Usually around this point in a campaign, some pundit will spout off about how undecided voters ought to just stay home on Election Day if they haven’t yet made up their minds.
For crying out loud, the argument goes, if you can’t come to a conclusion after seeing all the ads and reading all the stories, then why foist your uninformed views on the rest of us?
Normally, I might agree with those snarky types. But not this year.
For one, the news media just haven’t done their job, so I can’t blame the masses for being underinformed. The Chicago media have been so wrapped up in covering next year’s mayor’s race that they’ve ignored this year’s state races. And by foolishly focusing on Rahm Emanuel’s every breath, they’ve screwed up their coverage of two elections at the same time. That has to be some kind of record.
But here’s my little secret. I’m completely undecided. I really have no clue who I’m voting for at the top of the ticket. And I have no excuses about being uninformed. Politics is not only my job but my life, so I read just about everything published about every candidate. I’ve read their position papers, I’ve listened to their interviews, I’ve watched all the debates.
Some might say I’ve just overloaded my brain with too much information. But I do that every year. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a problem with the candidates. Not me.
If Gov. Quinn is elected and proceeds to govern the next four years like he has the last two, we’ll never dig ourselves out of this hole.
Quinn has enormous trouble making a decision, and when he finally does make up his mind he more often than not flip-flops, then flip-flops again. I’ll need to buy a neck brace if he gets four years. And our state’s serious structural problems may never be solved.
And then there’s Bill Brady. This man has yet to show me that he has even a tiny bit of a clue about what he faces if he’s sworn in. You can’t balance the state’s completely out of whack budget in one year with a 10 percent cut and a billion-dollar tax reduction. Not without a truckload of magic beans anyway.
That other newspaper’s Brady endorsement was extremely telling. Pretty much the entire editorial focused on how bad Quinn is. They essentially just crossed their big blue fingers and hoped for the best from Brady without any real evidence. I’m not willing to do that.
Moving to the U.S. Senate race, we have Mark Kirk the policy wonk without a moral center vs. Alexi Giannoulias the policy lite juvenile.
We haven’t had a person as credentialed as Kirk run for the Senate here since the sainted Paul Simon. And yet, his outright and repeated fabrications about his military service record turn my stomach. I can report on him without a problem, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for him.
Giannoulias has been running for Senate for more than a year now and yet I always get the feeling that he’s the kid who shows up for finals without ever cracking open his textbook. Charm is not enough in the world’s most elite legislative chamber. Hard work and long hours of study are required to succeed. Giannoulias is too often embarrassingly unprepared, even when he has been asked the same questions before.
None of these people are all bad. Quinn’s heart is as big as the state. Brady really does want to try to fix what’s wrong.
Kirk is an earnest hard worker. Giannoulias has shown a real capacity to empathize with people less fortunate than himself.
But none of that is enough.
I don’t expect politicians to be perfect or even close to perfect. But these four guys don’t even measure up to Illinois’ normally low standards.
Candidates are supposed to grow during a campaign. These guys have shrunk.