For all the ambitious politicians out there, here’s a tip: even in those many instances when you’re just carrying the water for your political boss or an interest group whose support you need, you should at least try to make it appear that you thought things through on your own.
I thought George Cardenas, alderman of the 12th Ward, had learned this already. In 2006 he delivered an ode to Mayor Daley’s leadership just before flip-flopping on the big-box minimum-wage ordinance. But by the time he gave a speech in favor of the Children’s Museum-Grant Park plan couple of weeks ago, he was almost artful, adding an anecdote about his daughter to an otherwise straight recitation of the mayor’s “It’s all about the children” argument.
On Tuesday Cardenas and aldermen Manny Flores and Toni Preckwinkle were flanked by activists from the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights when they announced a City Council resolution condemning what Flores called the “race-baiting” portrayal of immigrants by right-wing TV news personalities.
Like all resolutions, this one is nonbinding—it functions as an official statement of outrage but doesn’t actually do anything about the issue.
Fair enough—legislative bodies at every level of government pass resolutions mostly so they can tell their backers they did. And in this case, no one in the room was willing to argue that Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck don’t misrepresent immigrants. Cardenas and his colleagues even appeared to have answers for skeptical reporters.
What’s gained if the City Council passes this resolution? “Well, it brings the issue to light,” Cardenas said. “We’re taking a leadership role on this. And maybe their consciences will begin to work. Maybe they’ll hear about this and listen.”
Isn’t this another case of the City Council taking on an issue beyond its jurisdiction? “It’s entirely appropriate for us to take on issues that affect people in our communities,” said Preckwinkle.
Have you considered writing or filing a formal protest with these TV broadcasters?
At this question, Cardenas looked stumped, then, reverting to his not-so-distant youth, blurted out that hey, it wasn’t his idea. “I don’t know—I mean, this is from the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights,” he said. “I mean, maybe it’s that we want to get attention from the media. Maybe we want to have a discussion locally."
He shrugged. "I’ll take this and see what happens.”