Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Turmoil In Illinois Democratic Politics


This morning, I was pointing out that conservatives, generally corrupt, infiltrate the Democratic Party, which they use as a vehicle for their careerism, while wrecking the party's brand, tugging it inexorably towards the money-friendly right. The linked post is about Members of Congress. But, of course, this starts at the local level. Illinois has it's share of corrupt conservative Democrats in Congress, of course, including vile Blue Dogs Dan Lipinski and Cheri Bustos and New Dem Bill Foster. And Schumercrat/Rahmocrat Tammy Duckworth isn't exactly good news for progressives either. In fact, when Duckworth, now Schumer's Senate candidate, first ran for the House, it was against progressive Christine Cegelis and today, coincidentally-- and not related to the point of this post-- Cegelis endorsed Mike Noland against sleazy New Dem-type Raja Krishnamoorthi, pointing out that Mike "is the only candidate in this race with a proven record of supporting the progressive values we all share." [You can contribute to Mike's campaign here on the Blue America ActBlue page.]

A couple of days ago, Andy Grimm wrote a piece for the Chicago Sun-Times about a race in a long, skinny Chicago state House district-- the 5th-- just west of Lake Michigan that stretches from the South Side’s Grand Crossing neighborhood to the Near North Side. It's one of the bluest districts in the entire state-- chunks of Danny Davis' 7th CD and Bobby Rush's 1st CD; Obama scored 85.5% against Romney there.

Before we get into Grimm's story, let's look at the background. Illinois Democrats have a 71 to 47 super-majority in the state House, exactly the number they need to override vetoes from the state's right-wing governor, Republican Bruce Rauner). Problem is Ken Dunkin, who represents the 5th. He's an ego-centric careerist, unconcerned with policy, in Rauner's pocket, and he's refused to be that 71st vote needed to override, most recently on a couple of bills that attempted to invalidate Rauner's obsessive austerity efforts to cut social service programs.

So how crooked is Dunkin? Plenty crooked, to the point of taking the biggest legalistic bribe that anyone can remember to an Illinois state legislator. The quid pro quo for helping Rauner was a $500,000 check from the Illinois Opportunity Project, a Republican PAC founded by Hate Talk Radio host Dan Proft.

Speaker Mike Madigan is apoplectic over Dunkin and his serial betrayals and would like to see him defeated for reelection and they're openly supporting attorney Juliana Stratton's campaign against Dunkin in the March 15 primary. Julianna Stratton, his opponent is basically being endorsed by the Democratic Party against him. Last week it was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Secretary of State Jesse White, Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis, as well as AFSCME and the SEIU. Stratton isn't pulling any punches. "Ken Dunkin," she told the media, "took a half a million dollar thank you gift for voting against our families. That is not putting people over politics."

Dunkin has repeatedly struck back with shenanigans aimed at attacking the Illinois Democratic Party-- who he calls "monkeys"-- and is trying to make the race all about him vs Madigan claiming, for example, that the "Mike Madigan slave mentality of his plantation politics is real," and calling Stratton Madigan's puppet.

Today, even President Obama, visiting Springfield, chimed in after Dunkin interrupted his speech several times. This afternoon Obama told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that they and the nation should insist on a "better politics" based on civility and compromise as a cure to the "poisonous political climate" that pushes citizens away.
While directing his remarks about political dysfunction largely at Washington, Obama did make references to Illinois' historic stalemate that has kept the state without a budget for eight months.

The president noted his support for unions and collective bargaining to improve the middle class, earning the cheers of Democrats who are battling Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to push a pro-business, union-weakening agenda in exchange for a state budget agreement.

More pointedly, Obama singled out Democratic state Rep. Ken Dunkin, of Chicago, who has sided with Rauner on several issues to deny House Speaker Michael Madigan a 71-vote, veto-proof majority. Dunkin is facing a primary challenge and is being backed for re-election by Rauner allies.

Obama said reaching political compromise across the aisle "doesn't make me a sell out to my own party." Then the president said, "We'll talk later, Dunkin. Sit down," as Democrats erupted into wild cheers.

In reciting what he called the ills of modern-day politics, Obama said the problems were not that politicians were worse or that issues have become more complicated.

"We've always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck, and when that happens we have to find a new way of doing business. We're in one of those moments. We have to build a better politics," he said.

"What's different today is the nature and extent of the polarization," Obama said, citing political parties that have become more homogeneous in their ideology, a fractured media, advocacy groups and "unlimited dark money."

"So often these debates, particularly in Washington but increasingly in state legislatures, become abstractions," he said, adding that voters have become turned off by a politics that "encourages the kind of ideological fealty that rejects any form of compromise as weakness."

At various points in his speech, Obama noted that while Democrats would stand and applaud, Republicans stayed largely in their seats-- a symbol of the political divide in Washington.

"One of my few regrets is to reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics," Obama said. "I was able to be part of that here and yet couldn't translate it the way I wanted to, to our politics in Washington."

Obama called for efforts to reduce what he called "the corrosive influence of money in our politics," an end to gerrymandered congressional districts and making it easier to vote. He called on Illinois lawmakers to approve pending legislation that would make voter registration automatic when people get their driver's licenses.

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