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The people are with him

Monday, Jul 15, 2013

* From my weekly syndicated newspaper column

Years ago, Gov. Pat Quinn told a friend of mine that Illinois voters were pretty easy to understand. Illinoisans love populism, Quinn explained, so doing populist stuff was the way to win their hearts.

And if a recent Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll is correct, then Quinn has done just that with a line-item veto of legislative salaries and benefits. At least, for now.

Earlier today,” 1,217 registered Illinois voters were told the evening of July 10, “Governor Pat Quinn used his veto powers to suspend the salaries of state senators and representatives until they come up with what he thinks is an acceptable solution for the state’s pension crisis. The governor said he did so because he was tired of waiting for legislators to fix the problem, although options available are controversial and may be unconstitutional. Some called the action a ‘publicity stunt,’ while others said they hoped the governor’s plan spurred legislators to action.”

A very strong 66 percent of respondents said they approved of the governor’s action. Just 23 percent disapproved and 11 percent were uncertain. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent and 28 percent of the automated calls were made to mobile phones.

The results were pretty even, with 66 percent of women and 68 percent of men approving, while 65 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents approved. Disapproval was in the low to mid 20s for all.

The survey found that 80 percent of suburban Cook County residents, 74 percent of Collar County denizens and 68 percent of Chicagoans backed the governor’s action. The only comparative weakness was among Downstaters, but a majority of 52 percent still approved with 34 percent disapproving. I’d take those numbers any day.

Lots of folks were quoted in the media last week comparing Quinn’s move to the Rod Blagojevich legislative wars. They’re right to an extent. Blagojevich and Quinn have played from many of the same populist playbooks. The difference is, Quinn really believes in this stuff.

And keep in mind that Blagojevich was elected governor twice. He successfully played that populist card to the hilt. Battles with the General Assembly are popular outside the Statehouse.

So, we can probably expect more of this from Quinn. The public just eats it up and because his personal polling numbers are so bad and because he’s failed at so many things it’s his only clear path to political victory.

But win or lose, this veto will come with a huge legislative pricetag. Legislators have, indeed, been dragging their feet on a pension reform deal for a very long time. But they have their reasons and they understandably hate being publicly embarrassed like this. Quinn has now made some very serious and long-lasting Statehouse enemies. He probably doesn’t care. But governance — and therefore the state — is gonna suffer.

Subscribers have full crosstabs.

I’ll post the rest of the column in a separate thread.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:02 am:

    I’m curious about the Downstate numbers. Could it be that there are a greater percentage of public workers Downstate, so they’re less inclined to look favorably on Banana Republic tactics to cut pensions?

  2. - Downstater - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:08 am:

    =Quinn has now made some very serious and long-lasting Statehouse enemies. He probably doesn’t care. But governance — and therefore the state — is gonna suffer.=
    Like it can get a lot worse in Illinois!!!

  3. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    Anyone want to venture a guess on poll numbers if the opening of this question were used on any other topic…school funding…carry…maybe even marriage equality?

    “Governor PQ used his veto powers to suspend the salaries of state senators and representatives until they come up with what he thinks is an acceptable solution for …….”

    Might have also been fun for questions like:
    1. Who is governor?
    2. Should government workers get pensions?
    3. Has PQ offered any specifics? A. NO
    4. Has PQ persuaded any one? A. NO
    5. Has anyone said they will change their position because PQ is extorting the salaries.

  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    “But governance — and therefore the state — is gonna suffer.”

    Honestly, Rich, how can it be any worse than his “governance” to date anyway? Whether people like it, hate it, or are ambivalent about it, I just don’t see it having any effect whatsoever on the pension policy. The Legislature will deal with or not– more likely not– on its own just as it has every other leadership decision since the Ryan administration.

  5. - Cassiopeia - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:12 am:

    Quinn ignores the fact that legislators have a lot of foot soldiers that will not be going door-to-door on his behalf come March and this can have a serious impact.

    I expect that voters will also be barraged with a lot of ads pointing out how incompetent, irresponsible and ineffective he has been as governor. The people may laugh at the antics of the clown but in the end they are not easily fooled, especially after falling for Blago twice.

  6. - lincolnlover - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:15 am:

    We downstate public employees don’t like the legislature any more than those who live in Chicago. It isn’t just that they can’t fix the pension problem, its that they can’t fix ANY problem. They waste their time making silly, fluffy laws instead of handling real issues like tax reform and public safety. I doubt that not paying them will make them work any harder, but, seriously, if I did my public job as badly as they do theirs, I would have been fired long ago, union or not.

  7. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:15 am:

    ===Honestly, Rich, how can it be any worse===

    Did you sleep through Rod’s reign?

  8. - Esquire - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:15 am:

    Illinois has not produced a solid Populist since William Jennings Bryan and he moved to Nebraska!

  9. - Levi - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    Don’t overlook, too, that Quinn has put AG Madigan between a rock and a hard place, as she’s asked to weigh in on the constitutionality of his move. If she sides with him, she gives him more gravitas and approbation and erodes some of the rationale for a run of her own. If she sides against him and with the General Assembly, she only adds support to the chief wariness that threatens her candidacy even in the germ, which is that she is in her father’s back pocket and is unable to be independent. Pols and professionals may not like him, but Quinn didn’t get to be governor by being an idiot, and he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

  10. - ZC - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:43 am:

    …. If only we’d voted for Mike Kelleher , back in 2002 ….

  11. - Fed up - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:44 am:

    As hard as it is for me to say. Quinn might of made a smart move here. Pension reform was going to get done anyways it probably won’t be constitutional but will get done. Now Quinn gets to act like it is his actions that caused the legislature to act.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    Is there enough of a feel out there in the entire state that a Robin Kelly type of campaign could evolve into one or two issues that poll very well and allow a Populist to get re-elected, again, like Rod got elected, and re-elected under the guise of these populist ideas …statewide … given downstate’s feelings on CCW.

    Given the climate, how much weight can you put into a polulist campaign to win, given the other factors that are effecting this governor negatively in a re-elect?

    I guess that is why you poll things…

  13. - Stones - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    It does no good to bully elected officials in this fashion. The constitution would prohibit this but imagine reducing / eliminating a Judge’s salary following an unpopular ruling. To me, it just smacks of a stunt from someone who doesn’t know how to play in the sandbox.

  14. - MrGrassroots - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:03 am:

    It is not so much that this “populist” move by Quinn is wildly popular, as much as it sucks the oxygen out of Bill Daley’s campaign. Note the one-line reaction by Bill Daley’s campaign to the biggest news story of the past two to three days.

  15. - Madison - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:03 am:

    Does anybody know if the AV is a constituitional remedy by the governor or simply a process introduced by an act of the legislature? If so, it needs to be taken away from kids they they don’t hurt themselves or somebody else.

  16. - Madison - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:05 am:

    So they…

  17. - Norseman - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    The problem with the Blago/Quinn years is that too many decisions have been made on what is smart politically for the man instead of how to best govern the state.

  18. - RNUG - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    Madison @ 11:03 am

    The AV was put in place by the 1970 IL Constitution

  19. - RNUG - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:14 am:

    As someone who doesn’t trust government, even my own party members, Quinn’s move plays well on my “throw all the SOBs out” sentiment.

    As someone who also understands the constitutional issues, I see Quinn’s AV as a major threat to the entire representational process.

  20. - My thoughts... - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    Bravo to Rich and Eric Zorn. Since Quinn’s press conference announcing the salary freeze they are the only voices in the media expressing concern about the slippery slope the Guv is on with this move. I can’t believe the Sun-Times editorial board is okay with this. The Tribune’s position is no surprise…but still, aren’t the editorial boards supposed to be the adults in the room during big policy debates? Even the more ideological editorial boards usually advocate reasonable, middle-ground solutions and leave the p.r. histrionics to the politicians.

    Of course, the Tribune not only enthusiastically approved Quinn’s stunt, they begged him to do it a couple of weeks ago. That illustrates just how personally invested some of their editorial board members are in the pension debate. That’s fine — it’s obviously well within their right. But they should be careful about what they’re giving up. First, they’ve surrendered any moral authority to criticize Quinn or any other governor who suspends the General Assembly’s pay in the future, or for that matter, the General Assembly if they do the same thing to the governor. You really can’t maintain your credibly and be okay with ignoring the most basic tenant of American government — the separation of powers — “just this one time.”

    But more importantly, the Tribune is chipping away at whatever influence and integrity they have left as an editorial board. By going “all-in” in support of a showboating gimmick by the governor, they have finally given up on any pretense of serving as determined-but-sober advocates of pension reform. They look like emotional partisans, which will erode their “brand” in the long term. People might pay a little more attention to their editorials given all the arm waving they’re doing — and in the internet age that might be a good marketing strategy by the Trib. Maybe there are more page views in that. But by giving up their traditional, intellectually honest position on the center-right of the public debate, they’re becoming less of a factor in influencing policy and elections.

  21. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:20 am:

    Did I sleep through Rod’s reign? No, sadly, I had to endure working in it. But Quinn is every bit as ineffectual as Blago, just less criminal.

    Cass says it well here:
    “I expect that voters will also be barraged with a lot of ads pointing out how incompetent, irresponsible and ineffective he has been as governor. The people may laugh at the antics of the clown but in the end they are not easily fooled, especially after falling for Blago twice.”

  22. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:20 am:

    ===I see Quinn’s AV as a major threat to the entire representational process.===

    The fact that the GA overrode the Amendatory Veto so quickly, with limited discussion, makes me take solace in the fact that representative government is working in Illinois.

    The broad powers of the Executive to AV legislation, which sometimes leads to a comnplete re-writing of what was passed, led to the GA to use its powers to override the specific Veto, all the while leaving that broad power of the Executive the same as it was before Quinn used the AV.

    Watching the sausage get made makes even the most weathered observers queasy.

  23. - walkinfool - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    Word: Or could it be that many downstaters just cannot bring themselves to give Quinn any credit at all?

  24. - RNUG - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 12:02 pm:

    Oswego Willy,

    I was referring to Quinn A/V lining out the GA’s salaries … don’t believe that has been overridden yet.

    I agree with your remarks re CCW.

  25. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    - RNUG -,

    Apologies on my confusion.

    To the salaries, yeah, tough to think representative government might be compromised by if the legislators are paid for being good or bad to a governor, but I guess Madigan not pushing the override is allowing the whole situation to fester, leaving Quinn with fewer opportunities to have tools available to grandstand(?)

    That may be the “lead”, buried in all of this; Madigan not overriding leads to what?

    All good, - RNUG -, apologies.

  26. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 12:13 pm:

    Stupid “smart” phone …

    Above was me.

  27. - Demoralized - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 12:16 pm:

    ==Does anybody know if the AV is a constituitional remedy by the governor or simply a process introduced by an act of the legislature?==

    It’s in the state Constitution. Illinois has a very powerful governor in terms of his abilities to do things under the state Constitution.

  28. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 12:28 pm:

    i think the poll reflects general disgust w govt, esp state govt, from top to bottom. quinn is playing to that w the AV. the public eats it up, but in the meanwhile very few, other than rich and zorn, suggest it is a bad way to go. it is difficult/impossible for legislators to defend themselves.

    so this round goes to quinn. but payback is a “witch”. anything quinn wants or needs from the GA is DOA. if he does manage to get anything, he will pay a pound of flesh.

    meanwhile, on the campaign trail, every candidate will be piling on Q. deservedly so. if the election were this november, he might divide and conquer. but we have 16 months to go. if this is his only play, it will be long forgotten.

  29. - dupage dan - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 2:04 pm:

    The Tribune must be looking at these numbers and lamenting the fact that they can’t seem to get all those folks to buy their paper despite the fact that the paper has seemed to have bought the whole populist view that Quinn has.

    Dr Pavlov would be have given Quinn an A++++++.

  30. - Woodpecker50 - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 5:13 pm:

    Good luck trying to sell newspapers after siding with the Squeeze. I admit I never subscribed and never will. The paper and Squeeze are doomed.

  31. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, Jul 15, 13 @ 8:20 pm:

    Fabulous, insightful Column…thanks for the free Read and reflection!

  32. - Flan - Tuesday, Jul 16, 13 @ 8:03 am:

    I have to ask, why do you go with the rest of the media herd and call it “pension reform”? Reform means the system is broken. The pension system isn’t broken, it’s underfunded and has been for years. “Patent reform” is an accurate term, since our patent system in this country is utterly broken and needs repaired.

    This is pension reduction. It is not reform. Please stop confusing the two terms.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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