Today's Southern has a pretty meaty summary of the recent Simon Public Policy Institute study on Illinois politics, including a link to the full study and a link to a related conversation on WDBX.
The most intriguing thing in the article, which arises from the WDBX conversation, is an effort to compare the gun violence/gun control impasse with that regarding the Illinois budget.
My initial reaction was to say that comparison isn't very telling. After all, one side, the NRA, is pretty much having its way by ensuring we all have the right to buy assault rifles, even if we are not allowed to get on an airplane because we're on a terrorist watch list. In Illinois, on the other hand, neither Rauner nor Madigan is getting what they want, at least if Madigan wants social services and education funded and Rauner wants pro-business reforms. But . . .
There is, however, the fundamental similarity that when government fails to work--when it fails to address gun violence, or fund education and social services--this is more painful to liberals than to conservatives. This not because conservatives are evil--let's leave that issue unresolved--but because they believe in less government, and tend to believe less in government. Republican voters either need government less, because they are wealthy, or think they need government less, due to their belief in self-reliance and fear of government overreach. So they may not be happy that government is a mess, but they aren't surprised or disappointed, as they've always harbored doubts about the ability of government to solve rather than to create problems.
This all makes Madigan's intransigence in Springfield more unforgivable, to my mind. It may be true that people tend to blame the governor when state government fails to work. But people won't blame Rauner, despite all his evident flaws, for a crisis that began long before he took office. Madigan's scorched earth tactics are irresponsible even on a purely political level, it seems to me, as the less confidence the people of Illinois have in state government, the less likely they will be to vote for folks who want state government to do more of the things Democrats want government to do--educate, heal, and support people. This not to mention the real and permanent harm done by a year of budgetary chaos--after the real and permanent harm done by year upon year of budgetary disarray under Democratic leadership.
So I think the Democrats are losing. The answer, it seems to me, is pretty clear. You give Rauner a little bit of the reform he wants. Let's grant that those reforms are a bad thing. But Rauner's demands have been watered down since he took office. You don't have to give him everything he wants, just enough to ensure he clearly looks like the uncompromising one in the room. If you are clever, you give him almost nothing, but convince people, by giving a little and moderating your rhetoric, that you're the grownup. I think we've seen that neither side is going to win by remaining uncompromising.
As a price for minor reform, you get a decent budget, backed by a moderate tax increase. If Illinois starts working again, I think that has to be good news, in the long run, for the Democrats--as well as, far more importantly, the state of Illinois.
Unfortunately both sides think they can win in November, so we'll be in crisis mode at least that long. And I've been following Illinois politics for long enough to know that hopes that folks will be statesmanlike and get the job done after the next election, or primary, or filing deadline for the next election or primary, are as likely to be dashed as any other hopes for good government in Illinois.