It's time to revive the idea of a constitutional amendment that will defang House Speaker Michael (The Real Governor) Madigan and his flunkies in Springfield, who have turned Illinois into a national laughingstock.
The latest joke to be cracked by Madigan is his congressional redistricting map, passed by the Legislature as required every decade by the U.S. Constitution to reflect population changes. The new map violates constitutional requirements that the districts be compact and laws that demand that the districts group together shared community interests. In viewing Madigan's maps, one might ask what shared interests the neighborhood around U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side has with Crest Hill, a Joliet suburb of 20,000 some 35 miles away. According to Madigan's thinking, their community interests are so closely aligned that he put them in the same serpentine district.
The new map is thick with such examples. Madigan's gerrymandering produced a map that extends Democratic-dominated districts deep into the suburbs to overturn GOP gains there in the last election. If you can't win elections fair and square, Madigan's response is to rig them. So he drew a map so skewed that kids looking at it would see a doggie here or a Pac-Man there, as if they were clouds in a summer sky.
"Everyone does it," we're told, and Republicans would be doing the same if they held the governorship and Legislature. But Madigan's accomplishment takes Illinois' standards of politics to new heights. Columnist Richard E. Cohen, writing in Politico, noted Madigan has the rare distinction of earning a spot in the national redistricting hall of fame: "With a muscular and mostly invisible backroom display ... the longtime speaker entered the pantheon of state power brokers (and) storied pols whose mapmaking exploits have become the stuff of political legend."
And to what end? To keep in power the same geniuses who have turned Illinois into the national exemplar of bad government.
Already the map has provoked threats of legal challenges from civic groups and by at least one ethnic group that believes the map illegally dilutes its voting power. Among them is the Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map, which includes prominent Illinois Republicans such as former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin. Former Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner, from the Mayer Brown law firm, is expected to lead a federal suit challenging the map.
Grounds for the group's challenge would include the map's disregard of communities of interests, especially among Hispanics, who constitute the state's largest minority. While the Hispanic community has doubled in 20 years, Madigan's map still leaves it with only one majority Hispanic district, the group noted.
There could be some delicious irony here: Liberal Democrats have pushed the Voting Rights Act to extremes of racial and ethnic balancing; could the failure to comply with such extremes now kill the Democratic map? It is to be hoped.
It's also ironic that some of the people who are furious at the map were the same ones who helped defeat the call in 2008 for a state constitutional convention that could have cleaned up this and other Illinois messes. Thanks to that 2008 defeat, voters can't get another crack at calling a convention for 18 years.
Thankfully, voters don't have to wait that long to defang Madigan and his minions. The Illinois Constitution also allows voters to amend the Legislature's "structures and procedures," which in various ways could cripple Madigan's power. Amending the constitution like this would require its approval in a special referendum, called by the petition of 298,400 some 140,000 Illinois voters -- not an insurmountable number. If, that is, all those civic, good-government, liberal and business leaders who campaigned against a constitutional convention are now willing to rectify their mistake by supporting a Get Madigan amendment.
Constitutional amendments generally don't fare well in Illinois, but voters, angered by the antics of formerGov. Rod Blagojevich, added a gubernatorial recall provision to the constitution last year. It'll take similar anger for a Get Madigan amendment to pass, and you can bet that Madigan finds the idea of voters rising up against him to be hilarious.
That's because Illinois voters have been willingly chumped for years. As if they are pleased to be played like simpletons. In which case, Madigan has nothing to fear.