Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pat Quinn doesn’t have a ‘mandate’

QUINN: How Mighty is he?
Gov. Pat Quinn is behaving like a victorious politician, going about using the M-word to describe the government authority he thinks he now has.

We’re talking about his “mandate,” the idea that he won an election by enough of a majority that the people themselves indicated their desire to see his vision be implemented into law.

IN ALL FAIRNESS, I must admit that I always thought political people who insist about talking about “mandates” were showing off their electoral insecurity – trying to make their voter majorities sound more impressive than they truly are.

If it seems like I’m comparing Quinn to the teenage boy in a high school locker room who tries to exaggerate his “size” by an inch or two, you’d be correct. I feel the need to ding Quinn on account of the fact that I remember how much I personally was disgusted by George W. Bush (whose official memoir appears in bookstores Tuesday) back in the days following the 2004 election when he insisted on describing his victory over Democrat John Kerry as a “mandate” to implement a conservative ideological vision.

That wasn’t a mandate. Neither was this.

In fact, about the only election I can think of since the time I became eligible to vote literally was the first one I ever voted in – 1984 for president. That was the year Ronald Reagan got re-elected with 59 percent of the popular vote.

TO MY MIND, that is how overwhelming an Election Day victory has to be in order for the word “mandate” to even enter the conversation.
What good was his 'mandate?'

Although even under those circumstances, I have a problem with politicians thinking in terms of having the peoples’ will. Because the reality of our society is that we do have some serious splits. This election cycle illustrated it perfectly. Despite the overwhelming Republican trends in some parts of the country, others solidly rejected the Tea Party-type rhetoric – including here in Illinois.

This was the election cycle in Illinois where everybody outside of Chicago and its suburbs solidly wanted a Republican-oriented form of government for the state. These are the people who are thoroughly repulsed this year because they realize that their share of the state is shrinking, which means it is unlikely there ever will be a government comprised overwhelmingly of officials who are willing to kow-tow exclusively to their interests.

Quinn did get an overwhelming amount of support from voters who cast their ballots in Chicago (a nearly 4-1 vote ratio). Yet I don’t think Quinn has a “mandate’ from city residents. I’d argue that what we voted for was the idea of keeping William Brady away from the Executive Mansion in Springfield.

WE DIDN’T WANT Brady. I doubt that many local voters really cared that much about Quinn. Which means that since we got what we really cared about, most of us will go back to paying little attention to the Statehouse Scene while we figure the REAL government (a.k.a., City Hall) goes about its elections.

It’s too bad that many of us are willing to be that apathetic, because that state government many of us care so little about is relied upon so heavily to maintain so many programs and functions locally, including our public schools.

Heck, city government will have a lot of trouble continuing to operate at its current levels if the state can’t start making headway in terms of closing the nearly $15 billion shortfall it now faces.

Where do things stand now? We have a governor who insists upon using the M-word to claim authority in an election where he couldn’t even take 50 percent of the vote. Does this mean that Scott Lee Cohen and Rich Whitney are the people who deprived Quinn a chance to have a true “mandate?”

SO WHILE I am basically in agreement with Quinn’s rhetoric that there is going to have to be some form of tax increase (I thought Brady’s rhetoric on the issue was unrealistic) to generate the kind of revenue needed to prevent cuts in state government from becoming onerous to the people, I only hope that Quinn doesn’t let his victory go to his head.

He still has a Legislature to contend with in terms of putting together some sort of mechanism that resolves the state’s financial problems – although I think the reality is that it will take many years to completely fix the fiscal mess.

I hope Quinn doesn’t develop an ego that throws out the word “mandate” so often that he thinks he doesn’t have to listen to anyone else.

If anything, I think that is where George Bush the younger went wrong in his presidency. His belief that he had a “mandate” to push his political vision down our throats wound up turning off enough people even among those who should have been his most ardent supporters.

GETTING OVERLY ARROGANT in the face of Illinois’ financial mess could be what takes down his gubernatorial term in its opening days.

I’d hate to think The Mighty Quinn has anything in common with Dubya – aside from the fact that both men won their initial elections by slim vote margins and claimed victory early, as a tactical measure meant to undercut their opponent in the public eye.


No comments: