Friday, August 17, 2007
Harrassed by Hastert's Supporters
You may have heard that former Speaker of House Dennis Hastert announced today that he will not be seeking reelection. Since he is from my district and made the announcement here in Yorkville a few blocks from my house, I decided to wander over and see it first hand.

When I got there I quickly found my friend Chrisi Vineyard. She was easy to find as she was only one of two people holding a sign not in support of Hastert. Surrounded by Hastert supporters she was being heckled and harrassed for her sign, which basically protested the culture of corruption that Hastert presided over in his Republican congress (e.g. the Mark Foley scandal). Not being a big fan of Hastert myself, I offered to help hold her sign as I had longer arms and could raise it above the signs Hastert's supporters were holding in front of hers in an attempt to block it from view. Naturally I didn't expect that the Republicans in the crowd would like that we were there, but I didn't expect what happened next. As we were standing there - not being rude or disrespectful, just chatting with one another quietly - a couple of senior citizens literally tried to knock us down. One of them ran into us, trying to push us down the hill, while the other started knocking at our sign with his cane! (Click here for a video of the incident. It's about 2 1/2 minutes in.)

My friend Shirley, a Yorkville Police Officer, was quickly there to ask the men to cease and desist, and they did. Though as the press conference got started more people started to crowd around us, throw insults at us, and tried to block our sign. Many said "You shouldn't be here. This is Denny's day." I replied that this was a public political event, and we were there simply to express a dissenting opinion - to let people know that not everyone in his district was pleased with Hastert's leadership. When I asked one of the hecklers whether he had a problem tolerating differing opinions he replied "No, but I won't tolerate Communists!" (I reminded him that the Cold War ended almost 20 years ago and that speaking out against political corruption had little to do with Communism anyway.)

I was pleased to see, however, that we were able to get our perspective out there. My friend's sign acted as a kind of magnet for the local press corps. At least half a dozen or more reporters and photographers approached us to ask why we were there and why we didn't support Hastert. We were respectful and stuck to the issues on which we disagreed with Hastert. One Hastert supporter even thanked us afterwards for our peaceful attitudes and said he didn't mind that we were there as he agreed that we needed more civil discussion about the issues without all the partisan rhetoric. I was surprised though at the bad behavior of the majority of the others around us. Is this the maturity level of our public discourse these days - that we can't even express differing opinions without name calling and attempted violence?

Anyhow, I'm excited to see what will happen in this district with an open congressional seat next election. One of the leading Republican possibilities to replace Hastert is Jim Oberweis, wealthy Chicago area dairy magnate and owner of Oberweis Dairy. On the Democratic side, I'm still supportive of my friend John Laesch, who ran against Hastert in 2006 and gained 40% of the vote, a respectable percentage for a political newcomer running against an incumbent Speaker of the House in a largely Republican district. John is a decorated Naval officer, and is also a local carpenter. Supposing these two make it through the primaries and run against each other, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Will this largely rural and blue collar district vote for the blue collar, military veteran Democrat who probably actually has far more in common with the average citizen in this area than Oberweis, or will partisan loyalties still lead them to favor the wealthy Republican corporate exec? It will be interesting to find out.


posted by Mike Clawson at 3:24 PM | Permalink |


At 8/18/2007 04:35:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

Yup -
I saw your name and Chrisi's in Burt Constable's column in the Daily Herald today......


At 8/18/2007 07:14:00 PM, Blogger M James

I'm sorry, but I laughed out loud when I saw that old man jostling you and then getting carted away by the police. Not that I think old people are funny, but.....

I kept imagining another old lady, off-screen, hoisting her cane in the air while shouting "FIGHT THE POWER!" while he was being taken away.


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