…he eliminated the competition until he ran unopposed.
Democrats don’t like it when you say that Barack Obama won his first election in 1996 by throwing all of his opponents off the ballot on technicalities.
By clearing out the incumbent and the others in his first Democratic primary for state Senate, Mr. Obama did something that was neither illegal nor even uncommon. But Mr. Obama claims to represent something different from old-style politics — especially old-style Chicago politics. And the senator is embarrassed enough by what he did that he misrepresents it in the prologue of his political memoir, “The Audacity of Hope.”
In that book, Mr. Obama paints a portrait of himself as a genuine reformer and change agent, just as he has in this presidential campaign. He attributes his 1996 victory to his message of hope, and his exhortations that Chicagoans drop their justifiable cynicism about politics.
…beginning on Jan. 2, 1996, his campaigners began challenging thousands of petition signatures the other candidates in the race had submitted in order to appear on the ballot. Thus would Mr. Obama win his state Senate seat, months before a single vote was cast.
Ponder this a moment: a mere 12 years ago, Obama was hacking his way into a state Senate seat. Now, he thinks he’s presidential timber.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Obama’s petition challengers reported to him nightly on their progress as they disqualified his opponents’ signatures on various technical grounds — all legitimate from the perspective of law. One local newspaper, Chicago Weekend, reported that “[s]ome of the problems include printing registered voters name [sic] instead of writing, a female voter got married after she registered to vote and signed her maiden name, registered voters signed the petitions but don’t live in the 13th district.”
Well, them’s the rules.
The act of throwing an incumbent off the ballot in such a fashion does not fit neatly into the narrative of a public-spirited reformer who seeks to make people less cynical about politics.
But Mr. Obama’s offenses against the idea of a “new politics” are many, and go well beyond hardball election tactics. It is telling that, when asked at the Saddleback Forum last weekend to name an instance in which he had worked against his own party or his own political interests, he didn’t have a good answer. He claimed to have worked with his current opponent, John McCain, on ethics reform. In fact, no such thing happened. The two men had agreed to work together, for all of one day, in February 2006, and then promptly had a well-documented falling-out. They even exchanged angry letters over this incident.
The most dramatic examples of Mr. Obama’s commitment to old-style politics are his repeated endorsements of Chicago’s machine politicians, which came in opposition to what people of all ideological stripes viewed as the common good.
In the 2006 election, reformers from both parties attempted to end the corruption in Chicago’s Cook County government. They probably would have succeeded, too, had Mr. Obama taken their side. Liberals and conservatives came together and nearly ousted Cook County Board President John Stroger, the machine boss whom court papers credibly accuse of illegally using the county payroll to maintain his own standing army of political cronies, contributors and campaigners.