Updated: November 2, 2011 3:19PM
I have to take exception to the pronouncement my beloved newspaper recently made about the recently infamous Rep. Joe Walsh of the 8th Congressional District.
A few weeks ago, our Washington bureau chief, Lynn Sweet, wrote about the contrasting styles and ideologies between freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who has made a name for himself by being a loud anti-President Obama Tea Partier, and veteran Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 leader in the Senate and a “voice of reason.”
Our editorial board followed up with an editorial headlined “Joe Walsh has a loud voice, but nothing to say,” which led off with the statement: “Joe Walsh is what’s wrong with Washington.”
Walsh’s ideologies, tactics and buffoonery may, in fact, be what’s wrong with Washington — but he’s also what’s wrong with us. We elected him.
And when I say “we,” I mean the residents of the 8th Congressional District who actually bothered to get themselves out to the polls last November — a whole lot of people simply took a pass.
Not that the 8th District was special in its low voter turnout; statewide, only 41.8 percent of those who were eligible to vote actually did so, according to an analysis by the United States Elections Project. That’s pretty close to the national average, but you see my point.
Walsh beat out incumbent Melissa Bean by a hair’s-breadth 291 votes, despite having spent only $500,000 — less than a third of what Bean poured into her campaign.
But when Walsh squeaked into office, Lake County, where the bulk of the votes for that office were cast, was not exactly shocked.
Bean had seemed mostly absent on the hustings, while Walsh was filling VFW halls and Starbucks alike with people extremely eager to talk Tea Party.
Today, after learning that he is being sued by his ex-wife for $117,437 in unpaid child support, the people who voted for Walsh know way more about him than they did last November when the worst thing he had done was take too long in responding to the musician Joe Walsh’s request to stop playing his tunes at campaign rallies.
My gut feeling is that while some of his constituents — the ones who voted against him — will be turned off by the revelation that Walsh may be a deadbeat dad, those who voted for him because he promised to go to Washington to join the shouting match on their behalf will be very forgiving.
Walsh’s statement after the Sun-Times story about his wife’s case against him was pitch-perfect: “The people of Illinois’ 8th congressional district voted for me not because I’m wealthy but because they wanted a fighter in Washington. They did not vote for me because I was a career politician, but because they wanted one of them as their representative in D.C. They wanted someone to stand up to Washington and tell them the spending has to stop. This morning, that is exactly what I am going to continue to do.”
Like it or not, that’s how it goes — the man won his office fair and square.
In a year when congressmen have left their jobs only after their sexual peccadilloes were put on display for the whole world to see, we have to admit that those who serve in Washington are a reflection of a simple majority of voters’ values. And you don’t get to complain if you didn’t cast a ballot.
Walsh may, as the Sun-Times editorial board opines, be an uncompromising, vitriolic loudmouth with nothing to say.
But “the people” voted him in to yell for them, and he’ll continue to do so until they vote him out.