By: Mark Glennon


No, Illinois taxpayers aren’t going to put $100 million into the Obama presidential library as Governor Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan have proposed. It will be privately funded, as other recent presidential libraries have been, with money to spare. Barack and Michelle Obama will be exceptionally influential for decades, so heavy hitters seeking influence, loyal followers and Hollywood friends will cough up to get their names on every last plaque, theater, exhibit, brick or whatever that the library will have.


It will be on Chicago’s South Side, as it should be. Obama himself will make that decision next year. The notion that he would put it in New York or Hawaii is silly.


And it will be a good thing for Chicago to have.


So, why are House Speaker Mike Madigan, Governor Quinn and the Dem machine pushing that $100 million from the state? Why would Madigan pull the stunt, aggressive even by his standards, of shoving it through the House Executive Committee by counting members who weren’t even there to try to get it to the full House vote? Here’s why:


It’s about voter turnout in the Democratic base. This is an election year — silly season — when everything they do is for votes, and getting votes for the Democratic machine is all about turning out its base. Turnout: that’s what they are superb at and that’s why they usually win, and they get turnout by firing up their core voters.


Here’s how Madigan and the boys think this will work:


The $100 million funding proposal will die in either the House or the Senate. Just enough Democrats will vote ‘no’ to kill it but the outspoken opposition will be from Republicans, who will probably vote ‘no’ unanimously. Illinois will put its bid in for the library in May while Madigan and Quinn moan that the bid was ruined because public funding was stripped out. By the November election they will be telling their base in Chicago that Republicans have cost them their chance to win the library. “Those Obama-hating, Tea Party bigots who say ‘no’ to everything wrecked our shot at the library.” That’s just the kind of message they need to rile up their base to get turnout.


Think that’s an exaggeration? Not one bit. Madigan has already tipped his cards on this. From an article yesterday, here’s what he said while talking about the Fair Map initiative (which he also dumps on):


Put the Republicans in charge of something, and there’s going to be an adverse effect on minorities. Look at what happened on the immigration question. Look at what happened to the support for the Obama library in Chicago.


And there was this from his mouthpiece, er, spokesman, Steve Brown, talking about the library funding:


Some of our Republican friends decided to demonstrate their Tea Party gene because the word Obama was mentioned….  Prior to this little wave of Tea Party that flushed through Illinois since last week I was unaware of any real opposition.


That’s the message they will pound into their base to get turnout. The decision on the library location won’t be announced until early next year — after the election — when it’s too late to see that public funding wasn’t necessary for Chicago to win.


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6 years ago

Since the Democrats have a Supermajority the Republicans don’t have to say or do anything. It’s all up to the Democrats whether or not the measure passes.

6 years ago

Spot on. Great article.