* From House Speaker Chris Welch…
February 7, 2022
Leader Jim Durkin
316 State House
Springfield, Illinois 62706
I was recently asked in a public radio interview if I was worried about the future of our democracy. While I truly believe our great American experiment will prevail, I am growing increasingly worried about the incivility and disrespect that has become near commonplace in political discourse.
Less than 5 hours after I answered that question about our democracy, another one of our Democratic colleagues was forced to close her office due to repeated death threats against her and her family after a radical and dangerous disinformation campaign seized on yet another chance to further divide our citizens. The situation was made worse when a member of your Republican caucus issued a statement fanning the flames of this vitriol with the same inaccurate information. I sincerely hope the representative is merely misinformed, in which I will call on you to set the record straight, because purposefully mischaracterizing the intentions of our colleagues for political gain must stop. If we are to restore public trust and faith in government, we must do it together with honesty, decency and respect for one another.
At least four of our Democratic colleagues have received threats against their lives, their loved ones or their place of worship in recent months. I know your caucus is no stranger to this unacceptable behavior, as we witnessed those who voted to end the Rauner budget impasse suffer a similar fate. We also saw this on full display at the national level when Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger was not only censured by his party for rightfully holding former President Donald Trump accountable for a deadly insurrection on our U.S. Capitol, but was also shunned by his family and met with hostility from far-right constituents. We’ve all watched this intolerant partisanship worsen each year poisoning our politics, and it is now seeping into the crevasses of our daily lives.
I write to you not to blame a single ideology or political party; we all share responsibility to ensure civility remains in our politics. But, it is time we take an active role in finding and being a part of the solution. If we are to restore common courtesy and civil disagreements that the very fabric of our democracy relies upon, it must start with us as leaders.
I say often, Illinois’ great strength is our diversity. But, it’s our unity that helps us forge a brighter path for tomorrow. I hope you can work with me to help heal our increasingly divided state by standing firm for our democratic values and always operating with mutual respect for all people. There are times when we will fundamentally disagree, but it’s our right and our responsibility to find solutions, areas of compromise and a common purpose in government.
Let’s make a conscious effort to bring civility back to Springfield. I hope you’ll join me. Sincerely,
Emanuel “Chris” Welch
Speaker of the House
I have asked Leader Durkin’s spokesperson for a response.
*** UPDATE *** Leader Durkin’s response…
February 7, 2022
House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch
Room 300 Illinois State Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
As I reflect on the state of politics today, I firmly believe we are a better General Assembly and a better state when respectful voices are heard. As elected officials, we all share a great passion for the direction of Illinois, but when words and actions cross the line from disagreement to threats, I will always speak up as I have done on this issue. No one in a free society should ever be tolerant of threats.
I am not immune to the constant barrage of threats and harassment, nor are members of my caucus, but we can never let the fringe elements that neither party is immune from control the narrative. In an effort to be part of the solution, I encourage you to allow the voices of the minority party to be heard and not continue to be disregarded. Cooperation and civility is a two-way street. I will always commit to intellectual integrity, honesty and fair play – a better approach.
House Republican Leader