The uproar at Illinois' Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes is a perfect example of the dangers in the politics of pandering.
The state needs a 26-member commission to advise it on laws to fight violence and discrimination like it needs a commission to advise it on the dangers of drinking unpasteurized milk. All right-thinking people are opposed to discrimination and hatred. There is no need, aside from scoring political points, to name 26 people to a commission with virtually nothing to do.
Our civilized society has no shortage of institutions – the criminal justice system, schools, religions, the media and more – that speak out against discrimination and hatred and encourage others to do the same.
It's clear that even Gov. Rod Blagojevich thought little of the commission, at least until his re-election effort got under way. Until last year, the commission had made do with appointees named in 1999 by George Ryan. Only then did Blagojevich see some value in naming people to a commission on discrimination and hate crimes.
Last August, the governor appointed to the commission Claudette Marie Muhammad, an associate of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. That wasn't a problem until earlier this month when Farrakhan made some anti-Semitic remarks, and Muhammad, as a member of the discrimination and hate commission, was asked to repudiate them. She has refused to do so. Five other commission members have resigned rather than serve with her.
That puts Blagojevich in the box. Does he stand by Muhammad and risk alienating the Jewish vote, or does he dump Muhammad and risk alienating a segment of the African-American vote? The governor, who thought that naming appointees to an important-sounding, do-nothing commission was a no-lose proposition, has learned otherwise. Even pandering has its downside.