Rep. Mike Quigley and State Sen. Kirk Dillard wrote dueling op-eds this week about how the Rod Blagojevich trial will affect this November’s elections. Not surprisingly, they’re both more grounded in partisanship than reality.
Quigley, the Democrat who holds Blagojevich’s old seat in Congress, doesn’t think that voters are going to punish his party for the ex-governor’s scandals.
“Let’s be clear: he’s not hurting Democrats,” Quigley writes. “He’s not hurting Republicans. He’s hurting Illinois, as he narcissistically continues to decay the public’s trust in government.”
Quigley quotes a Pew poll which found that 57 percent of Illinoisans think our state has the most corrupt politicians in the nation, and goes on to say that “on ethics, neither party can claim purity. For every Tom DeLay, there’s a Charlie Rangel. For every Eric Massa, there’s a Larry Craig. And for every Rod Blagojevich, there’s a George Ryan.”
That’s true. But the Democrats hold power in Illinois, so they’re going to have to take the rap for the state’s corruption.
Not surprisingly, Dillard sees a spanking for Democrats: “it is my hope that both parties in Illinois will learn something from the corruption-soiled legacy of the Blagojevich and Ryan tenures in Illinois,” he writes. “Furthermore, I hope that knowledge will lead to significant campaign and governmental reforms. But before that happens, I see massive political fallout for the Democrats that will likely diminish their chances for success in the November elections.”
But Dillard also tries to claim that Illinois Republicans are intrinsically more ethical than Illinois Democrats. He cites the Illinois Reform Commission’s proposals for campaign finance reform and term limits. “Both provisions were rejected by the Democrat majority in the Legislature.”
The Illinois Reform Commission was a bi-partisan panel, created by then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. If the Republicans controlled the legislature, they’d reject campaign finance reform and term limits, too. No party is going to vote against the system that put it in power.
Republicans like to brag about Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who’s putting Blagojevich on trial. But they never talk about the senator who appointed him, Peter Fitzgerald, who was driven out of office by his own party because he wouldn’t go along with the Illinois Way.
Dillard and Quigley are both fairly honest politicians (which is why neither is running his party). And they’re both right that the real battle here is between reformers and regulars in both parties. Unfortunately, that’s not how politics works in Illinois. In 2002, after Ryan stepped down in disgrace, voters decided it was time to throw out the Republican crooks and give some Democratic crooks a chance. This year, with Blagojevich bringing shame to the state, they’re going to do the opposite. And the cycle will repeat itself again.