Every machinist I know considers themselves something of an artist albeit in a practical sense – they create the machinery and cutting-tools that build the world around us out of hard parts and steel. The same is true in Machine Politics, with one of the most famous and notorious being such as is preformed by the busy political laborers of Chicago – and everybody knows which Party controls that city, and has since Prohibition or time immemorial.
In order to make a tool you need a piece of malleable raw metal, one that can be hardened and sharpened and fashioned into the desired end-product – there are many steps along the way, and each needs to be controlled precisely in order to reach the desired outcome. In actual tool-and-die making this is a fairly straightforward and mechanical process, in Politics with its human subject-engineering the process is quite a bit more random, elliptical, and somewhat unstable – which is why extreme pressure is often brought to bear in the toolmaking and on the tools themselves, with a high risk/reward quotient usually redeemable in currency.
HatTip to Cryptic Subterranean Jay Mac for his post, The History of Obama. He links to an important piece of journalism written by Todd Spivak of the Houston Press that relates his experiences covering Obama in Illinoisland, Barak Obama and Me. What’s central to the theme of this post is a simple observation (and one that reflects the operational structure of Machine Politics of California as well):
When asked about his legislative record, Obama rattles off several bills he sponsored as an Illinois lawmaker…It’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.
As Jay Mac observes, Seven years in office and he did all his work in one, mainly due to the fact that Republicans shut down anything he proposed before that- so much for him being able to “work across the aisle”. When the Republicans were ousted the new Senate Leader, Emil Jones, essentially “created” Obama according to this report.
During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama’s stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.
Bills that, in some cases, had been crafted by other representatives and which Jones made sure were passed to Obama to improve his reputation.
It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics — and he couldn’t have done it without Jones. Before Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, he was virtually unknown even in his own state. Polls showed fewer than 20 percent of Illinois voters had ever heard of Barack Obama.
Jones further helped raise Obama’s profile by having him craft legislation addressing the day-to-day tragedies that dominated local news headlines.
And what was the result of this you might wonder?
Last June, to prove his commitment to government transparency, Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million in pet projects for Illinois, including tens of millions for Jones’ Senate district.
Shortly after Jones became Senate president, I remember asking his view on pork-barrel spending.
I’ll never forget what he said:
“Some call it pork; I call it steak.”
Machine Politics is the art of crafting a political tool to do the bidding of the Party in question, a Party with an agenda and a to-do list that it assigns to each member. The membership owns only the District in which they run, not the To-Do List – and actually here it’s owned by the Party who selects the run-ees, since it seized ownership of the Districts through Gerrymandering and not even the Gubbinator can change that now.
This is also why here in California, over and over again, one Politburo member after another brings forward completely nonsensical and hysterical anti-gun legislation that gets shot-down – until one day the shooters miss and it passes, until one day the Gubbinator in a fit of pique signs-off on something ridiculous thrown across his desk in order to have his revenge on a minor functionary or as a favor to another.
In the end I’m reasonably confident that advocates of the Party in question will respond with their characteristic equivalency, that “each Party does it the same way” – which when one looks at the nature of “Super Delegates” is clearly not the case.
It also explains why members of one party clearly prefer the Designated Hitter Rule – because it’s an efficient means to deliver the items on their To-Do list.