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Out Here: Bringing brash politico a tea party coup

It’s not every day that a nationally known politician visits these parts, so the Sauk Valley Tea Party deserves credit for bringing in former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh.

Walsh, who is from the Chicago suburb of McHenry, is unabashedly controversial. But love him or hate him, he takes part in the national conversation.

Last week, he spoke to the local chapter of the tea party at the Rock Falls Eagles Club.

Walsh’s speech was his usual brash fare, but when I read the story about his appearance, it was his explanation for President Obama’s victory that caught my attention.

“They really targeted three groups of people – young people, single women and minorities. If you look at what Obama did, he spent his whole campaign targeting those people and giving them things.”

My quick reaction: So what?

From the beginnings of our democracy, politicians have appealed to specific groups of people. That’s how you build coalitions and win elections.

In the last election, Obama wasn’t the only one who played this game. So did Romney. They both aired ads in Spanish, which is proof positive that they were striving to “target” Hispanics. That’s what democracy is all about.

As for giving voters things, no less a historical figure than George Washington learned that practice as a young man. In 1755, he lost his bid for the Virginia House of Burgesses to a candidate who plied voters with beer, whiskey and rum.

Three years later, Washington learned his lesson and deployed alcohol to win over voters. It worked.

Also at the tea party event, Walsh was asked whether he would run for governor. He left the door open, saying only that he would look at his options.

Could Walsh win the Republican primary for governor? It could happen.

In a crowded field of establishment candidates, Walsh could slip by as the renegade who is willing to challenge business as usual in our state’s official capital, Springfield, and unofficial one, Chicago.

In Illinois, the Republicans often are slightly more conservative versions of Democrats – Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, George Ryan being exhibits A, B and C.

That means Walsh or some other conservative could find an opening in next year’s primary.

The good and the bad of Facebook

Sterling’s Daily Gazette has been around since 1854. The city was incorporated in 1857. Since that time, the Sterling Police Department has used the newspaper to post news about its suspects.

Not anymore.

For the first time, the Sterling Police Department recently took advantage of our Facebook page when it posted a photo of a shoplifting suspect at Walmart. (It also did so on the city of Sterling’s Facebook page.)

A day later, the department nabbed a suspect, Jonathan M. Woods, 36, who is accused of stealing a 42-inch TV.

Sgt. Steve Hubbard said one of the tips was the result of Facebook, while another came though the Crime Stoppers hotline.

“The more media we get out there, the better odds we have,” he said.

We maintain a Facebook page with heavy traffic; nearly 9,000 people have “liked” our page. So it makes sense for Sterling police to post directly to it when searching for suspects.

That’s an advantage of Facebook. You reduce the barriers in getting information to the public and have a spirited exchange of ideas.

Sometimes, that spirit devolves into a rudeness you would rarely experience in a face-to-face meeting.

Recently, we posted a story to Facebook about racial profiling. According to data provided by area police departments, you’re more likely to get a ticket during a traffic stop if you’re black or Hispanic. This trend can be found across the state.

Some people’s comments advanced the discussion.

Dave Pilgrim, a Rock Falls police officer, said the true way to measure whether racial profiling exists is to compare the percentage of drivers stopped to a race’s percentage of the population.

“Once a stop has been made, many factors come into play, such as the severity of offense, licensing/insurance, condition of vehicle and even demeanor of driver, all of which affect the decision whether to issue a citation or warning,” Pilgrim wrote.

He’s right that the measure we wrote about is imperfect, but then so is the one he suggests. After all, officers might not know the race of the drivers they stop, especially at night, because they can’t see them.

To his credit, Pilgrim thought about the issue. Other critics of the story did not.

Some accused Sauk Valley Media of printing “misleading” statistics, but didn’t say how so. Another person accused us of pushing “race card BS.” Others suggested the story was liberal or communist. (Hey, wasn’t Martin Luther King often labeled as a communist?)

Another Facebook commenter used racial stereotypes to justify Hispanics and blacks getting proportionately more tickets.

That was the worst comment about the racial profiling story.

On Facebook, you’ll get the bad with the good. On balance, though, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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