”My Way” is more than just a Frank Sinatra song.
New Democratic House Speaker Chris Welch was euphoric at the conclusion of the legislative session this week.
Citing a litany of measures that he and his fellow Democrats supported — passing a $42.3 billion budget and a slew of legislative measures — he urged supporters to look at what was done, not what was not done.
On the other side of the political divide, Republican House Leader Jim Durkin appeared to be as irritated as he was distraught.
He complained that the GOP was, mostly, ignored on major issues, especially the budget, and then subjected to an abusive process that produced new legislative maps that blatantly favor Democrats.
“Republicans were screwed on the map, Illinois citizens were led down a road of good government, transparency, and ‘we’re going to get out of the business of drawing maps, we’re gonna be fair.’ They did just the opposite,” Durkin said.
Durkin’s complaint fell on deaf Democratic ears, although Welch sought to smooth his GOP opponent’s ruffled feathers by putting the issue in philosophical terms.
“There’s going to be some things that we disagree on. We’re Democrats and they’re Republicans. Our core values are different,” said Welch.
Judged from a neutral corner, both politicians’ comments ring true.
Democrats did roll over the Republicans, and the Republicans, not surprisingly, didn’t like it.
But what else would the Democrats reasonably be expected to do in a hyper-partisan General Assembly in which they hold a super-majority of House and Senate seats and the Republicans are a super-minority.
Politics is about the exercise of power — basically, who gets what. Measured on the power scale, Democrats hold a monopoly. That means Republicans can only do policywise what Democrats, for various reasons, deign to allow them to do.
Oh, there’s one more thing the GOP can do — publicly complain about their situation and hope that voters respond in a sympathetic way in the next election.
Durkin acknowledged as much when he said “it’s my job to work even harder this next year-and-a-half to win seats and to prove to Illinoisans that there needs to be a balance of power.”
Good luck to him — he’ll need it.
Illinois has become over the years a solid Democratic state, and it’s likely to stay that way for the immediate future for a variety of reasons.
For starters, there are way more Democrats than Republicans here. Once a tossup state, Illinois is now solid blue in major population areas to the point that it’s extremely difficult for any Republican to win a statewide contest.
Secondly, and almost as important, Democrats have turned their numerical majority populationwise into a legislative super-majority through clever manipulation of the legislative maps. The gerrymandering maximizes Democratic power while minimizing GOP support.
It’s Politics 101. Democrats are entitled to use the political power they won at the polls while Republicans are equally entitled not to appreciate the tire tracks left on their faces after Democrats run them over.
It’s hard to determine what the public really thinks of all this. Many people, after all, tune out political noise and go about their business, leaving politicians in both parties to do what they’ve always done.