For Success In Politics: The Right Opponent

Sometimes a Member of Congress is blessed with an opponent who becomes an asset to his or her reelection.

That’s what happened in the 1970’s when I was working for Queens Congressman Benjamin S. Rosenthal (D).  He was one of those rarities who vastly preferred being a legislator over being a politician, so he became the first member of the House from New York to move his family to Washington where he could be a full-time lawmaker.  He was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and looked to by his colleagues as the leader on issues involving Israel.  In addition he was the leading consumer advocate in the House. 

In his Queens district, with a large Jewish population, he was popular for his pro-Israel leadership but also for his staff’s outstanding problem-solving reputation, providing constituent services, cutting red tape, getting their Social Security and Veterans’ benefits, and the thousands of little things voters needed.

Ben usually won comfortably in a predominantly Democratic district but by the mid-1970s he was repeatedly racking up wide margins of more than three-to-one.  Credit for that goes in part to his opponent, Albert Lemishow, a Jewish conservative, right-to-life Republican who accused Rosenthal of always trying to help people. What a slam. 

We would joke that we’d like to hire him as Ben’s permanent opponent.  Someone must have been listening because Lemishow ran six times for that seat, racking up embarrassing losses every time.

Opponents like that are hard to find.  Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois’ 9th district, covering north Chicago and suburbs like Evanston, may be in a similar situation this year if Susanne Atanus wins the Republican nomination.

She is blaming supporters of gay rights – Schakowsky is one of that growing number – for what is wrong with America today.

Atanus’ message was “God has unleashed debilitating disorders and destructive natural disasters because he is so upset with the growing support for gay rights,” Talking Points Memo (TPM) reported.

“God is angry,” Atanus told the Chicago Daily Herald, according to TPM. “We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions. Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Atanus sounds like she’s running to replace the retiring wacko Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

Schakowsky, as was Rosenthal, is a leading liberal, anti-war, a member of the House leadership and Jewish.  

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.