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Illinois Not Really Into Checks and Balances

Russ Stewart 30 July 2014 One Comment

Illinois is an anomaly. It is the Land of Lassitude. Voters are passive, partisan, and forgiving. In state government, there are no checks-and-balances to Democratic abuses, ineptitude and favoritism.

In any other state, when a governor is impeached, indicted, convicted and imprisoned, *the party of that incumbent would be shamed, tarnished and ousted. Not in Illinois.



In any other state, when one party controls all the levers of government – governor, both houses of the state legislature, and the Supreme Court – and that party fails to govern effectively, voters would hold them accountable, and they would be ousted. Not in Illinois.

In any other state, when a governor raises $24 million over a 5-year period, much of it from vendors doing business with Illinois’ government, there should be an inkling of voter, media and legislative concern, if not outrage. It’s called “pay-to-play.” Not in Illinois.

In any other state, when the Speaker of the House, in power for 30 years, * has a daughter who is the state attorney general, *raises $6 million per election cycle from corporations and unions, and uses that money to elect compliant, controllable Democrats to his House, voters would rebel. Not in Illinois.

In any other state, when a governor poses as a “reformer,” raises individual and corporate income taxes “temporarily,” then reneges on the promise, and wants to make the hike permanent, his credibility is shot. * Not in Illinois.

In any other state, when the governor ceaselessly panders to voter blocs, advocating gay marriage, driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, and minimum wage hikes, but dithers on key fiscal issues, he’s a goner.. Not in Illinois.

In most states, ethnic, racial, religious and cultural groupings typify the political environment. Among the more heterogeneous Democrats, intrinsic differences and rivalries occasionally contribute to the election of a Republican over an “unacceptable” Democrat. Not in Illinois. With the exception of conservative Glenn Poshard’s defeat for governor in 1998 by Ryan, every Democratic constituency supports every Democrat.

In any other state, when the governor, faced with state debt of $44.7 billion, unfunded pensions of $85 billion, unpaid Medicaid bills of $7 billion, and the certainty that one-third ($10 billion) of the state’s annual revenue stream ($30 billion) will be allocated to pension payments by 2017, *he has a problem. When he adopts a pro-union, no-pension change/cut position, he’s a goner. Not in Illinois.

In any other state, where the governor and legislature constantly bicker-and-squabble, where the more liberal Senate is constantly at variance with the more conservative House, and where the Democrats control both chambers by veto-proof supermajorites (over 60 percent) – 40-19 and 71-47, respectively, in the Senate and House – one would expect voter disgust. Not in Illinois. In 2012, even more Democrats were elected to the legislature.

In Illinois, politicians who are salacious, mendacious, inept and felonious, as long as they’re Democrats, don’t poison the party well. Yet a Republican like George Ryan, who did what the Democrats have always done – extorted campaign donations from state employees – went to jail, and poisoned the Republican statewide ticket in 2002. Of course, the equally disgraced Rod Blagojevich, now moldering in federal prison, didn’t elicit anti-Democratic revulsion in 2010; Pat Quinn kept the governorship by 31,834 votes.

Illinois’ problem – and Republican candidate Bruce Rauner’s conundrum in 2014 – is that it has become an obsessively partisan state. The Republican brand is hugely unacceptable. Democratic abuses are overlooked. Minorities, which include black, Hispanics, and many Asians, simply will not vote for any Republican, no matter how repugnant the Democrat. Blacks are 15 percent of Illinois’ 2010 population of 12,864,380, Hispanics 16 percent, and Asians five percent; the white population is 73 percent. That’s gives Democrats a locked-in voter base of 20-25 percent. To win, a Republican needs to garner 65 percent of the white vote. Unfortunately, white women, usually by 60-40 margins, vote for every Democrat, while white men, by 55-45, back Republicans.

In addition, Illinois has evolved into was the ancient Romans called a “city-state”: The bulging urban population in Chicago, Cook County’s suburbs, and the collar counties, outnumbers the state’s other 95 rural counties by nearly 2-1. Over 62 percent of the registered voters are in the Metro Chicago area, and 38 percent Downstate.

In virtually every other Midwestern state, politics is driven by ideology. The Republicans are the party of white conservatives, from the suburbs or rural areas, and the Democrats are the party of white liberals, minorities, gays and feminists. The so-called “moderate” or independent vote, usually about 15-20, determines the outcome. This is the norm in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa.

Interestingly, Illinois is not *yet one of the country’s *most habitual Democratic states. Those honors belong to Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland and Connecticut, all of which are city-states dominated by urban Democrats, but each of which has recently elected a Republican governor to compensate for overwhelmingly Democratic legislatures. That’s “checks-and-balances.” Not in Illinois.

Here’s a review of a few states:

Hawaii: This is Barack Obama’s birthplace. Nowhere is ethnic, religious and cultural factionalism more evident. Hawaii makes Illinois look like an oasis of tranquility. Hawaii is a prototype of America’s emerging bi-racial society: Half of all married couples are bi-racial; of the general population, 42 percent are at least partly white, 57 percent Asian – those of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino heritage – and 26 percent native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders. They all detest each other, with Japanese-Americans being dominant. From a religious standpoint, there are Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Jews. But they detest Republicans even more.

The state’s pre-eminent politician was the late Daniel Inouye, a Japanese-American who was senator from 1962-2012, and built the state’s Democratic machine. After admission in 1959, a Republican governor was elected, but from 1962-2002, a Democrat controlled the statehouse for 40 years. Obama won the state with 71 percent in 2012. The state legislature is a no-party system. Democrats have 24-1 and 44-7.majorities in the Senate and House. In 2002, voters rebelled, and elected Jewish Republican Linda Lingle as governor. She was re-elected in 2006, but was term-limited in 2010. New York-born Congressman Neil Abercrombie won the governorship in 2010 with 58 percent, but created a firestorm when, after Inouye’s 2012 death, he appointed *white Jewish lieutenant governor Brian Schatz to the vacancy, rather than *Japanese-American Buddhist congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.. Now Hanabusa is challenging Schatz, and Abercrombie has a Japanese-American primary foe. It’s bi-racial warfare.

Honolulu’s former native Hawaiian mayor is running for governor as an independent, and the Republican is Lingle’s former lieutenant governor, a Japanese-American. In a three-way race, the Republican can win.

Massachusetts: Legendary for being the only state to support George McGovern in 1972, and foisting Michael Dukakis on the Democrats in 1988, Massachusetts last voted for a Republican for president in 1956. It is a one-party state, with Democrats up 9-0 in the congressional delegation, and legislative majorities of 36-4 and 129-29 in the Senate and House; Obama won the state with 61 percent against the state’s former Republican governor, Mitt Romney (2002-06). Yet Massachusetts, in the 62 years from 1952 to 2014, had a Republican governor for 32 years, and continuously from 1990 to 2006. Voters are sophisticated: They intuitively understand that rapacious legislative Democrats (sounds like Illinois) need the check-and-balance of a Republican governor.

Rhode Island: Obama won the state with 63 percent in 2012, and Democrats have majorities of 32-5 and 69-6 in the state Senate and House. There is no Republican presence in Providence. Yet the Democrats haven’t elected a governor since 1990; a Republican was elected in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006, and a liberal former Republican

U.S. Senator was elected as an independent in 2010. The 2014 winner will likely be the female *Democratic state treasurer, who is pro-charter schools and anti-union.

Vermont: The Mountain State boasts Bernie Sanders as senator, a self-proclaimed Socialist. Obama won 67 percent in 2012, and the legislature is 23-7 and 97-44. Yet a Republican was governor from 2002-2010 and, before Howard Dean (D), for many years in the 1970s and 1980s.

Maryland: Call it “Washing-more” – a true city-state comprising Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Illinois has had Republican governors for 38 of 62 years since 1952. In Maryland, in the 60 years since 1954, a Republican has been elected governor twice, and served a total of 6 years. Spiro Agnew, later the disgraced vice-president, won in 1966 and resigned in 1968. Bob Erlich won in 2002, beating Bobby Kennedy’s daughter, but lost in 2006. Obama in 2012 won an astonishing 78 percent, in a state with a 31 percent black population. In 2014, the black lieutenant governor (D) will succeed Marty O’Malley, who is running for president.

Republican states, like Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Indiana and North Dakota, occasionally elect Democrats as governor, as a reaction to the incumbent’s ineptitude. So, too, do Democratic states like Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine and Michigan.

But Illinois, arguably, if Quinn beats Rauner, will rank as America’s most Democratic state.

Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer
E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.

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One Comment »

  • Mike Buck said:

    An excellent, albeit depressing article.

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