Another Perspective

Porsche Politics

Illinois governor preaches automotive and condo restraint.

By 10.5.10

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Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois is not well known outside the Prairie State -- but he is the man who replaced Rod Blagojevich, the 40th Governor of Illinois, in early 2009. Although relatively new to the gubernatorial post, Governor Quinn is already showing us a new way to live right.

But with all the drama out there -- the abyss of trade and treasury deficits, 9.6% unemployment, shrieks from the Capitol for more stimulus, Mayor Daley's announcement to not seek reelection, Rahm Emanuel's impending "listening tour" of Chicago, Congressional fury about tax cuts, Israeli contingency plans to attack Iran, and President Obama's limp presidency -- it is very easy to miss something so critical.

Probably unnoticed by many is that the beleaguered Quinn, now in a cosmic fight for his political survival, has gone nuclear. In his desperate battle for political immortality, and conceding that he is "in the political fight of my life," Quinn has accused rival Republican Bill Brady of driving a Porsche and having a condominium in Florida. Never mind that as reported in the Chicago Tribune, the Porsche was advised by Brady's spokeswoman to be twenty years old and purchased used, conceivably worth under $20,000 today, and that the condo is in Fort Lauderdale, which is hardly Jupiter Island.

This pathetic accusation from the Land of Lincoln escalates political competition to a new level of video games. But it should also be seen as an opportunity for a new generation of idealistic investigators to come forward -- to audit and assess possessions, lifestyles and consumer tastes of all those who govern and to seek to govern. While the incrimination directed at Brady was crudely crafted in the prairies of Illinois, the possibilities are indeed boundless for all fifty states and for our nation's capital.

Automotive stock, by its very nature, is difficult to conceal. It should therefore be the initial focus of an independent blue chip Congressional review panel, charged with ferreting out automotive excess and historical purchases of all political incumbents and aspirants. Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and Republicans John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell would see their dog-eared bills of sale displayed in the public domain, along with servicing records, emissions compliance documents, and receipts for high octane fuel, the domain of the rich. On-board GPS platforms would evoke a special curiosity and would need to be well-documented. Politicians who at one time in their youth listened to the hot rod songs of Jan and Dean or the Beach Boys would need to make those robust disclosures -- to satisfy an inquisitive nation.

The TV media sentinels would hone in and feast, and with the help of the Internet, the rest of the world would see America's leaders and pretenders writhing in automotive agony, all at the speed of light. Some countries would marvel at how a supposedly mature, liberal democracy functions, while others would lash back with the politics of vehicular envy, embargoing U.S. automotive imports, and causing the Department of State to work overtime.

During the dinner hour, we would witness the outrage, as angry demonstrators without twenty year old Porsches and condos take to the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Beijing, and Tokyo. Soon, and to assure fairness, objective third party editors of Car and Driver would be summoned to opine under oath on the determinations of the panel, since some members of the panel would invariably own BMWs, Mercedes, and high performance Audis -- and the appearance of bias is of course as damaging as bias itself.

Happily, the inquiry could also embrace not just condominium ownership, but all forms of real estate, as well as wardrobes and magazine subscriptions. Condominiums and co-ops would obviously be suspect, as well as improvements such as de Giulio high tech kitchens and top of the line Viking ranges. Rivals would dispatch scouts, posing as house guests, to learn of others' equipment purchases and kitchen upgrades.

The Bush compounds at Kennebunkport and Crawford, as well as Ronald Reagan's Santa Ynez ranch would be held against them by the scriveners of history. Not even a small cottage in the wilderness would be safe, or anyone owning a Weber grill. As for other conspicuous tastes, politicians seen after hours in Italian snaffle loafers would be immediately stereotyped and lampooned, as would readers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Town & Country -- all deemed unfit to govern in the new ethos of restraint.

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About the Author
Frank Schell is a business consultant and former international banking executive. He serves on the Dean’s International Council of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago where he is a lecturer.