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The more things change…

Monday, Aug 28, 2017

* Back in what I believe was the late 1990s, I wrote a story about how several people along a parade route screamed a perjorative term for “homosexual” that begins with an “f” at then-state Rep. Kurt Granberg. As I recall, it was a tongue in cheek story about how the screamers were not only out of bounds, but they were also wrong about the legislator’s sexual orientation.

So, I didn’t really get too awful fired up about this incident

It is disturbing, but all too easy in today’s political climate, to picture the reality state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez recently found herself in.

A spectator yelled “We hate you” at Jimenez, her husband, 4-year-old twins and mother as they walked in the Illinois State Fair parade. One of her sons asked his grandmother if the man hated him; she downplayed the incident, and the boy theorized perhaps the man was upset because he didn’t get any candy.

That may pacify the child now, but as he hears more insults hurled at his mother, how do his parents explain that a growing number of Americans have enthusiastically embraced the misplaced notion that incivility toward an elected official is a duty?

Not cool at all, but at least the person didn’t scream profanities at her.

* The SJ-R followed up with a story entitled “For some lawmakers, frustration a factor in leaving legislature.” But some of these problems have been with us for generations

He also said citizens have changed, “and I think social media is a part of that, where it’s just so easy for people to be very visceral and not gather the facts – just spout off. It’s not as much fun as what it once was.”

Yes, social media does concentrate the kooks because they can more easily find each other and commiserate about their miserable lives. It’s made even worse when groups deliberately cultivate that anger and weaponize it against legislators. But the citizenry has been spouting off since even before they dumped tea into the Boston Harbor.

I will agree that times aren’t as fun as they used to be. But maybe that’s because I’m getting older.

* More

Mitchell and other departing legislators point at issues like the expansion of the campaign cycle, gerrymandering of districts and the lack of term limits for legislative leaders as contributing causes for the impasse. […]

Mitchell agreed that said House members on two-year campaign cycles have really always been in the constant-campaign mode – starting a term in January and starting to circulate petitions the following September for the next year’s election.

Those petition deadlines have been in place for eons, as has gerrymandering, as has no term limits for leaders.

* This, however, is a very real change

“I’m a moderate Republican, yet I still got elected. That doesn’t happen a lot.”

Judy Baar Topinka was pro-choice on about 90 percent of all issues when she ran for governor in 2006, but she was labeled pro-life by the ardent pro-choicers and pro-abortion by the pro-lifers. That trend had already started, but you won’t find any pro-choice Republicans in the General Assembly these days. They’ve dropped out, lost primaries or lost general elections to Democrats.

And I get the feeling that there won’t be very many House Republicans who are open to tax hikes elected to the 101st General Assembly.

At the same time, conservative, Downstate, rural Democrats have become an endangered species. That trend began with the Civil Rights era, kicked up hard in 1994 and has recently accelerated again.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:12 pm:

    A man screaming at a woman with her toddlers and mother?

    That would be the definition of a gutless loser.

  2. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:18 pm:

    The loss of the Blue dogs….

    IMHO social media has created an anonymity that unfortunetly encouraged incivility. people have awkays been uncovil, but in my youth you had to gather in person to socialize and rant, and it seemed people were a lot less rude. we have dehumanized ourselves and opened wider a dark inhuman side. Not to mention fewer people crusing the springfield strip looking for social gatherings.

  3. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:23 pm:

    well maybe some of the politicians need to tone down the rhetoric themselves. It has become routine to just label your opposition as racist, or make personnel attacks on anyone who doesn’t vote the way they do. Seems very thin skinned of elected officials to be offended by behavior they are doing themselves all to often.

  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:25 pm:

    Terrible but very common for this to happen in many professions. Daily or at least weekly for teachers. Heck, you don’t even have to be in public. Pick up a newspaper, go online and you see disparagement.

    The malcontents have been even more emboldened by our times.

  5. - illini - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:27 pm:

    - conservative, Downstate, rural Democrats have become an endangered species - And we are perhaps on the verge of becoming even more irrelevant in the political dynamics of today.

    Some of this is self inflicted, and some is a result of the societal, racial and economic changes in the past 20 or more years.

    There have been some giants in the Democrat Party, both at the state as well as federal level, that have come from Southern Illinois, but those days seem like ancient history right now.

  6. - DeseDemDose - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    Yelling at mom and toddlers? Who does that guy think he is…Trump?

  7. - Canon - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    Obviously there is a lack of decorum in politics and people need to respect boundaries.

    In addition though, I would say politicians must understand that there will be at times a nexus between campaign rhetoric and governing.

    Sara ran a million dollar campaign talking about opposing tax hikes and blasting madigan’s tax hikes. 6 months after being sworn in she voted to raise taxes. Such a lack of authenticity is going to upset people.

  8. - Jocko - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    The spectator sounds like a real pillar of the community.

    This is, unfortunately, a by-product of partisan politics, where compromise is viewed as capitulation. I wonder where IPI comes down on this issue. /s

  9. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:30 pm:

    Anonymous 12:23 Wojicki never played that name calling game. I think its a legitimate concern that we have subsumed incivility so much we place a hate tweeter in charge.

  10. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:34 pm:

    Rich, it has nothing to do with age. Times are not as fun as they used to be.

  11. - Out Here In The Middle - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:35 pm:

    Canon — Is it just possible that two years without a budget, two years stiffing social services agencies, changed her idea about what was possible? What was doable? Whether the ends justified the means? If every candidate is absolutely locked into whatever they say in a campaign few will stand up to your evaluation.

  12. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:38 pm:

    During the State Fair Parade while PQ was Gov, some guy started screaming at the Gov. “where’s my raise”. I thought the parade watchers were going to pummel the guy. He seemed to lose his courage when people around him who didn’t work for the State turned on him.

  13. - Out Here In The Middle - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:40 pm:

    Anonymous @ 12:23. So all are branded by the actions of a few? By your logic politicians as a group would be justified in writing voters off as a bunch of incoherent, unstable malcontents just because they saw one adult loser scream at a family in a parade.

  14. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:42 pm:

    To, for me, make this Illinois centric further,

    When the Illinois House went to single-member districts, that was a beginning of the peeling away of different takes from the same region.

    Republicans in Chicago, Democrats in the Collars, back then, allowed a real seeing of “forced” diversity in Caucuses, Repubs and Dems alike, and an understanding of regionalism not seen since.

    Now, with districts painted and racked in strength of party and position, with region and local biases baked into the borders of drawn map(s), it’s become so micromanaged and tailored to “Senate District 60″ or “House District 119″

    Instead of Red and Blue… It’s black and white to the numbers and polling within the Red or Blue, creating an animosity of “losing” or “winning” a district solely for the Leader of the Caucus to have leverage, and that district feeling represented by what that polling frames, Red or Blue.

    To the lack of civility, I look at what I wrote above as a genesis to that lack of civility, exacerbated by 4 Leaders seeing maps as paths to 60 and 30, and creating binary choices that foster animosity… that gets fueled by votes members know may not be popular, but are right… and the horrific and distatesful reactions they may here.

  15. - Chuckee Baby - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    Will Democrats admit that they have Haters amongst them?

  16. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:44 pm:

    I’m sorry Rep. Jimenez had to hear and face those words in front of her child and family, as I’m disappointed in public reactions that lack respect.

  17. - 360 Degree TurnAround - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:49 pm:

    I feel like the press bears some responsibility in this as well. no where near sole responsibility. But how many times do you see negative headlines about congress or the general assembly? Most legislators are good people on both sides of the aisle. But too often editorial boards and columnists deride the whole body, making it easier to pick on a individual legislators.

  18. - Stones - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    Speaking as the son of a former legislator, I heard many nasty things said about my dad growing up. It took a toll on me at a very impressionable age. I don’t think most politicians have an appreciation of the toll a nasty campaign takes on their family, particularly their children.

  19. - Montrose - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:56 pm:

    “Will Democrats admit that they have Haters amongst them?”

    There are haters on all sides. That’s not the point of this post.

  20. - someonehastosayit - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:57 pm:

    Bill Mitchell claimed to be a moderate Republican?

  21. - abc - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 12:58 pm:

    I was Anon 12:23. I am not defending yelling insults just stating the rhetoric from elected officials on both sides is appalling and for them to now whine about getting some back is hypocritical. No longer will either side attempt to work across the isle on an issue its just jump right to attack mode. Yelling insults is going to be a minor inconvenience going forward, I expect more violence from both sides going forward. Not sure what the catalyst for change will be but a political shooting at baseball practice was just ignored pretty quickly, so yes their will be more blood, because no one wants to be the adult and demand a stop to the hateful rhetoric by either side.

  22. - Lt Guv - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:01 pm:

    That’s a really important observation Stones. Thank you. While you may despise the official, their kids don’t deserve to be damaged by the vitriol.

  23. - Boone's is Back - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Just want to add that yes gerrymandering isn’t anything new, but they didn’t have google maps to microtargeting down to an individual home before.

    Money in politics also isn’t anything new but I can’t recall this many billionaires in the foray before.

  24. - NoGifts - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Really, I am looking forward to good manners and discretion making their way back into general society. For some reason, they have fallen out of favor and are now viewed as weaknesses. :(

  25. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    Rep. Jimenez voted with Rauner against AFSCME and the legislation that would have put a leash on Rauner’s messing with the contract negotiations, in a district with a lot of state workers. She wasn’t the deciding vote, but she didn’t help labor.

    The blow-back is inevitable, when it’s a vote that influences a truly existential threat to many families living in Springfield. She didn’t “vote her district” at all, and it angered many.

    That doesn’t excuse the guy yelling like that, not at all, but it goes a ways to explaining it. People get like that when external forces or authorities they have few controls over, start to toy with their livelihoods. They are frustrated and scared for their future. They’re going to let you know about it. This kind of thing has always been a part of the job, like it or not.

  26. - Chicago 20 - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    Most people are seeing their standard of living declining or stagnant.
    Politicians play to their concerns by giving them a reason, a person or a group that they claim is responsible for their problems.
    Every election cycle is only gets worse and now with unlimited dark money the truth doesn’t seem to matter.
    After the Citizens United decision, political campaigns are non-stop now. Elected officials are representing their benefactors instead of their constituents.

  27. - anon2 - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:21 pm:

    It wasn’t Mitchell, it was Andersson who called himself a moderate Republican. Yet he is well to the right of GOP moderates of 15 years ago like Reps. Mulligan, Beaubien, Coulson, Krause, and Kurtz.

  28. - Roman - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    Another potential reason for state legislators catching more “heat” these days: “Springfield” has been in the news more frequently the last few years than it used to be — and it ain’t good news. A couple of tax increases, pension reform, etc.

    Maybe my memory is faulty, but it seems to me that 25 years ago, the only time the General Assembly led the 10:00 news in Chicago was on the last night of session — it represented the rare occasion when the TV political reporters would actually stray from City Hall. That’s not the case anymore.

    Now throw Rauner’s millions into the mix and we get Springfield-centered political advertising year ’round. Nobody knew who Mike Madigan was in 1997, as the House GOPers found every time they tried to build their message around beating him. In 2017, everyone knows who Mike Madigan is thanks to Rauner’s cash. And the political animosity that stuff inspires splashes on all GA members, regardless of party.

  29. - PDJT - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:25 pm:

    “and I think social media is a part of that, where it’s just so easy for people to be very visceral and not gather the facts – just spout off.”

    I wouldn’t be too quick to blame social media.
    It used to be that when you tuned into the evening news you saw well dressed anchors and reporters calmly reporting the events of the day. If there was a controversial point made, opposing viewpoints were invited to come on air and present a different side. This type of intellectual evaluation of the facts is struggling to survive today.
    Ever since a foreign entity was allowed to operate a massive “news” agency within our boarders (I’m referring to the Australian owned Fox News, of course), it has become a winners vs losers game, and all too often the winners are the ones who yell the loudest.
    Social media came of age in this environment, and as a result it reflects this decay of demeanor.

  30. - RNUG - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:41 pm:

    Guess I’m old fashioned. Family is off limits unless they insert themselves (aka Diana Rauner).You still respect the office even if you disagree with the person holding the position. If, for example, Gov Rauner is marching in the Fair Parade, no need to boo him or cuss him out … but if he runs up to you, you have no obligation to shake his hand.

    Both parties are losing their middle ground. Personally, I think government works better when the GOP stay out of my bedroom and the D’s stay out of my pocket book.

    We need more fiscally conservative / socially moderate politics, not less. Now all we get most the time is a far left or far right choice. So the country, which seems to prefer the middle, lurches back and forth from one extreme to the other in an effort to balance things.

  31. - Glengarry - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 1:52 pm:

    I hate the tone of American politics today. At all levels. However, this disgusts me at a personal level.

  32. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 2:08 pm:

    Anon 1:21 is spot on.

    In 2003, the GOP was much closer to the center of Illinois ideology.

    By 2006, the center had started to collapse and by 2008, Tea Party elements had pretty much taken over.

    The new GOP has been especially hard on all moderate women, not just Topinka: Corinne Wood, Beth Coulson, Loleta Didrikson, Christine Radogno, Susie Bassi, Carolyn Krause, Patti Lindner, Eileen Lyons, Rosemary Mulligan, Sandy Pihos.

    Moderate men have moved along, but at a much slower pace. House Republicans have been pretty much purging themselves of women over the past two decades, and barring some pretty miraculous candidate recruitment this year, that is a trend that seems likely to continue as Jimenez, Bellock, Wheeler leave.

  33. - yinn - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 2:14 pm:

    This touches a nerve with me. I’ve been appalled at how abusive some of Rep. Bob Pritchard’s constituents have been to him on Facebook since the budget vote.

  34. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 2:15 pm:


    Durkin, House Member, the first go round…

    Durkin, House Member, this go round.


  35. - Responsa - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 2:31 pm:

    For me the big difference is that the ideal of practical public service and reasonable compromise to achieve that goal for the citizenry across party and economic lines seems to have been almost lost–replaced by utterly polarized identity politics tied to organizational interests and personal power. The discussions about school funding on other threads today appear to bear this out.

  36. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 2:41 pm:

    Citizens have been repearedly lied to.
    “We have a spending problem”
    “Because Madigan”
    “There is enough waste and fraud to not raise taxes”
    “Public unions are ripping you off”

    Jimenez played that game, got elected and discovered she was wrong. Then when reality struck, she had to vote for it and then face the folks who believed her before.

    Republicans have been promising Cadillac government at Walmart prices. What they got is Walmart government and higher prices due to reality.

    Citizens are demanding free stuff. Democrats say that the rich can pay for it, and Republicans say that the Democrats and Chicago are ripping them off. Rauner blames Madigan, unions and anything convenient, and Democrats blame the wealthy.

    So voters hate the other side.

    Voters need to be told the truth.
    There are no free lunches or enough waste anf fraud to give them free things like lowered taxes, food, housing,and medicines.

    These same people pay higher prices on stuff everyday. Why would anyone think governments are exempt from that reality?

    They are lied to.

  37. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 3:08 pm:

    Frustration levels are at an all time high. Understandably our state’s debt is mindblowing. Program cuts are making people desperate. When some see the extravagant things pols get (for example health insurance), what intelligent person wouldn’t be angry? In these times with social media, everyone who has a mouth seems to be encouraged to use it. No surprise that verbal attacks happen more often.

  38. - downstate commissioner - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 3:15 pm:

    Wouldn’t have voted for Jimenez if I could have (got stuck with Butler instead) when she was elected. Betrayed all of her local govt. employees when she could. Finally sees the light and votes against Rauner. Announces that she will not seek reelection. Think Mitchell and her finally became moderates….

  39. - Res Melius - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 3:22 pm:

    To the post, I think Illinois lost its unique advantage towards middle ground (reps from both parties in each house district) with the Pat Quinn-initiated legislative cutback amendment in 1980. Prior to this, voices for both parties were represented throughout the state. Although not perfect, but it beats the “extremes” we have now. I believe Judy Barr Topinka was a beneficiary and demonstrates what can happen when you don’t mandate a litmus test on all party positions.

  40. - don the legend - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 4:27 pm:

    That $100,000 assistant to the First Lady gig also gets people riled up.

  41. - Loop Lady - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 4:37 pm:

    This type of behavior is inexcusable. Public officials wear the jacket for their votes. 24 hour news cycle FB Instagram etc.
    Internet trolls everywhere. An uber polarized political climate.
    Us vs them mentality. Compromise is capitulation.

    Who in their right mind would want to run for public office these days?

  42. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 17 @ 6:31 pm:

    ==Who in their right mind would want to run for public office these days?==

    Substitute run for public office with work in a public job. Same stuff. Those that serve are targets for abuse (unfairly and unjustly). But all people paid with public funds are harassed these days.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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