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Rod Blagojevich: original gangster

Well, he did it. I joked about it, but even I didn’t really think he’d do it. Rod Blagojevich, the ballsiest man in America, actually made an appointment to fill Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

You remember, the one he stands accused of trying to sell.

Blagojevich has refused to step down from his post as Illinois governor, and in an attempt to keep hold of the headlines and remain comedy gold, appointed Roland Burris, former Illinois attorney general and the first black man elected to statewide office in Illinois. Burris had unsuccessfully run for the Senate, mayor of Chicago, and twice for governor of Illinois (including once against Blagojevich).

Burris wasn’t the first one offered the seat, according to the New York Times. Danny K. Davis turned it down, having the sense to realize that anyone nominated by Blago would be, shall we say, suspect?

The press conference where Burris was announced featured a fiery speech from Representative Bobby Rush, who reminded America that Burris would be the Senate’s one black member, replacing the outgoing sole black member.

After eight years of Bush appointments that appeared to be good for Americans of color–first black secretary of state, followed by first black female secretary of state, followed by first Latino attorney general–but turned out just as bad as any white Republican could’ve been, Americans simply aren’t willing to be treated like this anymore. It’s the most cynical type of affirmative action to use race as political cover for misdeeds. It’s a type we most certainly do not need.

Rush has compared the Senate to George Wallace and Bull Connor, a bit of hyperbole made even more obvious by the fact that our black president-elect sides with the Senate in saying that Burris should not be seated. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, also black, has refused to certify Burris’s appointment.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that Bobby Rush backed white Blair Hull against Obama for the Senate in 2004. So either he’s got a quite short memory, or…what?

Blagojevich has done absolutely nothing to deserve the support of black Americans, or any Americans, in anything that he does. For respected leaders to call for the seating of Burris simply because he’s black misses the point entirely. Though Burris is not implicated in the indictment against Blagojevich, he seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that even his relatively small campaign contribution to Blago will be scrutinized ten times more because the man is under indictment for trying to sell a Senate seat.

I couldn’t agree more that we need more diverse representation in the Senate. I’m the last person who wants to see an all-white body claiming to represent the American people. But that doesn’t make supporting a suspect governor any better.

I’d agree with blogger matttbastard when he said:

Yeah, thank you ever so much for giving every not-racist a handy example to righteously point out ad infinitum whenever they want to play the race-card-card.

Simply put, in post-Obama America, we don’t need to act as if we need appointments from corrupt governors to put black Senators in office. And we certainly don’t need to allow said corrupt governor to use race as a cover for his own shady dealings. It’s beyond counterproductive, it’s insulting and cynical.

Illinois can do better than this.

But oddly, like Spencer Ackerman and Robert Farley, I do have some grudging respect for just how gangster Rod Blagojevich actually is.


Sarah Jaffe

Sarah Jaffe is former deputy editor of GlobalComment. She's interested in politics and pop culture, and has a special place in her heart for comics.