The astoundingly unsurprising news that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned today reveals far more about the sorry state of our local Chicago democratic leadership than the trite and pathetic story of Jackson Jr.’s downfall.
Jackson Jr., son of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has been AWOL from Congress since June 10, has been the subject of congressional investigations, embroiled in an affair, connected with the sale of the U.S. Senate seat, abandoned his role as representative to his district, and handled the entire situation with secrecy and derision for his constituents. Jackson Jr. had been in Congress since 1995, and recently beat out a primary challenge by Debbie Halvorson. The only question to most of us observing was when, not if, he would resign.
Had he done it prior to an October 22 deadline, his vacancy would have been chosen by Cook, Will, and Kankakee County Democratic chairmen–ultimately Cook’s Joe Berrios would have the most weight in such a scenario. Voters will now be presented with a special election some time in the next 115 days as mandated by law.
58 percent of these voters reelected Jackson Jr. over Republican Brian Woodworth, who received 27 percent of the vote. Also helpful for context: Cong. Derrick Smith (D-IL) who was charged with taking bribes, was also reelected–with 77 percent of the vote.
The media’s coverage has been mediocre at best, covering the bare minimum. No pressing for interviews and letting Rev. Jackson get away with calling it a family matter. How much coverage of his opponent, Brian Woodworth, did they not give? And just how long, exactly, were concerns known, in particular to the democratic machine in Chicago, about Jackson Jr.’s inability to continue his job? Some news outlets even heralded the new look at “mood disorders” that Jackson Jr.’s plight was shining a light on.
It was in Crain’s Chicago Business where political columnist Greg Hinz waxed eloquently about his sympathy for the ailing Jackson Jr., writing “you gotta feel a little sorry for the guy in the middle of the carnage. Even the famous son of a famous father is only human.” Earlier this year, Hinz had written that Jackson Jr. was doing voters a favor by staying on the ballot and at least providing them the opportunity to vote for his replacement through a special election. But today Hinz wrote that Jackson’s departure is “totally without class.” So which is it? Even Hinz seems unsure.
What we can be sure of is that in Chicago, things are never what they seem, and the media can be counted on not to hold anyone *too* accountable. The fact that Jackson Jr. got reelected can be, in large part, attributed to this mediocre media.