The Speaker is no overnight sensation

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the responses to yesterday’s letter to U-46 CEO Tony Sanders if for no other reason than it proves my wife isn’t the only one who reads my stuff. But what semi-baffles me is all the folks who declared, “Michael Madigan has got to go!” as if that simple sentiment was good enough.

It’s not that I necessarily disagree. It’s those commenters’ failure to begin to understand how the Speaker got there that bothers me.

You see, it took a mere 30 years of masterful maneuvering while he consistently applied an astute political strategy as he took advantage of a general Illinois Republican incompetence and complicity.

A mere bag of shells, right?


And now that he’s ascended to these lofty heights, he ain’t going anywhere. When his appointed time finally comes, he’ll be wheeled out of that House chamber still clutching that gavel to his chest.

Saying “Madigan has to go” may make you feel good, but it doesn’t change a damn Illinois thing. Since we always have to start with where we are, as was once said of the Eternal City, all Springfield roads lead to the Speaker.

And if y’all don’t understand that history, not only will nothing change, but we’re doomed to repeat it.

Before we get back to that history, let’s use a football analogy to demonstrate how silly this simple anti-Madigan statement sentiment really is.

Tom Brady became the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001 and he’s won a record 25 playoff games since then. That’s more post-season wins than 28 NFL teams have managed in their entire history. Don’t forget about those unparalleled five Super Bowl rings, either.

But can you imagine football fans ever saying something like this?

“The Patriots are bad for the NFL! They’ve got to go!” To some degree, that’s true. Overly dominant teams are bad for the game because fans lose interest. NFL ratings were down 10 percent across the board in 2016.

“The Patriots cheat and play dirty!” Yep! So does every other NFL team, but New England does it better. And when they get caught and lose draft picks and/or Brady gets suspended, they win anyway.

“The Patriots don’t care about other teams or the NFL!” Of course they don’t! All they  care about is winning Super Bowls and making money.

“The NFL should never allow a team to become this dominant!” First, the Patriots generally play by the rules. Second, it took decades for the organization to develop into this finely honed machine. And third, when you have the best coach in NFL history, a scouting combine that rarely misses and a general manager who knows his stuff, you amass wins through impeccable drafts, despite being saddled with the last pick.

“The NFL should do something about the Patriots. It’s not fair!” Roger Goddell would love nothing more than to slap those New Englanders down. He knows a rising parity tide lifts all boats. But you can’t penalize a team for doing everything exponentially better than their closest competitors.

Though there’s a certain logic to our anti-Patriot arguments, given the Lombardi theory regarding the only thing that matters, my fondest wish is you see just how ridiculous these contentions really are. Are the Patriots that good or is the rest of the NFL that bad?

To wit, if you want to compete with the New England Patriots, study their methods and do it better!

The same thing goes for Michael Madigan!

“Madigan and the Democratic super-majority are bad for Illinois! They’ve got to go!” You’re right! No one should be have that kind of unbridled power. But flapping your gums ain’t gonna change a damn thing (Allen Skillicorn!).

“Michael Madigan plays dirty!” Yes he does! But if Republicans were in the same position, they’d do the same gerrymandering thing. My favorite Madigan tactic is, knowing he’s vulnerable in his two-year district, he has subordinates sit in David Orr’s office with ready-to-go nominating petitions from black, Hispanic, Polish and all sorts of other candidates. The second a challenger tries to sneak in a last minute run, they dash to the front desk to suddenly make it a four-way race. That’s how you do it folks!

“Mike Madigan doesn’t care about the State of Illinois!” No he doesn’t! All he cares about is wealth and power. And he’s done an amazing job of amassing both too. Please tell me how that differs from most Illinois politicians?

“Illinois should never allow a State Rep to become this dominant!” Perhaps! But the Speaker generally follows the rules, it took thirty years for him to get this far, he’s the most effective politician in Illinois history, his campaign ground game borders on perfection and despite being regularly excoriated, he simply keeps his mouth shut and wins elections. Don’t hate him because he’s beautiful!

“Somebody should do something about Michael Madigan! It’s not fair!” Illinois Republicans would love nothing more than to slap the Speaker down. But they’ve hung their hats on so many silly social issues like same-sex marriage, their ground game sucks and their messaging is so bad they can’t buy an election in a state that’s fiscally insolvent.

If you really want to “get rid of the Speaker,” then dispense with the gum flapping, study what he’s accomplished and start building the kind of team it takes to takes to beat him at his own game. Any other conclusion belies the kind of abject political immaturity that put Illinois Republicans in the super-minority in the first place.

At least Mr. Madigan was willing to put in those countless political hours, are you?

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