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Barack Obama's Hardball, Old-Style Chicago Politics

I don't think this Chicago Tribune article ever made it to the national news but it should have:

The day after New Year's 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city's South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama's four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.

Fresh from his work as a civil rights lawyer and head of a voter registration project that expanded access to the ballot box, Obama launched his first campaign for the Illinois Senate saying he wanted to empower disenfranchised citizens.

But in that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.

A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.

One of the candidates he eliminated, long-shot contender Gha-is Askia, now says that Obama's petition challenges belied his image as a champion of the little guy and crusader for voter rights.

"Why say you're for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?" Askia said. "He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?"

In a recent interview, Obama granted that "there's a legitimate argument to be made that you shouldn't create barriers to people getting on the ballot."

It's well known that Chicago politics is rife with corruption, so it's no surprise that there were so many illegal signatures, although Alice Palmer to this day insists her signatures were legal. Nonetheless, Obama looks really bad insisting that he believes there shouldn't be any hurdles to get people on the ballot and then turning around and working to get every other candidate thrown off the ballot, making himself unopposed. So much for giving voters a choice.

Hat tip: Tom Elia at The New Editor.

Comments (6)

I worked as an Chicago/Cook... (Below threshold)

I worked as an Chicago/Cook County election judge for the race where Barack Obama was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat he now occupies. I remember being shocked at how the preceinct's observers, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, were interested in monitoring only one race, and left immediately once that race's winner (Obama) was clear. Their obvious partisanship, combined with winks and open declarations of "We love Obama!", shocked me. They weren't there to monitor the process (not that much fraud was likely to take place in Chicago's Gold Coast), nor were they even remotely objective. Had we, the election judges, had displayed such obvious partisanship, we would have been immediately disqualified and the results of our precinct subject to intense scrutiny. But these USA's weren't even remotelt concerned.

Gave me the creeps.

When Obama forced Palmer of... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

When Obama forced Palmer off the ballot, it was a very cheap shot. The seat had been Palmer's previously. When a seat in another body appeared to be opening up, Palmer decided to go after that seat and gave the nod to Obama for the other seat. When the new position didn't materialize, Palmer decide to stay put. Obama refused to step aside, leading to the story cited.

Barack Hussein Obama is an ... (Below threshold)

Barack Hussein Obama is an empty suit. This story is not surprising. More skeletons are bound to come flying out when he's the Hildabeast's running mate.

Hillary Clinton will find e... (Below threshold)

Hillary Clinton will find everything she can to dig up about Obama. And for the first time democrats (for Obama) will hate the ruthlessness and sleaziness of the Clintons that the GOP recognized so much of in the 90s. This time however, democrats won't welcome it so much.

So that should be fun to watch.

Hello. I would con... (Below threshold)


I would consider it a privilege if you would add my blog www.blacktygrrrr.wordpress.com to your list of linked sites if you feel the quality of it is high.

Happy June.


Eric, I agree, Berger is wi... (Below threshold)

Eric, I agree, Berger is witholding information still vital to our security if only to help us decide who should be trusted with our security. I've called for Berger to be hanged by his thumbs until he talks.

My only consolation is that he couldn't have found and destroyed all the pencilled marginalia indicating the pusillanimous groupthink of the Clinton Administration. Scholars will be able to reconstruct what he destroyed, and it will be controversial for years. There are PhD theses in the comparison between Clinton's and Bush's approach to terrorism.






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