That emotion is fear. Not just fear of losing—although that is bad enough—but fear of total, complete humiliation. I still burn, for example, with the thought of my one loss in politics, a drubbing in 2000 at the hands of incumbent Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush. It was a race in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong, in which my own mistakes were compounded by tragedy and farce. Two weeks after announcing my candidacy, with a few thousand dollars raised, I commissioned my first poll and discovered that Mr. Rush’s name recognition stood at about 90 percent, while mine stood at 11 percent. His approval rating hovered around 70 percent—mine at 8. In that way I learned one of the cardinal rules of modern politics: Do the poll before you announce. Things went downhill from there. In October, on my way to a meeting to secure an endorsement from one of the few party officials who had not already committed to my opponent, I heard a news flash on the radio that Congressman Rush’s adult son had been shot and killed by a pair of drug dealers outside his house. I was shocked and saddened for the congressman, and effectively suspended my campaign for a month. Then, during the Christmas holidays, after having traveled to Hawaii for an abbreviated five-day trip to visit my grandmother and reacquaint myself with Michelle and then- Rip by XmosRips
eighteen-month-old Malia, the state legislature was called back into special session to vote on a piece of gun control legislation. With Malia sick and unable to fly, I missed the vote, and the bill failed. Two days later, I got off the red-eye at O’Hare Airport, a wailing baby in tow, Michelle not speaking to me, and was greeted by a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune indicating that the gun bill had fallen a few votes short, and that state senator and congressional candidate Obama “had decided to remain on vacation” in Hawaii. My campaign manager called, mentioning the potential ad the congressman might be running soon—palm trees, a man in a beach chair and straw hat sipping a mai tai, a slack key guitar being strummed softly in the background, the voice-over explaining, “While Chicago suffered the highest murder rate in its history, Barack Obama…” I stopped him there, having gotten the idea. And so, less than halfway into the campaign, I knew in my bones that I was going to lose. Each morning from that point forward I awoke with a vague sense of dread, realizing that I would have to spend the day smiling and shaking hands and pretending that everything was going according to plan. In the few weeks before the primary, my campaign recovered a bit: I did well in the sparsely covered debates, received some positive coverage for proposals on health care and education, and even received the Tribune endorsement. But it was too little too late. I arrived at my victory party to discover that the race had already been called and that I had lost by thirty-one points.
- Spring '16
- Civil Rights, United States Senate, Rip, XmosRips