Saturday, January 12, 2019

Harris may be a new majority ‘leader,’ but Madigan is still the ‘boss’

The Illinois House of Representatives made much of the fact they have a new majority leader – and that he’s not just another stereotypical white, male politico.
HARRIS: New House majority leader

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, now has the title that technically makes him the head of the Democrats in the Illinois House. He’s the “majority leader,” while state Rep. James Durkin, R-Westchester, remains the “minority leader” since there are fewer Republicans in Springfield these days than Democrats.

DURING HIS 12 years thus far as a state legislator, Harris has gone through political life with the tag as only openly-gay legislator. Even now, the official statement declares Harris to be the “first openly-gay majority leader.”

Which the Democrats in charge are saying is evidence of their superiority when it comes to being open to all kinds of people.

“This is the first in a series of leadership appointments that will be announced in the coming days reflecting the diversity of our state and reflecting our caucus’ approach to the coming legislative session,” party officials said, in their prepared statement.

But before the conservative ideologues start to get all riled up over the idea of one of “those kinds of people” (actually, they’ll probably use cruder terms, but I’m trying to operate a family-style weblog here) being evidence of how much our society has declined, keep in mind that the “majority leader” title may well be the most overblown of all within Illinois government.
FLYNN-CURRIE: The former leader

FOR THE FACT is that both the majority and minority leaders in the Illinois House fall below that of the Illinois House speaker within the legislative pecking order.

And the role of “Mr. Speaker” in Illinois is, has been, and will remain the province of one Michael J. Madigan – who has been a state legislator for some five decades and has been the Speaker for all but two years since 1983.

As for the two-year period in which Madigan was reduced to the role of “minority leader,” it is regarded as a political aberration where Republican ideologues ran amok and we got the historic freak episode of “House Speaker Lee Daniels” with Robert Churchill as majority leader – before sanity was restored by voters in 1996.
MADIGAN: Still in charge!!!

I realize that within a purely legislative perspective, the “majority” leader fills some duties – largely in terms of keeping the individual Democratic legislators in line with the larger policy goals that the Speaker might want to take on.

MEANING IF NEWLY-elected legislator Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, tries to carry on a Madigan-opposition technique to her government service, it will be Harris who gets to crack down on her – thereby leaving Madigan free to deal with larger issues.

Just as former Illinois House majority leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, served in the role of keeping Democrats in line. She served in that role since 1997, and likely would still be doing it if she hadn’t had to step aside for health reasons. Although her presence created the idea of a woman in a significant leadership position, just as how the previous majority leader, former state Rep. Jim McPike of Alton, gave the impression of a downstate official with a significant title.

I’m not trying to diminish the public service of either McPike or Currie. Both had public service stints I’m sure they’re not ashamed of.

It’s just to realize that no matter who has the title, Mike Madigan remains the “boss,” at least of the Springfield political scene – while realizing he’s there to enforce the political desires and needs of Chicago government.

ALL TOO SIMILAR to that scene from the old Star Wars’ film “Return of the Jedi” when the evil Darth Vader who has been running roughshod over the galaxy in the previous films suddenly kneels before the Emperor – his ultimate master.
Who's whom in Illinois political universe?

Which means the ultimate political bout could come following the mayoral election if someone whom Madigan doesn’t feel like kneeling to manages to win. Is he strengthening his hand now for a future political brawl?

But back to Harris – whose role will be to keep the machinery working so that an ultimate demise of the Democratic majority doesn’t become undermined by petty whining of an internal nature.

While the political rhetoric being spewed says Harris has helped achieve progressive goals on issues such as Medicaid and equal rights for same-gender couples, keep in mind they advanced only as far as Madigan himself permitted -- and he's still in charge!


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