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Wednesday, April 9, 2008 10:58 pm

A feel-good distraction

Recall provision would come too late to get Blagojevich

Untitled Document It’s difficult to take seriously last week’s House vote to establish a recall provision in the Illinois Constitution. An amendment to the constitutional provision passed the other day with 80 votes — a pretty solid majority. The tiny minority who opposed the amendment pointed out that the proposal could cause all sorts of problems. A Democratic legislator with an active core of social conservatives in his or her district could face recall whenever he or she voted for a liberal proposal, for example. Others noted that voters are given a choice every two or four years to toss out legislators and statewide officials and that perhaps they should take that responsibility more seriously. Still others claimed that this was a wholly transparent device with which to attack and undercut the hugely unpopular Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The part about legislators’ facing nuisance recalls has plenty of merit. The “voters already had their chance” argument works for statewide officials, but legislative districts are drawn of, by, and for incumbents, so far too often voters have little or no choice in general elections. In areas where voters overwhelmingly belong to one party or the other, it almost doesn’t matter who the opponent is. Recall would probably be an effective weapon in places such as Cook County, the center of so much voter angst, but also the home of millions of dyed-in-the-wool Democrats who refuse to vote for just about any Republican alternative. The same goes for the overwhelmingly Republican DuPage County.
However, the last point — about this being a ploy to slam the governor — is spot-on. The constitutional amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, freely admits that he would never have introduced the plan had it not been for Blagojevich. “I would not have filed it but for the dismal performance of this governor,” Franks was quoted as saying. Franks has been carrying a grudge against Blagojevich ever since the governor attempted to falsely implicate him in a kickback scheme. The Chicago Tribune editorial board has been banging the drum in favor of a recall law for months, ever since it ran an editorial asking what people thought and was flooded with responses favoring the recall of Blagojevich. The paper has since used the example of Blagojevich as its prime example of why recall of elected officials is needed. Last Friday’s Tribune editorial was an attempt to goad Senate President Emil Jones and his members into passing the amendment when it reaches their chamber. But this is all just talk — there’s no way that Jones will bring that thing up for a vote. Jones and Blagojevich are glued at the hip. They are the closest of allies, and the members of the Jones-Blagojevich team are bitter enemies of House Speaker Michael Madigan, who allowed the recall provision to come to the floor mostly to tweak the governor. The efforts by the Tribune and the House are mainly just feel-good distractions that won’t become law in the foreseeable future. We’re being subjected to a meaningless and meanspirited circus led by the largest newspaper in the state. Because this proposal has no chance in the Senate, the House vote on recall won’t chasten the governor in the slightest. It’ll just give some House members something to crow about to angry voters back home and allow the Tribune to pat itself on the back and bloviate some more. Let’s not kid ourselves into believing otherwise. If you want recall added to the Illinois Constitution, your best bet is to vote in favor of calling a constitutional convention this November. But a convention and final approval won’t come early enough to oust Blagojevich. Either we’ll have to wait until the 2010 election for that or the House will have to vote to impeach him and the Senate will then have to remove him from office. That’s not likely to happen, either. Face it: We’re stuck with the guy.  

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily
political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.
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