Guest Blog: Democratic Dominance In Illinois? Kinda…


Being a career Democrat is like having an affair. One minute you’re towing the party line, regurgitating talking points written by fellow hacks, but at some point you end up wondering if you’re still working for the ideas and policies that influenced you to get involved in politics in the first place. Hacks- like myself- get their start by working 70+ hour weeks on campaigns to elect some politician to champion the lefty views near and dear to our liberal hearts. And, by the way, we take no offense to the term, “hack”.

I’m a political a hack, but that hasn’t convinced me to swear to the Holy Platform of the Democratic Party. I’m also not blinded by the absurdity of Democratic lawmakers in Illinois being incapable to govern.

Republicans aren’t any better, but I’ll spare them in this post.

Democrats have been unable to fix Illinois’ pension crisis, legalize same-sex marriage, and they barely passed the most restrictive medical marijuana bill in the US. The bill passed the House with the exact number of votes needed for passage- hardly an endorsement for a compassionate public policy that actually helps ill patients.

Democratic politics in Illinois is a prime example of a representative system gone wrong.

Meet Pat Quinn, Illinois’ accidental Governor who took over after Rod Blagojevich was impeached (and is now serving time in prison). Long story short, in 2010 Pat Quinn runs on his own term and wins narrowly. Democrats held on to majorities in the House and Senate in Illinois, which gave them full control over redrawing legislative districts in their favor through gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is often frowned upon, but it’s all in the game. Republicans did the same in a handful of other States; Democrats just leveled the playing field. The new map worked like a charm. The Illinois Senate now has 40 of 59 Seats and The House has 71 to 47.

Having veto-proof majorities in both Chambers and a Democratic Governor translates into total Democratic control in Illinois.

One issue that Democratic base-voters expected was the legalization of gay marriage. Valentines Day 2013 was a special day for the LGBT community, when Senate President John Cullerton scheduled a vote on SB10 (marriage equality).

After rigorous debate from Republicans on how flower shops would go out business because of gay weddings, the Senate approved the bill 34 to 21.Marriage equality is an issue regarding equal protection of the law. It should be a no-brainer for lawmakers, Democrats especially.

Before the Illinois House adjourned in May, Rep. Greg Harris and then Rep. Deb Mell gave emotionally charged apologies to marriage equality supporters because there simply weren’t enough “Yes” votes. Most Black Caucus members opposed the bill or refused to take a position, but their votes were needed for passage.

Suburban and Downstate House Democrats are also responsible for the bill’s demise. They showed the state that their reelection efforts supersede equal protection of the law.

Chicago Business and Ipsos polled 600 adults in February and revealed that 50 percent of Illinoisans support legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. Only 29 percent opposed the idea.

Lawmakers need to lead and change public opinion on controversial issues like civil rights, not hide from it to get reelected. Two Republican House members publicly supported SB10 and they don’t even represent liberal neighborhoods in Chicago!

It’s a shame that more GOP members didn’t jump on board. They could have finally put this issue behind them and be on the same page as swing voters.

Now, I did see this coming. I am a hack, I get that power is everything in politics. The vote could have cost Democrats a large number of seats, which would diminish their power base.

The pension crisis, hydraulic fracturing legislation, conceal and carry proposals, and the budget were also hotly debated items on the Illinois’ agenda. Things had to get done and some items, I presume, were held off to negotiate and round up votes.

That is nothing new in politics.

The two biggest winners in the Capitol were the energy industry, which lobbied for hydraulic fracturing, and the NRA, which achieved most of their demands on the new conceal and carry law.

Last time I checked, those two groups aren’t really friends of the Democratic Party.

Proponents of marriage equality weren’t so lucky. They left the State House with nothing to show for after months of advocacy and hard work for SB10.

Having Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate was the perfect opportunity for marriage equality. Being the hack I am, I understood that the votes just weren’t there, but that didn’t sit well with me.

“Next time, just wait- next time,” my colleagues reassured me. But to me, this is next time. It’s unlikely that Democrats will be able to keep as much control they have right now.

Issues like marriage equality are why I chose this line of work in the first place. I didn’t want to be a hack that night. I wanted to be the liberal idealist that still lives somewhere inside me.

I wanted to be the idealist that was ready to drink in honor of the activists that lost a heart-wrenching legislative battle.

A battle they lost to their own party no less. If a Democrat-controlled state can’t make legislative progress, how are we to expect that anyone else can?



Authored by Marion Barry. Giving us the liberal side of things.


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