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The war at home

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* My grandmother and her sisters think I’m some sort of bigshot because I have a column in the Chicago Sun-Times. What they don’t know (because I don’t tell them - hey, it’s my grandma) is that my weekly syndicated newspaper column has a whole lot more readers because it’s in so many newspapers throughout the state. Here’s my latest

A few weeks ago, I ran into a fairly high-level Illinois Democrat at a party in Springfield. He said he’d taken my advice and was reading the New York Times’ “Disunion” Civil War blog. He also said he’d come to the conclusion that President Barack Obama should follow President Abraham Lincoln’s lead by suspending habeas corpus and then arresting all Tea Party-affiliated Republican congressmen.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but he said he was dead serious.

I always thought this guy was a centrist, pragmatic sort. But he was obviously caught up in the national meltdown over the debt ceiling fight. He was furious beyond comprehension. Actually, considering that Congress’ job approval rating now is rapidly approaching zero, his bone-chilling anger is probably comprehensible to a lot of people.

So, I kinda get why some Democrats are all wigged out over Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s attendance at U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s recent fundraiser. Madigan, who also is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, attended the fundraiser as a guest of Terry Duffy, who was hosting he event. Duffy also is chairman of CME, a very big company that has threatened to move part of its operations out of Illinois because of the state’s recent tax hike.

Anyway, a whole lot of Democrats I know are just furious about just about everything these days. They felt pushed around when George W. Bush was president and they wanted President Obama to push back when he was elected. Instead, Obama has cut deals with Republicans and allowed himself to be bullied, at least in many Democratic eyes.

Many of the Republicans I know are consumed with anger as well. I saw a poll last week which showed 96 percent of Republican primary voters in a southern Downstate region believe the state is on the wrong track. Considering that the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percent, that wrong track number could actually be 100 percent.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, especially after all the calamities that this state and this country have been through the past few years.

The congressional debt ceiling fight seemed to bring everything to a head and became so vicious that at one point some pundit or another claimed that America was engaged in a “Cold Civil War.” Partisans aren’t shooting guns at each other, but their hatred and venom is more intense and the divisions between them are far wider than at any time I can remember.

So, attending a function for the benefit of the Republican House Speaker who battled the Democratic President is considered almost an act of treason by angry Democrats.

Gov. Pat Quinn also was apparently swept up in the national mania. Quinn can be a very partisan Democrat when he wants to be and he always has been a staunch defender of Obama, no matter what.

Quinn let out a little bit of anger when he was asked about Madigan’s attendance at that fundraiser last week. The governor whacked Madigan for his “support” of Boehner, which Quinn said Boehner did not deserve.

Quinn also chided Madigan for not attending a recent Obama event in a small town in Illinois, saying the party chairman should support the Democratic president, even though this was a White House event, not an Obama campaign function.

Madigan’s spokesman angrily retorted that Madigan didn’t “support” Boehner because he didn’t buy a fundraiser ticket and added that his boss interpreted the 2010 election results as a desire by the public to force both parties to work together.

Madigan’s 2010 election analysis actually is shared by the president himself, yet hyperpartisans on both sides, including apparently Quinn, want no rapprochement of any sort.

For years, the Democrats in this state have made fun of the Republicans because the hardcore right wing and the “business class” set always were at each other’s throats. One side was accused of being “too pure” and the other was accused of “selling out to the Democrats.” The Republicans formed a permanent circular firing squad. As a result, they’ve been out of power for a very long time.

Quinn and some other Democrats apparently never learned that lesson.

* Mayor Emanuel’s reaction was far more light-hearted

Madigan meeting with Boehner has everybody wondering what’s Madigan up to – but not Mayor Emanuel. He sees it just the opposite because of the congressional reapportionment map Madigan drew at the expense of Republicans.

“What’s Boehner doing meeting with Madigan given that the map was pretty good – the map that Mike Madigan and John Cullerton drew! So I ask the inverse question. What was John Boehner doing meeting with Mike Madigan,” Emanuel said.


* And the AP has a story about the fight between Quinn and Emanuel, without really moving the ball forward very much

Both Quinn and Emanuel downplayed the importance of their verbal sparring last week. But with Illinois in such bad financial shape, at stake is a Chicago casino that could be the biggest prize Quinn can deliver to Emanuel in the next four years, and some of their colleagues are praying the verbal sparring ends soon.

“This particular conflict threatens to get out of hand,” said State Rep. Lou Lang, a suburban Chicago Democrat who is a chief sponsor of the gambling measure.

Lang said he thinks cooler heads will prevail because otherwise the two men risk spoiling their ability to help negotiate a resolution to the gambling legislation, which proponents say could bring millions in revenues to a number of communities throughout the state if Quinn signs it.

Subscribers know a whole lot more, but cooler heads really need to prevail here. Illinois simply cannot afford another political war.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Gregor - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:16 am:

    The acrimony comes from the most reactionary wing of the repubs playing everything, big stakes and small, as a zero-sum game, and frankly, from being bad losers.

    I know republicans that are good people and reasonable people. But none of them are in any kind of leadership positions; their party has marginalized the folks who want to work cooperatively. As long as that’s the case, there is no percentage in Democratic moves to appeasement.

    All the surrendering has been one-way, on the dem side, and frankly, I voted for one side over the other because I wanted them to implement the policies they campaigned on, not what the opposition wants to do. I don’t consider myself a far left extremist, I’m a moderate, but the repub’s threaten to pull us from the center, further to the right. I don’t want that, and I will fight that.

  2. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:34 am:

    Thanks for using “us” in your piece as a reminder of how we got to our current location.

    While there could be a lot more back and forth fun over the Boehner event saga. It is truly old news. Just because the media finally caught up it does not make it any more interesting.

    How about we focus on an uncompleted IL media exercise?

    Let’s give some special prize to the 1st IL reporter who calls the CEO/flack of a major IL corporation and asks how much in undisclosed sums they gave the groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Crossroads GPS, etc got in 2010 and their expected outlays in 2012.


    (Feel free to insert the names of the Dem-linked front groups too.)

    The message here is the while the economy remains sluggish, CEOs are piling up trillions in corporate accounts. How much are they taking out of the corporate till to defeat President Obama or elect one of those cracker jack GOPers.

    Remember this is just the cash we pay for products. Money that American employers could use to hire Americans.
    It should be a fun exercise.

  3. - shore - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:15 am:

    charlie cook basically wrote the same thing you did as the first half of his column this week. As for the 2nd half, the difference between the two parties is that for republicans it’s a matter of one grassroots conservative base against another grassroots base of the party. with democrats this seems to be more about leaders having individual issues with each other and less about groups in the party warring against each other.

  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:18 am:

    This generation of Americans needs to grow up. Things get a little tough, there are some bumps in the road and they freak out.

    My taxes are too high, boo hoo. My 401K got whacked, I’m such a victim. Meanwhile, there is no discussion, whatsoever, anywhere, about the very small number of volunteers who have been doing the heavy lifting for ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are invisible and it is shameful.

    By the way, 9/11 was a long time ago. Some punks with box-cutters had a lucky day. You can come out from under the bed now.

    Maybe we could put away that ten billion dollars a month security blanket we’ve been using to chase banditos on the Khyber Pass.

  5. - 47th Ward - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:24 am:

    Good column Rich,

    Yes, the ILGOP has been in a civil war practically since Steve Baer challenged Edgar in the 94 primary. It’s the Rinos v. the Purists, and all they’ve done since then is lose elections. I’ve really enjoyed watching the stalemate, and moreso since it’s gone national, with the Tea Party Purists v. Establishment Republicans.

    I think the Democrats of Illinois, like national Dems, are different and not likely to follow the GOP off the cliff. Democrats have always been a loose coalition of left-leaning interest groups. Labor and Enviros are about as different as can be, yet they tend to back Democrats even though they rarely agree with each other. Same is true for pro-immigration groups working with pro-choice groups, all under the banner of the Dems.

    Illinois Democrats, in my opinion, accept the fact that Madigan recruits candidates who may not pass a purity test statewide, but can win in their legislative district. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, but your column is a refreshing reminder not to take anything for granted. My party has its share of purists, but we lack the religious zeal which makes compromise impossible for the Republicans.

  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:36 am:

    47 hits it pretty good. I’m anon 8:18.

  7. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:58 am:

    If Gregor honestly feels that Republicans are pushing Democrats to attack each other, then the GOP should ratchet up their efforts!

    But the internal civil wars started with the Democratic Party in the late 1960’s and continued for 20 years, a lesson the Republican Party failed to heed when their civil wars began.

    The real lesson came from the 1968 convention when a bunch of extremely liberal Democrats pushed out centrist Democrats like Richard Daley (original) and others as delegates and then nominated a string of liberal candidates who the nation kept rejecting. Moderate Democrats sat on their hands and let the liberals lose elections starting with Humphrey. They concentrated on the top of the ticket and it eventually ran down hill to lower ticket races. Two Democrats on the top of the tickent who positioned themselves as moderates (Carter/Clinton) won, the rest lost.

    In Illinois, the Democrats out of Chicago that control things have always tried to portray themselves as moderate and have impressively expanded their power to total domination. This has changed in recent years with their total control of power now consolidated and in effect for a number of years in Springfield. A series of liberal social agenda items were enacted in Springfield this past legislative session which tends to highlight these changes. The warning signs (election of Topinka and Rutherford to break the Constitutional Office monopoly) were not heeded by the State Democrats.

    So while the Liberal Wing of the Democratic Party calls themselves Progressives these days and runs away from the Liberal label we are starting to see cracks in the Illinois Democratic methods of rallying around their candidates, no matter what their political bent is.

    In the meantime, a “wing” of the Republican Party demands purification and refuses to support moderate Republicans. This has been going on since the start of the Edgar administration in Illinois and has steadily increased over the years. They too started at the “top of the ticket” and have since worked their way down the ladder.

    Republicans imitating bad behavior of Democrats which caused Democrats to lose steadily elections has lead now to Republicans to steadily lose elections.

    Some people never learn. This is true in both parties right about now, which makes politics so interesting these days.
    That is the definition of insanity. And unfortunately for me, my political party is practicing it far better than the Democrats at the moment.

  8. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:00 am:

    I should have added Kirk beating Giannoulias for the vacated Obama seat to my comments as a further example.

  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:05 am:

    –The real lesson came from the 1968 convention when a bunch of extremely liberal Democrats pushed out centrist Democrats like Richard Daley (original) and others as delegates and then nominated a string of liberal candidates who the nation kept rejecting.–

    Louis, I think you mean the 1972 convention. I don’t think Richard J. got pushed around too much at the Amphitheater in 1968.

  10. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:15 am:

    The takeaway from the 2010 is that citizens are tired of government at all levels living beyond its means, not that they want people to work together, as Democrats assert. Their assertion is nothing more than an effort to deflect the issue, since Democrats have nothing in their leadership effort quiver other than to spend more. I think Madigan may be one of the few Democrats in this state to understand what the 2010 election was all about, and explains his hard-nosed attitude toward the Governor and the Senate Democrats when they wanted a bigger budget last year.

    The “hard line” Republicans get the electorate better than anyone else in the political sphere, and the “centrists” Republicans are being driven to the realization that there is no more money to be had. Full Stop. Over and over again, we see polling that says that government must be shrunk, from the polls about Congress’s popularity (in the single digits), to Obama’s handling of the economy (hovering around 20%), to the poll Rich sites about downstate voters. Jobs, spending, and to a tertiary effect, government regulations (intrusions on liberty) are the big three issues. There are no others that are now important, nor will there be at the next election failing some catastrophic event.

    The schism in the voters is over these issues. If it is a radical idea that budgets must be aligned with revenues, and that government must return to its limited state, then the party that most closely aligns with these ideas will be considered radical, especially by those who think everything will be rainbows and unicorns if we could all just get along. But these are not radical ideas, only plain commonsense.

  11. - Fan of Cap Fax - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:21 am:

    I love the old days, the rich stories involving dems and the gop. However, I think some of that is the problem today.

    My great, great politician grand-dad is not the politician my dad of the 70’s was. While there were a lot of similarities, there were different beliefs based on their individual experiences.

    I’m not the same Democrat I was in the 70’s, 80′,s or 90’s. I may be just a Jane Doe making much less than the politicians, but I vote every election. I vote because I’m an American, not a Tea-party member or a Democrat or a Republican.

    I just wish Americans were given more respect.

  12. - JBilla - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:26 am:

    There are a million things the City and State need to work together on. Give a deadline for when the decision will be made and get it off the table.

  13. - jeff - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:30 am:

    My 50 year old sister calls herself a “moderate”. When asked if she has ever voted for a Republican the answer was no. But she supports sensible ideas so that makes her moderate in her mind. But of course in her mind all here ideas are sensible.

    My mind works the same way. I am sensible the rest of you are crazy haters.

  14. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:43 am:

    Meh. Whatever is to blame for the dissention, the Republicans are destroying themselves just as the economy is setting up big victory conditions for them. If they are dumb enough to nominate an idealogue zealot like Bachmann or an extremist like Perry, they will be giving a nice big wet kiss to second-termer Obama. Take a look at the Brady-Quinn race and learn a lesson, you ninnies! :)

  15. - Bill Baar - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:58 am:

    So was Speaker Madigan right or wrong to attend the GOP fundraiser? I’m missing that in the comments above. I haven’t read any acrimous comments from righty bloggers regarding Boehner’s hosting the Speaker. As Rich points out right bloggers rightly could over the map, howerver given the victory’s in so many other States (and their maps) in 2010 the right’s in a position to be gracious hosts maybe. So agian, was Madigan right or wrong from a Democrat’s POV?

  16. - OneMan - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:59 am:

    Wow, partisan much today folks?

    You know those stinkyhead Republicans are trying to ruin everything, they even hate puppies…

    Those hippy liberal democrats will not be happy until the government controls and owns everything.

  17. - wishbone - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:08 am:

    What would happen if we got the government out of the business of determining the number and location of gambling establishments? Let the market decide the way we do with supermarkets.

  18. - Nero - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:18 am:

    Madigan taking the opportunity to meet with Boehner (in an informal setting) is nothing short of brilliant. He’d be a fool to pass up a chance to have the ear of the U.S. Speaker where he can speak more candidly. I wouldn’t be surprised if something positive governmentally comes out of this funder. That’s the difference between Madigan and his political critics.

  19. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:32 am:

    –The takeaway from the 2010 is that citizens are tired of government at all levels living beyond its means, not that they want people to work together, as Democrats assert.–

    Yeah, right.

    Citizens are volunteering in droves to give up their government services and benefits and to pay their way for what they do get.

    Well, actually, they’re volunteering for the other guy to get less and pay more.

    The “takeaway” (very trendy, it’s the new “synergy” or “thinking outside of the box”) from 2010 is that citizens will pound whoever is in power in a lousy economy.

    Same as it ever was.

  20. - Demoralized - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:44 am:

    =The “hard line” Republicans get the electorate better than anyone else in the political sphere=

    I think you just illustrated the point about partisanship.

  21. - 47th Ward - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:46 am:

    ===The “hard line” Republicans get the electorate better than anyone else in the political sphere,===

    Sure Cinci, go with that. Yep, that’s the ticket.

    It’s fun to talk about general cuts without being specific, just like it’s fun to blame unnamed “regulations” that hamper growth. But until you cut into the patient with a scalpel, it’s all theorhetical.

    Once the GOP cuts Pell grants or tries to eliminate clean air regulations, then it’ll hit the fan. Until then, specificity is your enemy.

    Cut the spending and roll back regulations is a sound byte. Governing doesn’t work that way, and once you actually implement your cuts and roll backs, you’ll pay at the ballot box.

    Why? Because even though voters don’t love government, it does things we can’t do on our own. Clean air and water, safe roads and jobs and food, once you target these regulations voters remember why they wanted them in the first place. Same with cutting spending. There are good reasons why much of the spending was first appropriated and those are the reasons cutting specific programs will face strong opposition.

    But it’s fun to talk about it, right? Just remember, it’s all talk.

  22. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:05 am:

    Wordslinger, thanks. I stand corrected on the convention dates.

  23. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:10 am:

    Louis, 1972 was when Jesse Jackson and Bill Singer succeeded in getting the Daley-led elected Illinois delegation tossed in the street.

    I hear there was some kind of rumpus at the 1968 convention, as well.

    I assume you’ll be in attendance at Greek Fest at the Hellenic school on Lake-Cook this weekend?

  24. - Bill Baar - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:16 am:

    It’s fun to talk about general cuts without being specific, just like it’s fun to blame unnamed “regulations” that hamper growth. But until you cut into the patient with a scalpel, it’s all theorhetical.

    Heck, just look north to Walker and Wisconsin.

  25. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:24 am:

    “Heck, just look north to Walker and Wisconsin.”
    Hmm… Maybe, but I am not sure. That is an interesting test case. Was the visceral reaction because of the *policy* or because of the heavy-handed way Walker delivered it? Because Kascich delivered the same policy in a different style and got much, much less public outcry.

  26. - amalia - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:47 am:

    I’m glad you have a public forum, Rich. Don’t agree with you that those of us who are angry about Madigan are caught up in national mania. I think it is simply not appropriate action and it rankles especially because of how the wrong wing crazies are conducting themselves on policy. on a lighter note, i’d be afraid to get near Boehner because the self tanner would rub off on others.

  27. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:00 pm:

    ===”I assume you’ll be in attendance at Greek Fest at the Hellenic school on Lake-Cook this weekend?”===

    Excellent assumption! Just finished cooking over three days for my Church festival held two weekends ago. Finally starting to feel the bottom of my feet again!

  28. - Fed up - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:31 pm:

    Well southern Illinois is right the state is on the wrong track. Higher taxes less jobs a Gov who says something one day and does something differnt the next. Daleys family getting rich while harming pensions that taxpayers will have to cover.

  29. - Bill Baar - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:58 pm:

    @Anon 11:24 Not certain I follow, but for all of this talk about division and contention, we do have examples now of States taking different approaches to similar problems. The States are working as labs and we’ll soon know outcomes. There’s nothing theoretical about what’s going on in the United States. We’ll have very visible outcomes soon. That’s as it should be. Part of Illinois’s problem is we have too little fighting, and instead we have a combine which tends to divvy out the spoils instead of arguing policy. That’s what Madigan probably up too. A guy Saavy enough to warn in 2009 that Tax Cuts weren’t going to raise much revenue (I’m thinking Madigan’s speech at the Hispanic Dem Caucus) is probably saavy enought to put a bet down with Boehner and the GOP because Madigan suspects its going to be a very very long GOP ascendancy to come Nationally. He’ll want to make sure Illinois Regular Democrats can play along and not get swept away in the coming deluge.

  30. - jerry 101 - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 1:04 pm:

    You kind of are a bigshot.

    You talk to the powers that be in the State every day. You have a website that draws tons of visitors. People pay you for the priviledge of reading what you have to say. You are regularly published in newspapers all over the state.

    You’re pretty much a bigshot.

  31. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:04 pm:

    Madigan is the rooster windvane on top of the Big Barn. The rest of you guys are just providing the wind. Where he points is where you need to point too.

    He didn’t get where he is by being as stupid as some of the people blogging here.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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