Jan Schakowsky should be a U.S. Senator.
The chamber desperately needs more progressives with track records of opposing the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, misguided trade policies and the corporatist policies that infect the Democratic party almost as thoroughly as they do the Republicans.
Only a handful of senators — — Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, California’s Barbara Boxer and, depending on the issue, a handful of others — meet the standard. Schakowsky would have joined their circle and made the progressive caucus and the Senate stronger.
Unfortunately, the congresswoman from Illinois has decided against making the run for the Illinois seat vacated by Barack Obama and now filled by the disgraced Roland Burris.
Schakowsky would have been a competitive contender in a primary with Burris and various other Illinois pols.
She might even have won the primary and the general election.
But it would have been tough — other popular officials with vote-pulling skills, such as Attorney General Lisa Madigan, are considering joining what is likely to be a crowded and complicated primary fight. And to prevail, as Schakowsky notes, she would have had to raise $10 million for a Democratic primary and $16-plus million or more for a general election that is likely to be competitive even in Democratic-leaning Illinois.
Schakowsky’s a skilled fund raiser and an able campaigner.
But the prospect of becoming “a telemarketer five to six hours of each day” was an unsettling one for the congresswoman who sees this moment — when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress — as an opportunity that must not be squandered.
“Over the next two years, Congress has the opportunity to provide health care to all Americans, begin on the road to energy independence, remake the financial regulatory system, pass immigration reform and help transform our relationship with the rest of the world,” Schakowsky explained. “I think the next two years present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make progressive change. I want to devote my energy to help make these things a reality, and decided that I simply couldn’t do it if I mounted a campaign for Senate.”
Schakowsky is sincere about this.
Her poll numbers were sound, and polls conducted by other campaigns marked her as a serious prospect.
She could have made the race. But she does not want to be raising money when she could be governing.
With our current system for financing campaigns, Schakowsky made a sound choice.
But it is still disappointing.
A veteran legislator who is more interested in governing than fund raising — and who recognizes the necessity of using a rare opening to achieve progressive reforms, particularly on economic issues — is precisely what’s needed in a Senate that remains too cautious, too unfocused and too ineffectual when it comes to making real the promise of change.