Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is a different breed of White Sox fan.
“My heart is big enough for two teams,” the lifelong Sox fan said Thursday.
No taunting the North Side minor league team’s fans about their 100-year championship drought?
“I want Cubs fans to know they’ll get a fair shake from me,” Quinn said, referring to the fact that he’ll almost certainly be governor in a matter of days — once the Illinois Senate finishes Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment trial and removes him from office.
Quinn will take office at the worst possible time. Not only has the government been run by criminals for at least the last 10 years, but the state budget is facing its worst crisis since the Great Depression, and the state’s economy has been badly damaged by the worst recession since, well, the Great Depression.
Quinn pledges openness, respect for the process and confidence in the citizenry. The bar was set so shockingly low by Blagojevich that Quinn will easily achieve progress in all three of those areas.
But will it be enough?
Quinn’s history shows he will give it his best shot. The cause of political reform and putting more power into the hands of voters has literally been his life’s work. He has regularly consulted with the legislative leaders while awaiting his likely ascension, which is something Blagojevich has almost never done.
Quinn said Thursday that the best way to help the economy right now is to stimulate consumer spending.
“I don’t know if that was the best game plan to follow,” Quinn said of Gov. Jim Thompson’s income tax increase proposal during the deep recession of 1982-83. A tax increase would likely curtail that all-important consumer spending.
Even so, Quinn said paying the state’s bills and avoiding layoffs of state workers are both key to preventing further economic backsliding. And for that, he will probably need more revenue sources.
“It’s a demanding time when we might all have to make sacrifices. I see people do that all the time,” Quinn said.
“In an economic emergency, we may have to do things differently,” he added.
“Differently” has always been Quinn’s drummer. How many politically connected fans do you know who buy season tickets in the nosebleed section?
“They’re really good seats, right behind home plate,” Quinn claimed, confusing the phrase “right behind” with “cloud level.”
“There’s a lot of good people up there,” he said when I told him one of his staffers had offered me a Quinn ticket years ago and I wouldn’t take it.
“I have no intention of leaving” the seats,” Quinn said. He has developed strong friendships with people who have tickets near his, and he won’t abandon them after he becomes governor, which could come as early as next week.
And then he tried to get the topic back onto politics and his future. “Sports of all kinds bring people together,” Quinn said, describing fans as “folks of different backgrounds with a common purpose.”
“Maybe that’s a metaphor for what we have to do in Illinois. We need to band together,” he said.
That’s gonna be tough. Fans love their teams. Illinois citizens don’t exactly love their state government these days. Persuading them to rally around Quinn’s new administration and whatever sacrifices he wants them to make might be like persuading White Sox fans to root for the Cubs to win the World Series.
But he’s a different sort of fellow, so people may see that quality and give him a chance, particularly if he starts “winning.”
He’ll never persuade me to stop hating the Cubs, however. I’ll tell you that right now.