By: Mark Glennon*
What do Illinois’ top politicians know now that they haven’t always known that would cause them to throw House Speaker Michael Madigan under the bus?
You’d think they’d have at least have tried to spin up some pretext. Maybe wait a couple weeks then lay out the facts pertinent to Madigan surrounding the pending federal criminal cases and ethical issues reported over the last couple years. At least make it sound like this is about more than political expediency at its most venal.
Nah. In Illinois, there’s no cost in being shameless.
Madigan has been the Speaker of the Illinois House and exerted unparalleled influence over the state nearly continuously since 1983, earning a reputation as among the shrewdest and most successful politicians in the past century.
That’s in a diabolical sense, of course. No informed Illinoisan doubts that the source of his influence is unmitigated graft, both legal and illegal. Everything is pay to play. Everything.
Yet no major Democratic Illinois officeholder has ever dared criticize him for the simple reason that he brought in extraordinary amounts of money and helped elect Democrats to office with astonishing success.
Never mind how he did it.
Because of lousy election results on Tuesday. Governor JB Pritzker’s keystone proposal – a progressive tax increase – went down in flames with bipartisan opposition and Democrats in general fared worse than expected. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride, a Madigan buddy, lost his bid for retention to the bench.
U.S. Senator Dick Durban went first. “Candidates who had little or no connection with him whatsoever were being tarred as Madigan allies who are behind corruption and so forth and so on,” said Durbin.
Governor JB Pritzker then said Madigan should step down as head of the Illinois Democratic Party. “Opponents [of the Fair Tax] were able to tap into voters’ concerns about corruption and their lack of trust in government,” said Pritzker. “The Republicans and the billionaires that sided with them were effectively able to use the speaker as their foil, and that hurt our ability, our state’s ability, to get things done.”
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth one-upped him, calling for him to resign his House position as well.
And former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Madigan will have to “evaluate” his role as head of the Illinois Democratic Party.
They’ve had enough of Madigan’s corruption, in other words. Right?
No. All that’s new is that they’ve seen that voters have had enough. It’s their own elections that matter, not the state.
Credit the politicians, at least, for not hiding their motives and true character. That’s what “shameless” means.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.