Remember all those beautiful speeches our state legislators gave while voting to impeach Rod Blagojevich and toss him out on his hair? All that stirring rhetoric about the solemn duties of elected officials in this great country of ours, and the shame that had been brought down on this great state of ours, and the pleas that we not judge all hard-working, decent public servants by the deeds of a few bad apples, and the promises that we would no longer stand for Illinois to be the poster state for political corruption.
What a joke.
Reform is not coming to Illinois.
Because our politicians only want it when it's convenient - like when they can exact revenge on an ingrate like Rod Blagojevich.
Then it's a return to form.
"Madigan and Cullerton danced commission proposals around Springfield, then slapped them down at turn after turn," the Tribune editorial page said on Sunday in "They're Not Ready For Reform." "On Friday, a Senate subcommittee rejected all nine anti-corruption enforcement proposals from the [Illnois Reform Commission] and Cook County prosecutors. 'We've gone through one subject area," commission head Patrick Collins fumed, 'and we've lost everything.' He was told he could come back Thursday - to argue for bills in a session scheduled to end next Sunday."
He might as well have been told to come back next year. And the year after that.
Collins would have more luck going back to his old job as a federal prosecutor and trying to throw these yahoos in jail.
The reform commission's proposals aren't perfect, but nitpicking them to death because they won't solve all the world's problems is a cynical exercise in micropolitics at a time when macro solutions are called for.
"The governor’s reform commission wants to import Washington, DC’s campaign contribution caps," Rich Miller writes at Capitol Fax. "DC limits contributions by caucus committees and party organizations. But they’ve gotten around the caps by doing what are called 'independent expenditures'.”
So any reform proposal that can be gamed is folly?
Why not just live in a lawless land, then?
Or replace "gamers" with honest politicians who don't need their every move suspect to a host of ever-more complicated regulations because we all know they can't be trusted if left to their own device?
I mean, really. I never knew "they'll always find a way to cheat" was an argument for trying to stop them from cheating.
Our sensibilities in this state are so backwards that Gov. Pat Quinn is getting grief for not being a good enough deal-maker at the same time we're trying to snuff out the kind of deals we also seem to think are necessary to grease the wheels of government.
George Ryan was a "closer."
How did that work out for everyone?
Here's a new definition of insanity for Illinoisans: Repeatedly expecting the same old politicians to do something different.
The reform commission's proposals ought to be passed lock, stock and barrel despite any imperfections we could all chew over because it's the only way to get it done.
Well, almost the only way.
Come election time, we could throw the bums out - all of them. Madigan, Cullerton, all down the line. Let's see if the Tribune editorial page and our vaunted civic leaders and the Obama change machine will mobilize for that.
Because the pols we have now will never be ready for reform. Leaving it up to them is the true folly.
Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.