Paul Jacob

A network of 300 religious, labor and civic groups, United Power for Action and Justice, argues for the convention on the grounds that it “would scare the devil out of the politicians and lobbyists,” and “allow citizens to make some fundamental, structural changes in the way Springfield does (or doesn’t do) business,” such as “recall, term limits, voter initiative and more.”

The Illiniois Citizens Coalition, a conservative group, supports the convention for many of the same reasons.

Some worry that the “good guys” cannot “control” the convention against the state’s powerful special interests and political insiders. Certainly, there is no guarantee that citizens will prevail. But, with a constitutional convention, citizens at least have a chance to enact reforms. A No vote, securing continuation of the status quo, offers citizens nothing at all.

So, as the candidate of change, where does Obama stand?

He has not said.

But we do know that his chief advisor, David Axelrod, is working with the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution, a big labor/big business coalition, to defeat this opportunity for change. Barack’s main man is helping the most powerful special interests of his state’s dysfunctional status quo in a multi-million dollar campaign to prevent the chance for change on this November’s statewide ballot.

Axelrod is also, of course, a longtime strategist for Chicago Mayor-for-Life Richard Daley. No one has ever mistaken Daley as a “change-agent.”

Last week, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin called state government “All Democrats, all dysfunctional, all the time.” Her column shared part of a letter to Obama, wherein United Power for Action and Justice wrote: “While your campaign manager is heading a presidential effort whose slogan is ‘Change you can believe in,’ his firm is running a local campaign whose slogan should read, ‘Change we must fear and undermine.’”

Not surprisingly, even many politicians who admit Springfield is “broken” still oppose the convention. “Most of the problems in Springfield are not constitutional,” contends former Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch. “It’s political. It’s ego. It’s power. It’s how much they all hate the governor and one another. They’re all a bunch of spoiled brats.”

But solutions — such as recall and term limits — are, indeed, necessarily constitutional in nature.

In a new book, Illinois Deserves Better, John Bambenek and Bruno Behrend argue that, “A great many problems, to be sure, would be solved by simply having better governors, legislators and local officials. However, a constitution is designed to limit the amount of damage a bad office-holder can do.”

Most Americans don’t live in Illinois and, therefore, have better things to do than fret about whether Illinois holds a constitutional convention to reform their government. But Barack Obama will walk into the voting booth this November and cast a ballot either for or against such a convention, and, thereby, for or against any real chance for reform. How will he vote?

It’s a pretty central question: Is Barack Obama really for change?


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.