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Joel Pollak: The Jewish Republican You Might Really Like

Sure the Republicans got defeated by health care, but can you ever really count them out?  Of course you can’t!  Sooner or later some new names are going to kickstart things, and before you know it, the right is running … Read More

By / March 25, 2010

Sure the Republicans got defeated by health care, but can you ever really count them out?  Of course you can’t!  Sooner or later some new names are going to kickstart things, and before you know it, the right is running the show again.  This isn’t a fatalist way of thinking, it’s just the way politics work. Joel Pollak, the 32-year-old running for the Illinois’ 9th Congressional District seat, is one of those names we can expect to be hearing from a lot.  Though he hasn’t held a seat yet, the Harvard Law graduate has made a national name for himself, and is scaring the famous Chicago Democratic Machine into believing that a Republican is dangerously close to capturing a seat that his party hasn’t held in 60 years. We asked Joel a few questions about the Tea Party, his foe Barney Frank, baseball, and the lack of good bagels in one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in America. 

You were on Fox discussing Republicans "wrangling" Tea Party support, and you said you’ve been "inspired by the tea party". How did a nice Jewish boy come to be inspired by the tea party’s ideals?

Tea Party rallies are like big Purim carnivals. People come to celebrate freedom and to make noise. Some wear silly costumes, though the underlying message is serious. There’s an important element of ritual, of re-living a moment of historic liberation through the metaphor of food–or in this case, through the metaphor of a popular beverage. What could be more Jewish than that?

Chicago (and it’s surrounding suburbs) is pretty well-known for it’s ties to the Democratic party. Your own district hasn’t had a Republican hold the seat you are running for since the 40’s, yet you seem to have a pretty good head of steam going into November.  Is this a sign of change in Illinois politics?

The best sign of change is not the growing support for my campaign–though I am deeply grateful for it–but the vocal courage of ordinary people who are tired of being abused by the politicians elected to serve them. Another sign of change is the youth of many of the candidates. At age 32, I’m far from being the youngest Republican candidate in the Illinois congressional stakes.

You became well-known for Barney Frank freaking out at you after you asked him a question about his own personal responsibility for the current financial crisis. Think you guys can be friends?

Rep. Frank is by all accounts a very witty and affable man, though he can be a political bully. I wish him a very healthy retirement, which may come sooner than he intends–Scott Brown won more votes than Martha Coakley did in Rep. Frank’s congressional district. He did sponsor the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which I strongly support–we’d find some room for agreement there. Perhaps a beer summit is in order.

Lets get hypothetical: As a cubs fan, I feel a little let down that President Obama is such a die hard White Sox fan. Do you think the Presidents support of the South Side team can sway some North Side  Democratic supporters your way?

I’m not sure how convincing his support for the Sox really is–remember "Cominskey Field"? As for me, even on the North Side, I have to be careful–it’s never safe to assume that people support one team or the other. I’m also a Cubs fan–I treasure my Todd Zeile foul ball, which I came up with at a game in August ’95–but this election season I’m thinking I should just stick with the Bulls, the Bears and the Blackhawks. Baseball loyalty is the third rail of Chicago politics. 

As a fellow native of Skokie, the last time I visited, I was really disappointed by the bagel situation. Frankly, it stinks. What happened and what do you plan to do about this? 

With the rise of kosher has come the decline of "kosher-style." There are still some very good bagel places, but some of the landmarks–Barnum and Bagel, for example–are gone. I blame the greed of Wall Street bankers, who are hoarding all the dough.

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