Just look at the veteran reporters, historians and political operatives on the cable news channels. They’re slowly losing their composure. They’ve run out of ways to say “unprecedented” and “astounding”. We’re in a political situation unlike anything in our lifetimes.
Kitty Kurth is a Chicago-based political consultant. “Mostly I’ve just been under the covers. I will fully admit it,” she laughs. ” Putting on something other than yoga pants (was) a big deal for me in the morning.”
But now, after reflection, she says a clear pattern is emerging. It’s a frightening combination of powerful social media tools, an emboldened Russia and an American electorate hungry for some kind of radical change. And it’s not just the U.S. that’s vulnerable.
“And when you look at how all this happened,” she explains, “Breitbart and their friends were trying to influence our election. Not only was it the Russians trying to influence our election, so was Breitbart. In a very similar way, right now, real time, the same thing is going on in all the European elections. In our news this week there’s been a lot of talk about Russian influencing of the European elections. Breitbart at the same time is doing the same thing.”
For Kurth, this new political environment gets personal. A lifelong Democrat, she’s spent much of her career trying to build bipartisan coalitions. She was instrumental in creating the Concord Coalition in 1992, in search of an effective way to reduce budget deficits and promote economic growth. Today, she admits, “bipartisanship is dead.” But not, she insists, forever.
“I think that some of the people in Congress have been there long enough to know that nothing is forever. They are not going to have the majority forever and that they do have to talk to their democratic colleagues in order to really get something done. I think that ironically the Russian investigation in the Senate with Richard Burr and Mark Warner, I think they are working together very collegially and I think people will see in a very visible way how government can work when Republicans and Democrats work together. They don’t have to agree on everything, but they have to talk and they have to work together.
That’s a time Kurth can’t wait for, because she says she’s feeling very distant from her long-time Republican friends. “When I look at what they’re writing I know that’s not what they really feel. You know I’ve had real conversations with them about why they are Republicans and what they respect in their party. And it’s like everybody just has put on these Trump cone heads and they have been brainwashed.”
Kurth doesn’t have a favorite candidate – at least not yet – in the emerging Illinois governor’s race. But as you might expect from a Democratic operative, she’s optimistic about Daniel Biss, Chris Kennedy, Ameya Pawar, J. B. Pritzker and Kurt Summers,
“The good news is I think any one of them would do a better job than Governor Rauner,” she enthuses. “That’s the good news for me. I think all of them are really smart guys and probably have a lot of really interesting ideas, and I think right now in Illinois not only do we have a financial deficit, but we’ve got a deficit of ideas.”
“Things in Springfield are so bad that I have taken to defending Mike Madigan,” she continues. “Because, if you look at the face of it, Mike Madigan has been there in Springfield under how many different governors? And there was always a budget. The problem in the equation, the variable in the equation is not Mike Madigan, it’s Bruce Rauner. The reason why we don’t have a budget, to be really clear is Governor Bruce Rauner. And he can try and pin it on the Democrats and try and pin it on Mike Madigan all he wants, but objectively speaking that part of the equation hasn’t changed.”
Kurth was a part of the brief effort last year to draft Joe Biden for president, something he ultimately rejected as he mourned the death of his son. “Well,” she explains, “With all due respect to both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who I think either of them would have been a great President, I’m a little pissed off, because I was part of the draft Biden (movement). Now I appreciate and respect his reasons for not running. I don’t know if in this political climate that existed anyone could have beaten Trump because of what I believe was a “wave election” and in the end things worked that way. That said, I wanted Vice President Biden to run, and not because I had anything against Sanders or anything against Hillary Clinton, I just like Joe Biden and I like his approach to life and his approach to government.”
Democrat or not, Kurth isn’t willing to let Hillary Clinton’s campaign off the hook for what she considers serious tactical missteps. “Putting on my campaign manager hat I never realized until the last part of the election, because I was focused in my own little bubble that Hillary Clinton’s first strategy hadn’t been to go to the states that she lost to Bernie Sanders, because from a strategist standpoint that’s like rule #1,” she explains. “You don’t go to the places where they already voted for you. Those you don’t worry about. You go to the places where they didn’t vote for you, talk to them first, get them on board and then go back to the places where you won.”
There’s concern that Mayor Emanuel might be easing up on his stated desire to reform operations in the Chicago Police Department. Despite recommendations outlined in a Department of Justice report and an Accountability Task Force he himself commissioned, most of the recommendations seem to be unanswered months after their release. Kurth believes Emanuel remains distant from the average Chicagoan, and that confidence-building is needed “Rahm needs to go out into the neighborhoods and talk and listen,” she asserts, “and not in a closed way where his people give out all the tickets and say everybody is in the room. He needs to actually talk to people, and I think on the issue of the police, on the issue of you know, many things, there are a lot of people who would have a much higher opinion of him and his ability as Mayor if they met him and talked to him.”
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And you can read a transcript of the entire show HERE: CN transcript March 30 2017