The Last Days of Rod Blagojevich
by bored now, Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 05:49:12 AM EST
Looks like these are the last days of Governor Blagojevich. While there will be a collective sigh of relief across the land that we will have seen the last of this Governor's corrupt rule, it will neither be the last we see of Blagojevich, abuse of power in Illinois government nor the last of the corrupt political system in which the Governor arose.
It is important to realize that this has been a family feud, a war amongst the members of Illinois' political "machine," over who will control the levers of state government (and, thus, the money that flows from it). Ridding ourselves of Rod Blagojevich only removes the most public embarrassment that stems from the corruption endemic to the state's politics. But it won't change the fact that the state remains one of the most corrupt in the nation.
This is Illinois, as one political reporter likes to remind us. Corruption is endemic here. Abuse of power is common. It is, as Illinoisans like to remind outsiders, the price of getting things done. People accept it. That's the way it's been since people can remember.
Corruption is most successful when it takes place far from view. This appears to be something that Blagojevich never understood. Focused more on his internal -- or family -- struggles with the other Dons of Illinois' political "machine," the public (and the organs of government) were completely ignored, except when they served his purpose. What could they do? Like Gary Hart, his arrogance was such that he even challenged the world to record his conversations. Which we did, under the guise of Patrick Fitzgerald's office. So we now hear the things that Rod would say in his own "No spin zone."
The other pols in Illinois' political "machine" are not so visible. They understand that their ability to perpetuate a corrupt system or abuse political power is dependent on keeping their abuse of government out of public view.
But there is Hope! Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, not one of the Dons of Illinois' political "machine," will be elevated upon Blagojevich's impeachment. Quinn is a man universally acknowledged as one free from corruption, clean of the stench of Rod Blagojevich (who wouldn't even return his calls), someone looked at with suspicion by the PTBs of the "machine" here in Illinois -- in part because of Harold Washington brought him into his administration to clean up the notoriously corrupt/inept Revenue Department of the city of Chicago.
Pat Quinn is a man, last I checked, who was the only Illinois politician who has attended every single funeral of a soldier who died in one of the wars in which we were engaged. Time magazine called him "something of a Goody Two-Shoes," a reputation quite difficult to achieve in a state better known for its corruption than its "goo-goos." His distance from the corrupt governor was confirmed by Blagojevich himself:
By most accounts, Quinn hasn't even spoken to Blagojevich -- with whom he was twice elected, in 2002 and 2006 -- in more than a year. At one point, as Quinn was pressing the governor over taxes and electricity rates, Blagojevich said Quinn was no longer a part of his administration. "Quinn is known as a gadfly," Blagojevich told a radio station last year. "That's one of his charming qualities."
For his part, Quinn said on Meet the Press, "I tried to talk to the governor, but the last time I spoke to him was in August of 2007. I think one of the problems is, the governor did sort of seal himself off from all the statewide officials, [from] attorney general Madigan and myself [to] many others, and that's no way to govern. You have to be able to reach out and touch people and listen."
More to the point, Pat Quinn has not only kept his distance from Blagojevich, but also kept his distance from the family feud inside Illinois' political "machine." Which only leaves him as their next target when Blagojevich is removed.
Quinn has been hard at work preparing for his inevitable elevation to Governor. When it became apparent that Blagojevich would be removed from office, he created the Illinois Reform Commission. Several news reports note that Quinn has been laying the groundwork for a smooth transition. He's promised to do two things that have rankled average people in Illinois, live in the Governor's Mansion in Springfield (Blagojevich wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars flying back and forth from Chicago to Springfield while the Legislature was in session -- which is supposed to last a mere two months) and remove the gigantic signs over Illinois' tollways with Rod Blagojevich's name on them. Quinn called these"a symbol of 'pompous government.'"
The challenge facing Pat Quinn in Illinois is the same one facing Barack Obama in Washington: changing the course of politics in their respective capitols. The impeachment of Rod Blagojevich was not an rising of a public (or government) horrified by Blagojevich's eggregious abuses, but the end-game of a long internal battle for power and control of a corrupted system. Our new governor will have his work cut out for him, and will need all of our support.
One national reporter (and I've forgotten who he was) keeps asking, Why didn't someone say something before Hospital Executive 1 was being extorted for $50,000? The answer is simple: people here in Illinois are so accustomed to the corruption in the state's politics that it doesn't occur to them to speak out about it. Everyone already knows. And speaking out could cost you your job, even in the private sector. The real answer, then, is fear. People are afraid, and Pat Quinn can't change anything about Illinois' politics until he can diminish the fear that average people have about speaking out about the corruption and abuses of power they see regularly in their government.
The smart politicians in Illinois have figured out just where are the fine lines are in ethics and reform laws. And they've figured out numerous ways around them. Blagojevich's rush for money before December 31st was merely another in an attempt to circumvent our good government laws. While one violator may be removed, others remain. Pat Quinn will soon enter the lion's den. With our help, he won't be alone.
You can visit Pat Quinn's websites here:
You can also help Pat Quinn's battle with Illinois' political "machine" by contributing to his campaign. Last time I talked to Pat Quinn, he didn't seem to know where contributions made through ActBlue would go, but this is from his campaign site.