It's certainly easy to find bad things to say about Illinois politics. But here's something good: Because Illinois is the fifth largest state in the nation, and because our politics tend to fall on the colorful side, our political goings-on generate a lot of national interest.
And if you follow politics even remotely, it's fun to see how the local news is playing on a national stage. Last week, it was The Economist breaking down Illinois' summer of dysfunction. This week, it's Washington Post political columnist Dan Balz sizing up the Democratic primary contest that's heating up between Gov. Pat Quinn and Bill Daley.
Headlined "In Illinois, a Democratic family feud in governor's race," Balz's column is a distillation of the Quinn-Daley race, which Balz notes may soon become a Quinn-Daley-Kwame Raoul race. Balz refers to Quinn as "one of the most embattled governors in the country," which is exactly what national political writers were saying about Quinn during the 2010 election, which he won by less than 1 percent.
"Quinn is an old-fashioned liberal who believes that the philosophy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is as relevant today as it was during the Depression. He came up in Illinois politics as an outsider and still talks as if he is one," Balz writes.
Of Daley, Balz writes: "Daley has operated in politics behind the scenes for his entire career, as an adviser to his brother, Richard M. Daley; as chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000; and in various other roles in Democratic campaigns. He twice looked at running for governor in the past but backed away. Now, in his first race as a candidate, he has decided to try to knock out an incumbent from his own party."
I would imagine all of this Democratic in-fighting comes as a big surprise to most Washington Post readers, who know Illinois mainly as a state so blue that presidential candidates don't bother campaigning here.
Balz zeroes in on the theme that is quickly emerging as the dominant one in the Quinn-Daley race. To Quinn, the former JPMorgan Chase executive Daley is a symbol of the too-big-to-fail banking giants who nearly wrecked the world economy five years ago. To Daley, Quinn is a well-intended nice guy who can't work a legislature.
Balz quotes Quinn from an interview in Chicago: "'Did this come from a banker who was with an institution that wrecked the American economy? Ran it into a ditch, as President Obama said?' (Quinn) said. 'An institution that has engaged in improper mortgage practices found by the attorney general, caused hardship, ruined the housing industry. People are going to judge who's on their side when it comes to jobs, and we'll see how they judge.'"
Then he quotes Daley: "' "There's no game plan, and Pat doesn't have a vision,' he said. 'But I will say this: I do not underestimate Pat. Pat may not be a very good governor . . . but as a politician, he's a campaigner. That's all he does, all day every day.'"
And Balz notes also, as I posted Monday, that the Democratic family feud could have a third contestant in State Sen. Kwame Raoul, who has not ruled out seeking the Democratic nomination. This will be of interest to a national audience because Raoul holds the Illinois Senate that was a springboard to the U.S. Senate and beyond for Barack Obama. Can't you already see the "Is-He-The-Next-Obama" headlines if Raoul seeks higher office?
I highly recommend Balz's column if you're curious how Illinois presents itself politically to the outside world. You just don't see these kinds of stories about the governor's race in Kansas.
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