Saturday, September 18, 2010

City apathy something to be overcome

It is a theory being peddled in various forms by many political pundits – Mayor Richard M. Daley screwed over his Democratic Party colleagues who are seeking election/re-election in the Nov. 2 elections when he made it publicly known that he has no intention of returning to office following the spring 2011 municipal elections. The capitol complex in Springfield, Ill., is an impressive looking place, but too many political people in Chicago view it as little more than a training ground ...

By this theory, Daley got politically-aware people who live in Chicago so wrapped up with interest in trying to figure out who will replace him at City Hall that they could now care less who represents Illinois in the U.S. Senate, or who holds all those state government positions that require one to think of Springfield as a place of significance.

I DON’T QUITE buy into this theory.

Not because I want to defend Daley or doubt that he would be willing to “screw over” his colleagues if he had something to gain from it.

It is more because the idea that local people think less of state government than they do our local politicians who work at City Hall or the county building is just a long-established fact. It would be something that people like Pat Quinn would have to overcome – regardless of what Daley had done.

My point is that even if Daley had kept quiet until after the Nov. 2 elections, there are politically-aware people in the city whose top thoughts would have been the speculation about Hizzoner Jr. – will he or won’t he, as in run for re-election?

THIS KIND OF attitude is something that a Democrat running for governor must overcome. He must get the people of Chicago to care enough to want to have someone with the city’s interests in mind elected to the top post – or just about any other state government post.

If anything, it is the lack of activity from the Quinn campaign to generate much in the way of feeling that is causing him to lag behind a candidate whose own regional ties and ideological leanings ought to be enough to take him down for the count with barely a punch from The Mighty Quinn. ... for holding a political post at City Hall.

Anybody who wants to blame Daley for making it all the more obvious that many people in the city just don’t care much about what happens Nov. 2 (perhaps they figure we have the president and the mayor, who cares who the governor is) are, in my mind, looking for excuses to justify lackadaisical campaign activity on the part of Quinn.

If Quinn can’t take apart a candidate whose limited rhetoric has included support for reducing the minimum wage and turning Illinois into a “right to work” state (just like Mississippi or Alabama) by making voters realize that William Brady’s vision of boosting the economy focuses solely on corporate interests rather than those of the people in general, then perhaps he deserves to be retired politically.

ALTHOUGH WHEN IT comes to Quinn, I’m never going to believe the man is gone for good until I physically see his tombstone. The state’s economic troubles aren’t his fault (or unique to Illinois), which means he could do yet another comeback when the political thought process quits taking these Tea Party types so literally.

I know some people are going to want to claim that Illinois inherently ought to be a Republican-leaning state – mainly because they look at the map and see how physically small the six-county Chicago-area is compared to the other 96 counties of Illinois where the GOP is as dominant in much of the area as the Democrats are in the city.

Then again, those six counties have two-thirds of the state’s population. I guess some people think that stalks of corn on open farm fields have Republican tendencies in and of themselves.

My point is that this is an urban state. Even when the Republicans had that 26-year streak going of consecutive Illiinois governors coming from their political ranks, Chicago’s interests had to be tended to. The major reason that the GOP held the governor’s post for that long was because most of those years were occupied by the administration of James R. Thompson – a Chicago native who continued to live in the city (just like Rod Blagojevich) even after getting elected.

IN FACT, THE closest the Republicans came to putting up a Chicago-hostile governor was the eight-year stint of Jim Edgar. But even Edgar, a native of the college town of Charleston, had his sympathies for the city and its culture – even though he was more than willing to say “no” on so many occasions to Daley himself.

Which means the real lesson out of all of this is not that Daley has undermined the Democrats. It’s that any winner of the Nov. 2 elections is going to have to pay attention to the city’s demands and interests.

Or else the new governor and Daley’s successor will wind up engaging in partisan battles that will make the 1990s fights between Daley and Edgar look downright meek by comparison.

If a “Gov. Brady” thinks he can be the governor for the conservative ideologues and merely shove their whims down the city’s throat, he will find himself being the ultimate one-term governor – losing a re-election bid in 2014, likely to whichever runner-up candidate rises to the surface in next year’s mayoral elections.


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