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The Nobody Nobody Sent

By Kathleen Murphy

This is Breakthrough Ideas Lighting Up the Media.

“We don’t want the nobody nobody sent.”

This quip, coined by former Chicago Judge Albert Mikva that has come to epitomize the city's politics of clout, nudged at me as I stood outside the third layer of fencing around the US Capitol last week.

We were the outsiders - the nobodies nobody sent.

Later in the week, during a press conference Biden’s Press Secretary was asked why the President has yet to hold a press conference.

Fences around the Capitol Building - and walls around the President.

Coming from Illinois politics, I understand what a closed network looks like. It rejects uncertainty and policy innovation, and thrives on control and political connections.

In an article about why Chicago lost Amazon in 2018, Jeff Carter wrote in Points and Figures Blog, “Great gains are not planned or linear. They jump all graphical lines. They often are accidents. That doesn’t happen in tightly-controlled networks. Closed networks like predictability, not randomness.

Carter went on to say, “Chicago has always been a closed network… and it isn’t going to change because it’s too fearful for the power drivers in the network to have a lot of new people that will make outcomes more random.”

For the power drivers in DC, the Trump administration brought in a lot of new people that made outcomes more random. He was an outsider - a disrupter - sent by voters into a government that had grown larger and larger as the quality of their lives declined. He was in a sense “the nobody nobodies sent.”

Fencing for blocks on around Capitol building and President Biden’s refusal to hold press conferences certainly gives the impression that there is an effort to re-close the network, to eliminate the randomness that - for a time - led to great economic gains, but also created uncertainty and represented a threat to established power structures.

This is a critical moment for the members of the DC Press Corp. who the Biden Administration has decided are outsiders. We need the fourth estate’s check on power more than ever.

But, whether DC reporters want to be watchdogs or lap dogs, it’s clear that the most powerful people in this country are putting up walls - figurative and literal - between themselves and outsiders.

In their eyes - reporter or right-winger - we’re all in the same weird boat: we are the nobodies nobody sent. Might as well start asking questions.

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