15 January 2009

Senator Burris

Resistance was futile. Republicans are having a good laugh at how the Democratic Senators capitulated in voting to seat the man appointed by the impeached Governor Blagojevich. They seem to see it as a triumph of identity politics, as if Sen. Reid et al could not bring themselves to vote against a black man. Of course, they knew from the beginning that Burris was black and announced their intent to spurn him. They even did so at first. Through all this, the only voices raising the subject of racial politics, apart from Rep. Rush at Blagojevich's initial announcement of the appointment, were Republicans themselves, who transparently yearned to drive a wedge between Democrats and blacks. I really don't think that race had anything to do with it. Once it became clear that the Illinois secretary of state's signature was not mandatory in order for Burris's credentials to be accepted, and that no one was prepared to accuse Burris himself of entering into a corrupt bargain for the job, the Democrats realized that they had no legal legs to stand on in Burris's way. It was quite likely that Burris could have gone to court and compelled the secretary to certify the appointment, while his suing the Senate would have been a national embarrassment whether race was involved or not. Ultimately, Blagojevich's power of appointment was unassailable so long as he remained innocent until proven guilty of corrupt bargaining. There was nothing to do, and there is nothing more, unless evidence emerges to incriminate Burris, except to call yet again for a constitutional amendment to require special elections for Senate vacancies in all states under all circumstances. Only then would this whole sordid episode be of value to anyone.

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