The Illinois News Network reported some big news about a new national “political power” record that was set this week:
Illinois’ longest serving House speaker is now the United State’s longest serving statehouse speaker.
The title was held for years by a South Carolina politician from the 1970s, but the title now goes to Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan.
Madigan has been speaker of the Illinois House every year since 1983, except for two years in the 1990s when Republicans were in the majority.
INN also notes that Madigan has held a seat in the House since 1971, and has “been elected by Democratic members of the Illinois House for 17 two-year terms” to be their caucus leader. (Madigan has been Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1998.)
It is very popular these days for Republicans and conservatives in Illinois to claim that the root of all the problems in this state is Speaker Madigan.
Don’t count me among that group — I admire Madigan. He wins. Even as his Democratic Party, with the help of Illinois Republicans, makes a mess of the state.
Many political leaders, when faced with such a horrendous tenure, would be defeated. Maybe not in their relatively small government loving legislative district. But the chances are good that they would at least lose their leadership position, in this case, the Speakership.
Not Madigan. Mike is so good at winning that he even won four of the five election cycles in the 1990s when the map favored Republicans.
Some may rightfully argue that I give Madigan too much credit — and they have a point. After all, look at Madigan’s opponents for the past 34 years: Illinois Republicans.
As much as Mike deserves credit for winning, Illinois Republicans deserve blame for losing.
Between 1977 and 2003, Republican governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, and George Ryan could have used their office to make the case to the Illinois public about how Republican principles should carry the day. After all, Illinois was “red” (in a presidential election) as recently as 1992. If they had, Madigan would have been out.
Republicans held the Illinois state senate for ten years during the 1993-2003 GOP-favoring district map. Yet as I’ve mentioned before, that senate caucus left the state in worse shape than when it took power. If they had used their bully pulpit, Madigan would have been out.
Since the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion went Democrat in the 2000s, the decline of the Illinois fiscal situation has accelerated. Unfortunately, that decline has not stopped since Governor Bruce Rauner took office.
It’s Mike Madigan’s fault, right?
Rauner has spent tens of millions of dollars and failed to present a message effectively to Illinoisans about what the real problem is — and it’s not Mike. It’s Republicans and conservatives failing to win the information war.
Mike Madigan has been winning for a very long time — and he shouldn’t be. As the late Jack Roeser used to say when it came to governmental policy boondoggles, Illinois is “a target rich environment.”
Yet Republicans and conservatives continue to miss those targets.
Point your focus on almost any area of state spending and you could create a clever media campaign about it in a way that brings attention to what foolish politicians of both parties have been sanctioning for decades.
Yes, those words “a clever media campaign” might need to be translated so our Illinois Republican elected officials and the GOP consultant class can understand them. I’ll give them a preview of what is not a clever media campaign: Rauner in silly shirts talking about duct tape — or any ad that mentions Speaker Mike.
Genuine reform will not come to Illinois until Republicans and conservatives take and learn from a free class like the one offered here. If they are unwilling to be public opinion leaders, they should step aside so men and women who have a clue can get the job done.
Serious and massive change, like what is required in Illinois, is not possible without serious and massive public support.
One of the biggest obstacles to reform is the serious and massive power of the governmental employee unions. Unions bring money and votes to the fight.
Let me ask you a serious and massive question: why is it that so many of our GOP politicians fear the government employee unions when they are outnumbered ten-to-one in population? Simple math: win the majority of the 90-plus percentage of the non-government employees and you win votes and elections.
Plus Rauner and friends, with their serious and massive wallets, can easily outspend those unions.
Complicated, isn’t it?
Let me close by congratulating Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on setting a new national record for holding power. I wish you were a conservative Republican. If you were, this state would be like Texas when it comes to creating jobs and attracting talent.
Except for two years in the mid-1990s, Republicans for 34 years have been unable to unseat Mike from the Speaker’s chair. He has taken on all comers and is still at the top.
Holding power, of course, isn’t the same thing as governing responsibly. But Democrats will do what Democrats will do. It’s the job of the Republicans to prevent them from doing it by winning majorities in the General Assembly. They have failed — and set a national record in the process.
Image credit: BlueRoomStream and www.ilnews.org.