2020’s five political Turkeys of the Year

Rod Blagojevich, Willie Wilson, Jim Oberweis, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Madigan make the list.

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Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

Justin Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

2020 has changed the world in myriad ways. One thing that will never change: turkeys in politics, defined by chicanery, corruption and cluelessness.

As the holiday fades away and you enjoy the final leftovers from your grand feast, be enlightened by my picks for Turkeys of the Year.

Turkey No. 5

Rod Blagojevich. I was looking forward to the disgraced former Illinois governor’s release from prison. In February, he was sprung early from his 14-year sentence on a 17-count federal corruption conviction, courtesy of a commutation from his old “The Apprentice” buddy, President Donald J. Trump.

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I was eager to hear a rehabilitated Blago share the wisdom he gleaned in his incarceration, how he had learned the value of humility and the lessons of his error-filled ways.

Instead, he hogged the limelight, hit the airwaves; launched a podcast; and spoke at rallies to defend Trump and his ilk.

The one thing he surely won’t do: admit he ever did anything wrong. 

Turkey No. 4

Willie Wilson, the uber-successful Chicago businessman, rose from poverty to own several McDonald’s franchises and a lucrative medical supply business and to give millions to charity.

Yet he can’t get elected. He has chalked up failed bids for president, mayor (twice) and U.S. senator.

This year, Wilson challenged Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator and the Democratic U.S. Senate whip. Wilson’s real goal: to officially establish, humbly, the Willie Wilson Party. He needed 5 percent of the vote to do that. He won 4 percent.

His campaign spokesman suggested, with no evidence, that “there was something wrong with the numbers.” Who does that remind you of?

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Turkey No. 3

Illinois State Sen. Jim Oberweis declared he was the winner in his Nov. 3 challenge to U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. Then he flew to Washington, D.C., to attend an orientation for new members of Congress.

The Associated Press has called the race for Underwood; its recent unofficial count has her ahead by more than 5,377 votes.

No matter. Oberweis, another perennial candidate and owner of Oberweis Dairy, has requested a discovery recount.

Senator, give it up. There are cows to be milked.

Turkey No. 2

Rudy Giuliani was hailed as “America’s mayor” when he ably led New York City through the Sept. 11 disaster. Now Trump’s personal lawyer is America’s laughingstock. 

Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether Giuliani violated lobbying laws when he was working to pressure the Ukraine government to dig up dirt on the family of former Vice President Joe Biden. In the 2020 campaign, Giuliani tried to peddle more nasty, unfounded allegations against Biden.

Trump lost. Giuliani carries on, leading a legal fight to prove there was “massive voter fraud” in the election. Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and Trump ally, dubbed Giuliani’s efforts “a national embarrassment.”

Finally, a DRUMstick roll, please, for Turkey No. 1!

Mike Madigan, AKA “the Velvet Hammer,” has served as Illinois House speaker for nearly four decades.

He shrugged off mounting criticism that he has abused his power and mishandled sexual harassment allegations claims. He has denied charges he is implicated in the ongoing federal investigation of Commonwealth Edison and some of Madigan’s close allies.

On Nov. 18, prosecutors indicted four Madigan associates on bribery charges. Madigan strenuously denies any wrongdoing. But the nation’s most powerful legislator may be on the cusp of an indictment.

Madigan, 78, has been in office for nearly 50 years. Perhaps The Velvet Hammer stuck around a little too long.

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