Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brady “promises” no ideological agenda in works, but what about Legislature?

Republican gubernatorial hopeful William Brady made a promise, of sorts, to the Daily Herald newspaper of suburban Arlington Heights – he’s so focused on trying to resolve the massive budgetary shortfall made worse by national economic struggles that he has no intention of pushing a conservative agenda on a myriad of social issues.

Brady is the state senator from Bloomington whose ideology is pretty much in line with many downstate Illinois residents, which means he doesn’t come at life from the perspective of someone who has experienced urban life on a daily basis.

SO YES, HE’S a conservative. He admits it. But he doesn’t have time to try to lead Illinois government into approving a whole series of laws meant to impose those ideological attitudes on everybody.

“My agenda is about rebuilding Illinois’ economy and bringing integrity back to the government,” Brady told the Daily Herald, which then turned around and joined the ranks of newspapers across the state that (predictably) gave his campaign their endorsement.

That may well be Brady’s intent as of right now. He may be telling the truth, as he perceives it.

Yet my own gut reaction says that Brady’s “promise” doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot.

IT IS BECAUSE I remember the spring of 1995.

When the November 1994 election cycle resulted in both chambers of the General Assembly falling into control of Republican legislative leaders, along with all six statewide Constitutional officers being of the GOP, we got what turned into a two-year period of Republican “domination.”

That version of state government was determined to pass its own ideological agenda, including many bills that for years had been given lip service by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, whose aides would let them come up for votes so that they could fail to pass.

Madigan, then, would claim that “the people” rejected those ideas.

WHY I AM skeptical about Brady’s promise is that I remember this ideological effort was led by the Legislature. Then-Senate President James “Pate” Philip of Wood Dale and newly-promoted (after many years of minority leader status) House Speaker Lee Daniels of Elmhurst used the initial weeks of the spring 1995 session to ram through bill after bill after bill that was long desired by the conservative ideologues, then used the rest of the session to kill off anything desired by Democratic, or urban, interests.

I don’t believe then-Gov. Jim Edgar would have undertaken any effort to lead this movement. Then again, he didn’t have to. He just had to sign into law all the measures that the GOP-dominated Illinois Legislature approved – including one measure that clarified Illinois law to say that gay people couldn’t get married in this state (not that they ever could).

IF (and I realize it is a big “if”) the mood of the electorate in Illinois is such that the only people in the state who vote reliably for the Democratic Party’s candidates are those voters in Cook County (which is what happened in 1994), then we have the chance that the Democratic majorities in the Illinois Legislature could disappear.

Do I really believe that Brady (who only got the begrudging endorsement of Edgar himself) would be willing to stand up to a Republican-controlled Legislature if they were to start pushing the social agenda? No.

DO I DOUBT that a GOP General Assembly would push for such an agenda? No.

I’d bet anything that the people who are most eager to vote in this year’s election cycle are doing so for the exact reason that they want political people who will push a conservative ideological agenda

Of course, I’m also not convinced that the conditions of this electoral cycle – even if they do turn into a rout by Illinois voters against “Democratic” Chicago – will turn out to be as ridiculous as what occurred back in 1994.

For one thing, even the most partisan of Republicans seems to think that their party has losers running for state Attorney General and Secretary of State. Which means there would be a much more visible Democratic presence in Illinois government than there was 15 years ago (when the only thing that wound up holding the GOP majority in check was an Illinois Supreme Court that wound up spending the bulk of the next two years striking down as “unconstitutional” many of those new laws).

IT’S ALSO NOT a shoo-in that the General Assembly is going to shift in overall partisan leadership. There likely won’t be as many Democratic Party members, but Madigan is campaigning more aggressively than he has in years. Perhaps it is because he doesn’t want an encore of that two-year period (1995-96) when he only had the title of “Minority Leader”

In short, Brady has potential to have enough people interfering with him – even if he wanted to push for an ideological agenda.

Which makes me wonder if the real point of Brady’s “promise’ is to send a coded message of sorts to the partisan faithful that they should tone down their dreams about what would be accomplished – should the voters actually go so far as to pick Brady over Gov. Pat Quinn come the Nov. 2 elections.


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