Illinois is a pretty middle-of-the-road state, as far as politics goes. The state is basically split into three parts – machine-driven, Democratic Chicago, the Republican suburbs, and mostly-Democratic (but far more conservative than Chicago) downstate.
Over the years there has been a balance of sorts between the Democrats and the Republicans; the Republicans usually held the governors office and the Democrats held one or both of the state legislative bodies. In Illinois there are also myriad governmental units, from massive counties like Cook County (the home of Chicago, O’Hare and many suburbs), to the City of Chicago, to large suburbs like Naperville at approximately150,000 residents, which also wield power, clout, and jobs. These bodies are run by the same general principles listed above; Chicago is always Democratic (although Bernie Epton almost captured 50% of the vote against Harold Washington in the 80’s as a Republican), and the suburbs almost always Republican. Our House seats in congress are heavily gerrymandered; here is my take on my local representative in a post titled “Making Sure My Vote Doesn’t Count“.
However, in recent years, the Republicans in Illinois reminds me of Will Rogers famous quote “I am not a member of any organized political party; I am a Democrat”. The Republican party in Illinois has famously exploded; some examples include:
– We hound our incumbent Republican senator, Peter Fitzgerald, out of office (by fellow Republicans) in 2005 for having the temerity to appoint Patrick Fitzgerald, a non-corrupt, non-machine outsider, as US Attorney for Illinois, who actively goes after corruption including…
– Governor Ryan, who as an ostensible Republican, lets everyone off death row, is convicted for corruption (by Patrick Fitzgerald, above), and sent to prison
– For Peter Fitzgerald’s open seat, Jack Ryan is nominated, who seems to be a rich and viable candidate (can self-finance). He is married to a famous actress (don’t want the traffic) and in his divorce information comes out that he took her to s*x clubs and other items that lead to him withdrawing from the race. He is replaced by…
– Alan Keyes, who is pretty much bonkers and not even from Chicago, who is blasted out of the election by Obama. Even I had to think twice before I’d vote for Keyes…
After all this, I have pretty much given up on the Republicans in their current state. There are many opportunities for them to come back as an anti-corruption party, given all of the scandals and onerous problems in the state, but as of late they remain moribund.
DEMOCRATS IN ILLINOIS
With the complete and utter implosion of the Republicans in Illinois, the Democrats reign supreme. This might occur for the nation as a whole if Obama wins the election, so it is worth reviewing the current situation, and its implications. The attached article from the Chicago Tribune (which does a good job on politics and corruption, even if they are 100% in the wrong on gun control) provides a good place to start.
In this article, our bat-sh!t crazy governor Blagojevich (whose close buddy Rezco, Obama’s neighbor and financial co-mingler, just was found guilty in a case that clearly implicated the governor as “Public Official A”) is going after the House democratic leader Michael Madigan and blaming Mayor (for life) Daley for not supporting his causes enough. Just listen to this rhetoric… remember this is Democrat-on-Democrat feuding:
Blago says Madigan is “trying to screw with the lives of people”
Per the Tribune “The remarks represented a return to Blagojevich’s strategy of using public appearances to criticize his opponents and underscored the dysfunction among Democrats who control the state.”
Listen to what Madigan’s right hand man, Democrat Louis Lang of Skokie, says in response:
“This governor likes to pander. This governor likes to come in like the white knight and to protect Illinois for all of the people he thinks are evil. He defines evil as anyone who doesn’t agree with him on every single issue.”
Wow. That’s pretty strong rhetoric from Democrats from the same state who are trying to run the place in a Republican vacuum.
SIZING UP THE DEMOCRATS
Democrats all generally have this in common – they never had jobs in the private sector of any importance – if anything, they were lawyers working for the government as an assistant states’ attorney or something like that.
The Democrats here generally split into two camps:
1) Stone-cold redistributionists – these individuals view all people as individuals to be taxed virtually to the brink of death to fund various state schemes
2) Let’s not kill the golden goose – the rest of the Democrats fall into this camp, noting that if you tax everyone to death, they will leave, and there will be no money to fund government programs. Note that they aren’t per-se against these massive programs, they are just being pragmatic in how much they can extract from you before you expire, like a bookie’s enforcer deciding just to break your leg instead of killing you to keep you paying up
Blagojevich is clearly a stone-cold redistributionist. Emil Jones, the state senate leader, is too, but he is more subtle. Todd Stroger, son of the late John Stroger and Cook County board president, is breathtakingly non-subtle and just raised our sales taxes to the highest rate in the nation while claiming little or no wasted spending in Cook County government which has to be one of the most ill-managed governmental bodies in the entire free world. Obama’s senate votes (when he shows up) are definitely in this camp. My representative Danny Davis in Congress is a prototypical example (along with Stroger) of this, as well.
Madigan and Daley, by contrast, are in the “don’t kill the golden goose” camp. Daley makes pragmatic noises like the fact that businesses will up and leave if the tax burden gets too high, and Madigan is clearly holding up many of Blogo’s more bonkers schemes, such as a gross receipts tax. Senator Durbin, while a liberal, also falls into this camp, along with Obama’s “brain” Rahm Emanuel in the US House of Congress.
IMPACT OF DEMOCRATS RUNNING ILLINOIS
Illinois faces many critical problems. Our transit system is basically collapsing. Our pension funds are among the most under-funded in the nation. Our politicians are falling prey to continuous corruption investigations at the state and local level. Our power situation is about to get much worse. And we have some of the highest property tax and sales tax rates in the nation. Among all this, the budget is falling apart.
To be fair, all these things were happening while the Republicans were in power, too. Basically Illinois is slowly circling the drain, and the coming reductions in local revenues due to real estate collapses are likely to be followed by tax raising schemes (such as the Cook County sales tax rise) since cutting government isn’t really an option for Democrats (after all, they exist to redistribute money through government to their constituents).
PARALLELS TO THE USA
So perhaps if the Democrats sweep the House, Senate and Presidency they will split into similar branches, the redistributionists and the pragmatic ones. I don’t know who will fall into each camp; you probably couldn’t have predicted in Illinois who would have gone which way. After all, Blogo “Public Official A” was elected to stop “business as usual” and fight corruption. We know how that went…
Even the pragmatic ones will instantly reach for “more government” and “higher taxes” as the first reaction. Expect zero progress on any fundamental issues, especially those that help business, while lots of random social and environmental noise.
THE REPUBLICAN RESPONSE
As I noted above, Illinois Republicans are so bad that I don’t care if they are thrown out of office. Do I want to vote for a party that is pro-corruption, and doesn’t want to appoint someone to root it out? Do I want to vote for a party that raises taxes and lets the scum off death row? Do I want to vote for a party that tries to co-exist with corruption and high taxes and productivity-killing regulations?
The US Republican party is at a similar, though less-dire, crossroads. They let the US get up to the least competitive corporate tax rate in the free world, and ran huge deficits. They didn’t take the opportunity to clean up anything with regulations or fix our power situation. They didn’t push against corruption or government waste. They DID run an aggressive foreign policy, and I give them kudos for that, but that is about it. In almost every other sector – they were cowards. They didn’t even give the anti-gun effort in DC the support they deserved (except Cheney).
So goes Illinois, sadly likely so goes the USA. But maybe the pragmatic Democrats will strangle us a little slower, if there are enough of them…