Answers to 'How?' and 'What next?' after election

Posted11/18/2014 5:01 AM

A remarkable Election Day is now two weeks behind us, giving this professor time to reflect on both past and future for Illinois. Here are some of my thoughts.

On the governor's race


Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo once said you campaign with poetry but you govern with prose -- meaning it's easier to promise what you will do if elected than it is to defend what you actually did in office. The Pat Quinn/Bruce Rauner contest followed that maxim but with a twist.

Rauner ran a "noun-less" campaign. Specifics were seldom mentioned and if uttered they were often open to candidate reinterpretation. Boycotting nouns gave Rauner the opportunity to run a "verb" campaign, keying on the words shake and change. In all the long years I have studied Illinois politics, I cannot remember a winning candidate avoiding policy specifics throughout both the primary and general elections. Kudos to him and his campaign team. Why? They stuck to his game plan and it worked.

As for Quinn, his run of incredible political luck simply ran out. Incomplete election returns show his vote percentages across the state dropping slightly, but significantly compared to 2010. In the end, Quinn -- a master campaigner -- could not overcome Rauner's dollars -- newspaper endorsements and Illinois' financial condition. However, kudos to him also -- he kept the contest close and played a bad political hand the best he could.

On Michael Madigan

The 2014 election provided the Illinois House speaker and state Democratic Party chairman with a daunting challenge. He had to defend 71 House districts (many in Rauner country) that had given him a super House majority following the 2012 elections. At the same time, he had to face brutal criticism of his record and reputation from both Republicans, especially the well-financed Rauner, and newspaper editorial boards across the state. Madigan's responded to this one-two punch by saying nothing -- an old Madigan maxim.

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Instead, he relied on his vast political skills, his pile of campaign funds and his potent statewide organization to combat his opponents and win all 71 districts. To be sure, much has been made of the current favorable Democratic legislative map, artfully crafted by Madigan, to diminish his accomplishment, but it must be remembered that following the 1991 redistricting by the Republicans, Madigan lost his Democratic majority only once during that decade.

His press spokesman, Steve Brown, gave me the following explanation for Madigan's remarkable triumph: "I believe Democrats run solid constituent service programs which are as important as vote records ... (which) always 'dilutes' the anti-Madigan as a devil blather." Interesting!

Whatever the reasons for Madigan's success in Illinois legislative elections, this fact remains: Like the Mighty Mississippi, Mike Madigan just keeps rolling along.

On the state's future

The next Illinois General Assembly may be the most important session in recent history. All

political spins and clichés aside, the basic answer to Illinois financial/budgetary/pension crisis is coldly simple. State government needs more revenue, and it must cut its expenditures. How this will come about is the great political unknown -- but to the taxpayers and tax takers of Illinois, it must happen.

• Paul Green is director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University in Chicago and Schaumburg.

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