Along with other Democrats throughout the area, I recently got my marching orders for the November elections.
They came the other day in the form of a glossy, multicolored mailing from the Democratic Party of Cook County, headlined your voice. your values. your party. vote democratic.
As usual, this call for unity only served to underscore the subterranean discord of the political party to which I've masochistically sworn my allegiance since the early days of the Kennedy administration.
And you thought it was tough being a Bears fan.
Let's start with the flyer's featured photo. It's of Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. That's the same Toni Preckwinkle who decided not to challenge Rahm Emanuel for mayor, even though she commanded a 20-something point lead in the polls.
I'm still not sure why she chickened out, disappointing Democrats from South Chicago to Rogers Park.
But I think I speak for all of us when I say: All will be forgiven, Toni, if you just change your mind!
Curiously absent from the flyer is a picture of the man who actually runs the state Democratic Party. That would be state house speaker Michael Madigan. He must have been busy on the day of the photo shoot, because it couldn't be because he's wildly unpopular.
Also missing is the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, county assessor Joe Berrios, who remains one of my favorite politicians because he always returns my calls and occasionally laughs at my jokes.
Like other Chicago voters, I don't ask for much.
Unfortunately for Berrios, he's replaced Todd Stroger as the Democrat most disliked by other Democrats in Cook County—or at least by those who don't have jobs in his office, which is a significantly smaller population. He couldn't even engineer the reelection of his daughter, former state rep Toni Berrios, who lost the primary to Will Guzzardi.
Moreover, Berrios is fending off an insurgency on the near northwest side led by a former ally, state rep Luis Arroyo. He's running a challenger against 31st Ward alderman Ray Suarez, another longtime Berrios ally.
Such a brazen act of defiance would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. You show some guts, Representative Arroyo—have you thought about running for mayor?
Speaking of which: the flyer makes no mention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, even though, last I looked, he was still a Democrat.
Not that you'd know it from his school- and clinic-closing policies. As a result, the mayor is probably even less popular than Chairman Berrios among local Democrats.
In fact, according to a recent poll released by alderman Robert Fioretti, who's launched his own campaign for mayor, Rahm's about as popular as the Green Bay Packers and rush-hour traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway.
Most likely, if the Democrats put Rahm's mug on the flyer, voters would either stay at home on election day or vote for the Green Party. That's not what the Dems are going for.
I can't say for certain whether Mayor Emanuel even supports Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat waging a tough, bitter race against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, an old friend of the mayor's.
In last week's gubernatorial debate, Rauner pretty much promised to give Mayor Emanuel any deal he wanted for a casino in the city.
Upon reflection, I don't think anybody in the state actually believes Emanuel really wants Quinn to win.
And to think that once upon a time the mayor of Chicago—boss Richard J. Daley—held torchlight parades for the Democratic ticket. Oh, how my party has fallen.
Also not pictured is Karen Lewis, who's one of the most popular public figures among Cook County's loyal Democratic voters.
Lewis was gearing up to whup Rahm's little GOP-loving bootie when she had to have emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor.
There are still diehards—like me—urging Lewis to at least file her petitions to get on the ballot. If nothing else, it would irritate the hell out of Mayor Emanuel.
When I look at the flyer again, I have to wonder why the Democrats even mailed it, since many of their local candidates—like Preckwinkle—are running unopposed.
I guess the main reason is to promote the party's judicial candidates—a long and baffling list of names that I can barely process. And I'm a junkie.
It almost moves me to call for the appointment of judges. Except that would contradict my position on the Chicago school board, which in my view clearly needs to be elected.
What can I tell you? Like Democrats everywhere, I'm a little mixed up sometimes.
In any regard, Preckwinkle is obviously feeling pretty feisty, as she writes: "Rauner and the Republicans are attacking everything we stand for. Their misguided plan will bankrupt our state, destroy public education and slash programs for the elderly and poor."
I can't really disagree. At the moment, it's not even clear if Rauner favors raising the minimum wage.
First he was against it, then he was for it—but only if business owners face less regulation and lower taxes.
It's essentially blackmail. It's as if Rauner is saying, "I'll give minimum-wage workers a raise to enable them to eke out a living—barely—as long as you give me more money!"
I believe they're doing this as a test to see how much they can piss off their readers and still remain in business.
Think of it as a warm-up for their February editorials, when they try to convince Chicagoans that Mayor Emanuel deserves to be reelected.
I should also note that my lefty friends are always telling me there's no difference between Rauner and Quinn.
But that's easy for them to say, as none of my lefty friends are minimum-wage workers.
As Will Rogers once said almost 100 years ago: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."
It's as true today as it ever was—though it sure beats the alternative.