end the practices that Todd Stroger's puppeteers represent. The puppeteers' strategy, of course, will be to argue that he is independent, competent and a refreshingly new voice for honest and efficient government. Maybe the strategy will work because the rest of us will be laid up, our sides split from laughter, and unable to make it to the polls.

What does Stroger represent? Consider: His biography shows a long series of government jobs, while proudly proclaiming that in 1994 he joined the SBK-Brooks Investment Corp., even though his resume shows no prior investment banking experience. Maybe his old man didn't clout Todd into the job. But the regional investment banking firm's Web site lists its involvement as co-manager of more than $1 billion in bond deals with Cook County and additional hundreds of millions with other Illinois and local governments.

Draw your own conclusions. Mine is: If Stroger is elected, nothing will change. Absolutely nothing.


John said...


Anonymous said...

I agree 100%. Unfortunately, I perhaps cynically, believe that Todd "Urkel" Stroger will be elected due to voter apathy. What was the registered voter turn-out in the primary? Can we expect the same turn-out? More? Less? Most voters are just too damn apathetic as it pertains to politics. We are all resigned to the belief that politicians are crooked, they engage in questionable tactics, but so what? Isn't it "business/politics as usual?" That's even how they (politicians) sell it to us (with a knowing wink of the eye). What did Beavers say? Something along the lines of "white folks have been doing this for its black folks time..." AS if that somehow makes it right??!!

Prez of the FTPC said...


You know nothing of what Todd Stroger would do as Board President. Go ahead, say it out loud.

You don't know a thing.

Tony Peraica is anti-pro-choice and negative on many women's issues, anti-gay, and trots out minorities when it is convenient.

The only thing anyone in the Peraica camp can count on is public ignorance. You know a little bit about that, don't you, Dennis? The whole "anything is better than Todd" mantra. Of course, you are painfully wrong.

Oddly enough, I did not see you type a thing about Todd's plans, platform, position or anything of the like. It was just the same anti-Dem rant...the Claypool's-people-want-a-second-bite-at-the-apple rhetoric.

The argument is tired and non-sensical. Just like the logic you employed to make it.

John said...

Yes, I know nothing of what Todd Stroger would do as Board President. I AM SAYING IT LOUD!!!

I don't know a thing.

Tony Peraica is anti-pro-choice and negative on many women's issues, anti-gay, and trots out minorities when it is convenient (according to the previous comment). And I still see him as an improvement over the choice of the Democratic Committeemen.

Call me ignorant, but I believe that "anything is better than Todd".

I don't care about Todd's plans, platform, position or anything of the like.

I don't care about Claypool.

The Dems in power are the ones responsible for a County budget that bloated beyond belief, just to ensure a healthy force of campaign workers who can keep the "right" people in power who can grant favors and divvy up the cash amongst themselves and their friends, all at the taxpayers' expense.

My argument may be tired and non-sensical. My logic may also be tired and non-sensical.

I know I won't persuade any blind followers of Urkel to change their minds, but I will work my neighborhood like nothin before to get out the Peraica vote.

RoseyB said...

I disagree with your conclusion: things will get worse if Toddler wins.

His supporters will either believe they are totally invincible or that they dodged a bullet, which may return again so they better get the spoils now big time.

Anonymous said...

As a 42 year old African American woman, who happens to be a liberal Democrat, for the first time in my life I intend to vote Republican in November.

I am not a fan of Commissioner Tony Peraica; however, I am less of a fan of all the shifty shenanigans and high-mindedness of near-sighted Democrats who forced Todd Stroger onto the ballot. I'm not excusing other races for having done the same foolishness.

But my Republican vote in November will speak well for me.


Wayne A. Thorp, CFA said...

Unfortunately, Dennis, it could be a while before we see a revitalized County GOP. They County Republicans failed in their attempt to nominate 12 candidates to the November ballot following the March primary because they were not aware of state election laws. I was one of those candidates and was really looking forward to taking on part-time Commissioner and full-time campaigner, Forrest Claypool, for Commissioner of the 12th District. I do not have the money that Mr. Claypool has, nor will I see one penny from the County party. I understand they are putting their money on Mr. Peraica, who has a very good chance of winning this November. However, the County party is doing very little to cultivate new talent. Even though new blood is what is exactly what is needed to revitalize the party.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA
Republican Nominee
Cook County Commissioner, District 12