Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, tried to pass a resolution honoring the Occupy Chicago movement on Thursday. The resolution failed, but Davis succeeded in igniting a debate that could be shown in civics class when the teacher tries to explain the difference between the philosophies of Democrats and Republicans.
Ford’s resolution read, in part:
WHEREAS, People of all ages (from young adults to seniors) and backgrounds, individuals from all Chicago neighborhoods, and persons who live in the suburbs, downstate cities, and rural areas are lawfully protesting the failures of Wall Street, the subsequent economic crisis, and the failure to address the needs of 99% of the population; therefore, be it RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we recognize the hardships experienced by the people of Illinois as a result of these economic injustices and we stand in support of the continued peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights by Occupy protestors.
To the Republicans, that sounded like an endorsement of socialism and revolution.
“I’m reading a lot of things here that demonizes corporate America, it demonizes job producers,” said Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville. “Here’s what I think they ought to occupy, they ought to occupy reality…If the same amount of energy, time, emotion and effort were used by some of the individuals who are engaged in unlawful activities on obtaining employment, that they would be far better off.”
Rep. Ed Sullivan, R-Mundelein, condemned the protestors as un-American Huns.
"Do you believe people are lawfully protesting, or are they raping and pillaging and beating people up and murdering?” Sullivan asked Ford. “Are they doing some of those things? Why are we having news accounts of rapes and murders and pillaging and beating people up? Fundamentally, they believe in a financial transaction tax. Do you believe in that? I just flat out believe this movement is un-American. If you don’t believe in capitalism, you don’t believe in the democratic process of this state, then vote for this resolution.”
And Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, said the Occupiers are left-wing class warriors.
“This has nothing to do about peaceable protest,” Reboletti said. “This has to do with social engineering and justice, whatever else you want to camouflage it as. The issue is we have failed policies, we have failed CME bailouts. That’s why we have people who can’t pay their mortgages, because we chase businesses out of this state every day.”
It’s not the Republican response that should concern the Occupy movement, though. Republicans always get uptight when you suggest capitalism doesn’t distribute wealth fairly and equally. It’s the Democratic response. The resolution failed, 37-58, in a Democratic-controlled chamber, even with the vote of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Fifteen Democrats voted present, including every member of the Latino caucus. Besides Ford, the only Democrat to speak in favor of the bill was Rep. Monique Davis of Chicago, who urged people to “take them some food, drop some dollars by that protest, and let them know that that’s what America is all about: the right to peacefully protest.”
Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, D-Park Ridge, voted no because she said her constituents told her they protest have discouraged them from Christmas shopping downtown: “When you have people who tell me they’re afraid to go downtown to the Christmas parade because of what’s going on, that bothers me a lot. There are people that want those Christmas jobs in the Loop, if you have people who don’t come down, what happens is, those stores don’t hire.”
Members of the Occupy movement have told Your Ward Room Blogger that they’re not interested in becoming a constituency of the Democratic Party. They intend to hold both members of both parties accountable for their failure to work in the interests of the 99% of lowest-income Americans. And I’ve told the Occupiers that some of their antics -- such as today’s planned mic check of Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- are making them look like a fringe movement of activists for whom protest is a lifestyle, not a means to achieve political change. Can you say you represent the 99% when you can only get the backing of 31% of the state legislature?