Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey at the Statehouse?

I remember a year some two decades ago when the Illinois General Assembly’s inability to approve a new budget before the beginning of the state’s fiscal year was so bad that the Legislature got stuck being in session on Independence Day.

Will this be the Statehouse mood on Thursday?

The Fourth of July. The holiday that they were supposed to be using to go back home and appear in parades and bask in the “glory” of being the local bigshot who gets to go to Springfield (I know, it sounds so lame when written out).

THEY WERE GRUMBLY and grouchy about having to be at the Statehouse, although somewhere in my collection of political memorabilia (some might just call it trash) I have a copy of the Legislature’s printed schedule from the day – with the U.S. flag imposed on its cover.

I couldn’t help but remember this when learning about the activity related to the Republican lawsuit that seeks to undo the political boundaries drawn by Democratic Party-oriented officials for Illinois’ congressional and legislative districts.

With the beginning of the filing process for nominating petitions coming up a week from Monday (Nov. 28, to be precise), the fear is that if the appeals court actually rules in a way that finds some merit to the GOP partisan lawsuit, the whole electoral cycle in Illinois will be thrown out of whack.

The word literally was given out that court officials hinted that Illinois’ Legislature should keep it in the back of their minds that they might need to convene in a special session during Thanksgiving week (if not on Thursday proper) to consider changes in the election cycle deadlines.

DOES THAT MEAN I ought to try to be at the “Statehouse in Springpatch” on Thursday (instead of with my father and step-mother and other relatives in the Beverly neighborhood) so I can get a companion holiday session legislative calendar?

Will we get a pilgrim with blunderbuss shotgun printed on the cover? Or perhaps some sort of native image.

That is, if we don’t just get a big fat turkey. Which might very well be the most appropriate image. Because this whole issue has become enveloped in such nonsense that I would like to think that the appeals court will recognize it as such and toss this lawsuit out.

Yes. Out!

FOR THOSE PEOPLE who are Republican partisans who now want to send me blistering e-mail messages telling me of the unjust actions that were committed, I don’t want to hear it.

Because I will be the first to concede that the boundaries for the congressional and legislative districts meant to reinforce the idea that Illinois is an urban state with strong political ties to Democratic Party officials.

It was meant to undermine Republican efforts to regroup (when Illinois treasurer is your party’s highest-ranking government post, you’re really not doing all that well – no matter how you try to spin it) politically.

It happened because the state constitution set up a process for reapportionment that, this time around, led to circumstances that gave Democrats complete control.

JUST AS THERE are other states where Republicans have complete control, and those state Legislatures went out of their way during the spring months to craft political boundaries that would reinforce their strength and undermine Democratic Party efforts at rebuilding.

Just as if the GOP had had a say in Illinois, they would have come up with boundaries whose purpose would be to undermine the Dems – most likely by trying to pen in Chicago and Cook County with as little political representation as possible and make sure those officials have no influence in the rest of the state.

In short, we’d have had the same mentality running amok.

When it comes to redistricting, it becomes about self-preservation and there are no “high-minded ideals” at work. If anything, people want to keep those “ideals” from squashing their own political futures.

SO I DON’T want to read or hear anyone claim that there’s anything noble about any of this. It’s all a power grab – one that I hope the special panel of judges considering this case recognizes.

Although it has been noted by some that two of the three judges considering this case were brought in specially from Indiana – from Indianapolis, not the federal court in neighboring Hammond (with the third being U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow – who got her moment of national attention six years ago when she found her family killed in her home’s basement).

Will that result in two judges inclined to take the rural Midwest view of Chicago being too big? Or will those Hoosiers have enough sense to not get wrapped up in partisan politics (even though anyone who claims judges never reflect their partisanship in court rulings is being naïve)?

All of which means I’m hoping for a bit of legal idealism. Because I know there is no political idealism when it comes to this issue.

AND IT WOULD be kind of funny seeing our legislators make turkeys out of themselves on Thanksgiving, trying to piece together a quickie new schedule for the election cycle leading up to the March 20 primary elections in Illinois.

Gobble. Gobble.


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