The Chicago tone -- unminced words about elemental things -- was struck in a recent headline about the reaction of Dallas Green, the Cubs' general manager, to his players' performance: "Cubs Nauseate Green." Adlai Stevenson III feels that way about his two opponents, Gov. Jim Thompson and Fate.
Stevenson uses the word "lie" repeatedly in his litany of accusations against Thompson, whose job Stevenson wants. He nearly won it in 1982. The weekend before that election a poll showed him being shellacked by 18 points. On Election Day he lost by just 5,034 out of 3,627,128 votes. The polls had missed the surge of black voting that would soon elect a black mayor in 1983.
Stevenson is an unlikely beneficiary of increased black voting. Think of everything Jesse Jackson is, beginning with: electric. Stevenson is not. Even when things are going swimmingly, and Stevenson is chipper, he is so diffident he seems melancholy. Today, when absolutely everything is going rottenly, he seems almost chipper about the certainty that things cannot get worse.
These dog days of summer were preceded by the dog days of spring and may be followed by the dog days of autumn. In last spring's primary, because no one was paying attention, candidates from Lyndon LaRouche's not-so-funny farm of political extremists beat the Democratic organization's candidates for lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Stevenson instantly said he would not run with them. (Governor and lieutenant governor candidates are voted on as a team after the primary.) He resigned the Democratic nomination for governor, hoping to run as an independent.
However, Illinois has a "sore loser" law designed to prevent losers of primaries from running as independents. (It is not aimed against third parties.) It says independent candidates must file months before the primary. Stevenson challenged that law's constitutionality and lost, so now must organize a full slate for a third party. His new "Solidarity Party" must run a full slate, but he does not want the pro forma candidates of his party to take votes from regular Democrats, such as Sen. Alan Dixon. So in his spare time he must teach the slumbering electorate how, and convince it that it ought, to perform a "three-punch" operation on the voting machines in November. He wants them to vote the straight Democratic ticket, but then also for Stevenson and his lieutenant governor candidate and his secretary of state candidate.
Stevenson smiles wanly as he says his woes have given him "millions of dollars' worth of attention." However, but for the honor of it, he would as soon dispense with the attention he has received in The New York Times the other day.
"There goes my money again," he says, imagining the depressive effect of The Times catalog of the misadventures during his recent foray into central Illinois. On his ill-timed visit to the University of Illinois, he missed the class break and got only two signatures for his petition to get his party on the ballot. At a meeting of auto workers, when asked about owning a Japanese pickup truck, he said his farm is hurting, the truck saved him $1,500 but, "If I had known I was running then, I wouldn't have done it."
In 1982 Big Jim Thompson -- for 10 years Illinois has been governed by an adjective: "Big" -- said Stevenson was a "wimp." Stevenson was on his way to shedding that image by acting decisively against the LaRouche-ites, then he hauled it back in his pickup truck.
Stevenson has a theme -- two, in fact: "It's time for a change, and you can't believe him Thompson ." If Thompson wins he will become Illinois' first four-term governor. Stevenson is startled when told how frequently he says Thompson lies -- then he says it again. The northern part of Illinois is north of Cape Cod, and the southern part is south of Richmond, and the place is not big enough to hold both of these guys.
In politics, them that has -- has money, has momentum -- gits: gits money, momentum. Big Jim radiates energy and, says Stevenson, "has never in his life taken an unpopular position." Of course neither has Big Jim apologized for his pickup. However, Stevenson says, Illinois is three states -- Chicago, the suburban "collar counties" and downstate. The city is Democratic; farm distress helps him downstate.
Besides, there is a natural attrition in governing. Thompson's 10 years of governing have been 10 years of choosing. Choosing means pleasing some people but aggravating others, and people have longer memories for aggravations than pleasures. Furthermore, Stevenson, a representative of one of America's most distinguished political families, may now have an appealing kind of anti-charisma: stoicism in the face of unkind Fate. The contest may yet be a contest.