|KEATS: No longer one of us|
But I’m also not swayed by the argument made by the long-time state legislator who tried last year to make a comeback to electoral politics – becoming the Republican who ran a token campaign for Cook County Board president against Democrat Toni Preckwinkle.
KEATS, WHO SERVED 16 years in the Illinois Senate, sent out a letter to his friends and political allies that amounts to one last pot-shot at the Democratic political establishment before he leaves. It was meant to stir up the anger of Illinois’ conservative ideologues.
One of those ideologues in turn distributed that letter via e-mail to various other people to spread the word – including one such e-mail sent to this weblog.
As Keats wrote, “the leaders of Illinois refuse to see we can’t continue going in the direction we are and expect people who have options to stay here,” referring to increases in the state income tax and the bond rating of state government – which isn’t so hot these days.
He also came up with a convoluted bit of logic that tries to make it seem as though Illinois is withering away into irrelevance – instead of acknowledging the continued growth of the Chicago metropolitan area.
“I REMEMBER WHEN Illinois had 25 congressmen. In 2012, we will have 18,” Keats wrote. “Compared to the rest of the country, we have lost 1/4th of our population.”
Actually, Illinois these days with its 12.83 million people is at an all-time high. It is the quirk of the way congressmen are distributed among the states that causes the smaller states whose population growths account for large percentages actually get the additions to their representation.
When Illinois has 25 members of the House of Representatives back in the 1950s, its population was only 8.71 million. So instead of losing 1/4th of our population, we’ve actually gained 50 percent since those days.
My point being that his point misses the point.
BUT THEN AGAIN, it doesn’t surprise me to learn that Keats would be feisty in his rhetoric. He was still a state senator from the North Shore suburbs back when I was a beginning reporter-type person, and I still remember one time I interviewed him by telephone (I was with the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago back then) when he turned our interview into a lecture about the “realities” of partisan politics.
I remember he got disgusted with a question I asked that implied Senate Republican leader James “Pate” Philip was inclined to use his influence to pressure the Republican caucus into taking a certain stance on an issue (which escapes my memory).
He proceeded to tell me that the Republican caucus of the state Senate back then (early 1990s) was a group of naturally conservative officials who agreed on issues, and that it was THEY who would wind up telling Pate Philip what it was the caucus could do.
He then went on a diatribe against the leadership skills of Philip, whom I specifically remember used the word “baboon” to describe the long-time senator from DuPage.
IT WAS A moment I didn’t write up back then, but it was one I remembered repeatedly throughout the years as Philip and the state Senate used strong-arm tactics to try to keep Democrats and their urban interest in its place.
Any man willing to risk being quoted using such derogatory terms toward his legislative leader is someone who is more than willing to engage in outrageous talk at a moment’s notice. Which means I’m not the least bit surprised he would write a “drop dead” letter to Illinois now that it is blatantly apparent that the Democratic Party’s officials have gained a stronghold over the state’s government operations.
In short, it has taken the exact opposite direction from the days when Keats was relevant politically and the state government was supposedly the mechanism that tried to keep the city under control.
As Keats put it, “we live in the most corrupt big city, in the most corrupt big county in the most corrupt state in America.” That statement strikes me as rhetorical nonsense, perhaps even more outrageous than his personal thoughts about Pate Philip personally.
I CAN’T HELP but wonder what he will make of the political culture that exists in Austin. It’s not like the Texas Legislature has a history of good government ideals. Or will he be willing to forgive such behavior, provided that it is being done by people who share the same “R” after their names that he used to have.
I also wonder what Keats is going to think of Texas, which is experiencing population growth big enough to gain two more members of Congress primarily because of a significant Latino population that threatens to overturn the Republican establishment that currently controls that state’s government. The Lone Star State’s GOP status quo isn’t going to last forever.
Will he someday see a changed situation there, and will be writing a letter to the Texas political establishment, telling them how their state has declined and how he’s leaving? Where will he go? Eventually, he’s going to run out of places to live.
Then, maybe he’ll want to come back to Illinois, which in its variety offers a unique lifestyle that ought to appeal to everyone. That even includes our weather. He’s going to learn how hot Texas can be in summertime, particularly for someone who writes, “I love four seasons.”