Illinois' Inaugural Hangover

Illinois is exhausted

Maybe on his first full day in the White House, President Barack Obama will give his home state a break and declare the rest of the week an official holiday. Or declare Illinois a disaster area and send in some relief.

Because we’re tired.

It’s not that there was anything wrong with the inauguration, mind you. Even Obama skeptics had to be touched to the depths of their souls by the sights of an African American couple entering the White House as its new occupants, and the military personnel saluting an African American commander-in-chief, and the Rosa Parks Bus leading the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

(NASA's new lunar rover took up the rear; Michelle Obama could be seen mouthing “Oh wow!” as it turned to face the new First Couple and two astronauts locked into its side waved to them in the viewing stand. Oh wow, indeed.)

It’s just that even exhilirating events are exhausting, and this one capped off one of the most tumultuous stretches in Illinois political history, from the arrest of Governor Rod Blagojevich to the seating in the U.S. Senate of Roland Burris. The twist and turns seemed to provide more fodder for Saturday Night Live – and more consternation by us poor regular folk – than the Bears and the Billy Goat ever did.

Illinois may have a special feeling today, having sent one of its own on to become the leader of the free world, but I doubt any state is as tired as we are today either. If anyone needs renewal, it’s us.

The bad news is that we’re not likely to get it soon; the city budget is a mess, the campaigning to replace Rahm Emanuel has already turned dirty, and Todd Stroger is still the president of the Cook County Board. And, of course, the governor soon will be facing his impeachment trial in the state senate, unless he miraculously decides to spare us by resigning before then. Fat chance.

On the other hand, at least some relief is almost surely on the way in the form of a new governor once the Blago affair is over, and the General Assembly is likely to become more productive under the leadership of new state senate President John Cullerton, who promises to be a more cooperative and bipartisan figure than the outgoing Emil Jones.

Then again, some might say the only thing worse than an unproductive Illinois legislature is a productive one.

Outside of the political realm, we do have a resurgent Blackhawks team. That’s something. But not much.

It’s a good thing that Obama has inspired hope, because we’re going to need it. Tens of thousands of folks who haven’t yet lost their jobs probably will soon. Among the hardest hit will be the Chicago’s poorest, who always feel the economy trickling down on their heads long before the rest of us feel anything. All the Obama posters and Obama t-shirts and Obama coins in the world can’t change that. And all the Obama novelties in the world can’t pay the rent – unless you are a vendor with a clever idea that can break through in a (nearly) saturated market.

But let’s be careful, folks. If Obama Fatigue sets in, we’re done for. Cooling it on the hype might be the most patriotic thing you can do.

The bright side is that the long campaign is finally over, and so is the transition and the pomp and circumstance. Who ever thought the election of an African American president would signal a return to normalcy?

For the rest of the country, that is. Ironically, in the African American president’s home state, we’re a bit spent. But it’s nothing a couple days of rest and a few Bloody Mary’s can’t fix, along with whatever homemade hangover cures you like to turn to when in need.

And then the battle will be joined once again. Perhaps this time, with renewed vigor, we can do a little better than we’ve done in the past.

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