The Illinois state House has impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) by a vote of 114 to 1 with one abstention. His trial in the state Senate will begin next week. Things don't look good for him. If convicted, he would be the first governor of Illinois ever to be removed from office by the legislature and the first governor of any state to be impeached and convicted since Gov Evan Mecham (R-AZ) was removed from office by the Arizona legislature in 1988.
The Senate refused to seat Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris on the grounds that his certificate of appointment was not signed by the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White. Burris went to the Illinois Supreme Court to force White to sign. The court declined to require White to sign but said his signature wasn't actually needed as the appointment power belongs solely to the governor; the Secretary of State does not get a veto on it.
The court decision notwithstanding, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said yesterday that decision or no decision, longstanding Senate rules require a signature from the Secretary of State. Durbin and majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) are going to consult with lawyers to see what to do. It is possible they are just stalling for time, hoping Blagojevich is convicted quickly and the newly sworn in governor, Pat Quinn (D), withdraws the appointment.
What does Reid have against Burris, actually? Is he against black senators? Surely not. Having some black senators helps the Democrats. Is Burris a DINO (Democrat In Name Only)? Nobody really knows since in his previous elective offices, Comptroller and Attorney General of Illinois, his true political leanings were not on display. Is it that Reid can't abide someone with a mausoleum-sized ego? If so, he wouldn't be able to abide half the Senate. Is he afraid Blagojevich's scandal will taint the Senate Democrats? Maybe a little bit, but he could put seating Burris up to a full vote of the Senate. If the Republicans voted for Burris, they could hardly complain about him later. If they voted against Burris, Democrats would have a field day calling them racists.
Most likely the real reason Reid wants Burris to vanish into the woodwork is 2010. Burris will be 73 on election day and appointed senators have a poor track record getting elected. Against a serious challenger, like Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), the Democrats could lose the seat. If Burris is finally seated, one possibility that comes to mind is to instigate a primary challenge against him. If he wins a competitive primary, then Burris will be in a stronger position in the general election (unless he wins a six-way primary with 20% of the vote, in which case he is worse off). If other Democrats openly back a white candidate in a primary challenge, they will be called racists, so they need to find a (young) black challenger and make the point that by the time Burris has acquired enough seniority to actually help the people of Illinois much, he is more likely to be an occupant in his lovely mausoleum than of the Senate. A possible (young, black) challenger who comes to mind is Dan Seals, who ran for Congress in 2006 and 2008 and narrowly lost both times. A Burris-Seals primary would make the issue age rather than race.
Ronald Brownstein has a very good piece at the National Journal about demographics and elections. He looks at six broad demographic groups:- College-educated whites
He then calculates what would have happened in the 2008 presidential election if these groups had been represented in the population by their 1992 numbers but their 2008 voting behavior. Result: McCain wins by 2%. Then he calculates what would happen in 2020 if these groups continue to grow or shrink at their current pace but their voting behavior remains the same. Result: The Democrat beats the Republican by 14%. The Republicans' big problem is that the mainstay of their coalition is older white men and this demographic group is shrinking rapidly as a fraction of the electorate. A 2004 book by Ruy Teixeira and John Judis entitled: "The Emerging Democratic Majority" made precisely the same point. Unless the Republicans can increase their popularity with either minorities or college-educated whites, they are going to be facing long odds for a generation or more.
2009 looked like a bleak year for late-night comics. Barack Obama is a well-spoken, serious person, and making fun of a black man without becoming racist is tricky to start with. However, in a stroke of good luck, Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, is moving into the White House with the Obamas, opening the door to an endless string of mother-in-law jokes, a staple of comedy for generations. Just type: "mother-in-law jokes" to Google and you'll get over half a million hits. Sample: "According to CNN, Barack Obama's mother-in-law may be moving in to the White House with them. Although, he may be able to get out of it under the domestic terrorism act." While slightly disparaging of a general category of people (mothers-in-law), this kind of joke is not at all racist and doesn't insult Mrs. Robinson in particular. Expect more.