Of all the votes Scott Lee Cohen receives for governor, how many will be cast ironically?
Cohen, who announced this morning that he’ll be running as the candidate of his newly-formed Self-Pity Party, will provide another colorful alternative for voters looking to protest the two-party system.
That was a big movement in the 2006 gubernatorial election. Plenty of liberal voters couldn’t stand Rod Blagojevich, but didn’t want to vote for Republican Judy Baar Topinka, either. As a result, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney got 10 percent of the vote. In Chicago, he did especially well among young white college grads along the lakefront, actually beating Topinka in a few hipster wards.
But now there’s an alternative to the party that bills itself as the alternative to politics-as-usual. Obviously, Cohen really wants to hurt Pat Quinn and the Democrats, who forced him to give up his rightfully-earned lieutenant governor nomination. But he’s more likely to spoil things for the spoilers: the Green Party.
The question is, how many of those spoiler votes are out there? Certainly not as many as in 2006.
2006 was a year when no incumbent Democrat lost a race for governor, anywhere in the U.S. Blagojevich was an obvious winner that year, so liberal voters who’d already figured out he was a slimeball could vote Green without worrying they’d help elect a Republican. This time around, Pat Quinn needs all the help he can get against Bill Brady. And Quinn, the former good-government gadfly, is more appealing to independent voters than the blow-dried ward hack Blagojevich.
That leaves the perpetually alienated, a pool that probably composes less than 5 percent of the electorate. In the primary, Cohen’s job fairs won him votes from young, unemployed voters. That may be his best constituency in the general election, too. Cohen is running as an outsider who was rejected by the establishment. Everything about him offended the mainstream: his pawn shops, his steroid use, his hooker girlfriend. All he needs to complete his bad-ass image is a motorcycle and a gig as the opening act for Great White at a roadhouse outside Aurora.
Cohen is no threat to the Democrats. In Illinois, the Democrats are the mainstream. But he may put a scare into the Green Party. If you’re looking to cast a vote outside the mainstream, it doesn’t get much further out than Scott Lee Cohen.