Paul Jacob

Why do career politicians even bother with elections? Well, increasingly they don't.

After all, to professional politicians, elections are dangerous events that place their expert rule at risk. Best to avoid them altogether. Who knows when we proles might throw, as ABC's Peter Jennings put it in 1994, "a temper tantrum"?

Last week, New Jersey's governor brought his reign of corruption to an abrupt end. But not too abrupt. He delayed his resignation until after this November's election. Why? To prevent an election. Not because the special election thus triggered would suffer from a low turnout, but rather because the turnout would be higher than usual.

The governor's delayed resignation means an election postponed for 14 months. So, for over a year, the highest-ranking government official in the state will not be chosen by the voters at all, but, in effect, by the disgraced Governor McGreevey and his henchmen.

Now, this week, the anything-but-a-fair-vote commandos are at work in Illinois. Apparently, in Illinois's third congressional district, the king ? er, the congressman ? one Bill Lipinski, gets to pick the next congressman. Well, actually, Lipinski and his buddies on the Democrat's third district slate-making committee get to vote. Conveniently, this committee is made up of men whose families, according to the Chicago Tribune, "have dominated Southwest Side politics for generations."

But do partisan Democratic voters get a say? Heavens, no. Voters only get a chance to ratify these back-room maneuvers. They can either vote for the hand-picked Democratic candidate, or vote Republican . . . in a district that has been gerrymandered (with the help of their beloved Congressman Lipinski) to elect only Democrats.

Elections in the old Soviet Union were a lot like this.

Here's how it works. Bill Lipinski, the 22-year career congressman, faces no competition. That's par for the course with incumbents in Congress, 98 percent of whom are re-elected cycle after cycle. Lipinski was unopposed in both the primary and general election in 2002. In 2000, his challenger raised less than $20,000 and Lipinski won with 76 percent of the vote.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.