Shall We Overcome?

At a time of unprecedented national pride and renewal, as we approach the inauguration of America’s first nonwhite president, it’s hard to imagine anything more squalid than the behavior of the president-elect’s home-state governor, Rod Blagojovich of Illinois, who was arrested Nov. 12th on charges of conspiring to sell Mr. Obama’s own seat in the U.S. Senate. Nothing could be more distracting or at odds with the spirit of the moment. Or so it seemed.  

Gov. Blagojovich will of course have the day in court to which he is entitled -- followed, most likely, by many years of incarceration. But from the standpoint of racial harmony and conciliation, which is a key subtext of the past election, the present time, and the coming administration, I would single out another chapter of this story for its inappropriateness: something less despicable than what Gov. Blagojovich allegedly did, but in a way, more depressing. That is the reaction of some African-American leaders in Illinois and in Congress, to the Governor’s nomination of a distinguished black politician, Roland Burris, to fill Obama’s Senate seat.

Blagojovich remains governor as of this writing, with the powers pertaining to that office. He himself claims to have a legal duty to fill the seat; duty or not, his nomination of Burris is perfectly legal.

The problem is that the governor is so deeply compromised, not just by the charges pending against him but by the nationally-publicized recordings of some particularly damning evidence for those charges, that any act he performs in his remaining time as governor bears the taint of corruption.

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