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Is Obama Afraid of Change for Illinois?

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The presidential candidate for change has adopted the twin themes of "hope" and "change" for his political campaign. These themes are the creation of David Axelrod, Barack Obama's senior campaign adviser. It was a stroke of brilliance to tap into the widespread disaffection with Washington D.C. and the growing irritation among normal citizens that they have no say in their federal government. With approval ratings of the U.S Congress being around 9% (in other countries there would be an armed coup by now), the timing was perfect.

However, the same distrust and disgust are just as true with the state government of Illinois. We have a governor under multiple federal investigations, a General Assembly that can never seem to pass a budget, and political patronage happening out in the open with no regard for citizens. The gridlock in Springfield is universally despised and all other attempts to reform Illinois have failed. Change is sorely needed for Illinois.

That is why it is disappointing to see the same firm that crafted the candidate for change was just given a  two to three million dollar contract to oppose a constitutional convention. Among the arguments they will make is that convening a constitutional convention will give power to all the special interests, that the constitution will be made worse, and that there is no way to elect good people to a convention. They have already gone so far as to tell seniors that a constitutional convention will take their pensions away even though federal law is clear that it can't. In short, the ads can be reduced to a sound bite: "No… you can't."

In November, voters will be able to vote to convene a constitutional convention to amend the state charter. This would allow for the ending of gerrymandering, the practice of politicians picking their voters and not vice versa (see Illinois Congressional District 4's map for an illustration of how absurd the maps have gotten). An additional change could be adding the ability of citizens to recall elected officials, a right many states currently already enjoy.

Many of the problems that Illinois faces are a direct result of a constitution written in 1970 to create a "strong government." This allowed politicians to amass incredible power and to engage in rampant and overt corruption. For instance, the Cook County presidency was almost literally bequeathed from father (John Stroger) to son (Todd Stroger) reminiscent of a title of nobility in the Middle Ages. The constitution guarantees state pensions but it was also explicitly written to not require funding of the pensions. This has resulted in the worst funded pension system in the nation. We aren't even close to 49th place.

The governor can treat budgets as advisory and move money around at will. The leader of a legislative chamber can unilaterally kill a bill with no recourse by other members of the chamber (see House Bill 1 which was sponsored by over 80% of the Illinois Senate, yet still killed by Senator Debbie Halvorson).

In all this, the citizens are disempowered. Illinois election law is the most restrictive (and unconstitutional) in the Union. Third party and independent candidates are required to get over 10 times more signatures and are subject to capricious ballot challenges that keep them from being listed on the ballot. Ballot initiatives are not binding and routinely ignored by politicians.

Even the balanced budget requirement in the Constitution is considered a "moral imperative" when crafting the state budget. This requirement is unenforceable which is how the state gets away with trying to pass a budget $2 billion out of balance. Try considering paying your next property tax bill with a "moral imperative" and see how that works out.

Citizens are disempowered and government is dysfunctional. The result has been a grassroots movement comprised of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and those who normally would not associate with a political party. The citizens are demanding that Springfield change. The question is why the same people running Obama's campaign are saying, "Change you must fear."

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About John Bambenek

John Bambenek is a political activist and computer security expert. He has his own company Bambenek Consulting in Champaign, IL that specializes in digital forensics and computer security investigations.
  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    As a former state legislator Obama comes out of that culture of corruption, so I don’t think we can expect much better of him.

    Dave

  • Mojo

    John,

    Your spot on… The reason Obama is becoming more and more unelectable as time goes on is due to the fact that the more we know about him the less remarkable he really is…Case in point – here are two of his famous quotes that he spews like a broken record on the campaign trail…

    “It’s not just enough to change the players. We’ve gotta change the game. ”

    “We can’t change the way Washington works unless we first change how Congress works.”
    But a quick fact check shows that –

    *His campaign manager David Plouffe also ran the campaign of Sen. Robert Torecelli – one of the most corrupt and disgraced Washington politicians.

    *He recently announced that David Bonior is a “key advisor” – a guy who is a notorious partisan loon.

    Gee… so Obama who is all about change is using two players who exemplify all that is wrong with US politics. This kind of change we can do without!

    Mojo
    Mojo

  • Arch Conservative

    For someone who holds himself up to be the agent of change that will transcend the old style poltiics of pandering and whose virtue and integrity are beyond reproach the way and Obama and his supporters have been doing, Obama has fallen short of that mark.

    It’s not his frenzied flip flopping mad dash to the political center that is so offensive. We’re used to candidates for president doing that. It’s the fact that while we can plainly see him doing it his kool aid drinking minions are insisting to continue the mythology of his unique intergrity and inherent specialness.

    Who you gonna believe…..the great Obama or your lying eyes?

    Obama’s supporters are weak minded fools diverting any and all legitimate criticism of their messiah with shouts of “racism.”

    However come this fall if the sweater continues to unravel I don’t think we shall see Obama victorious.

  • http://bloggingontheedgeofsuicide.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    The comical thing about your remark Arch, is that you can substitute “McCain” for Obama and it’d be just as true.

  • http://bloggingontheedgeofsuicide.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    …and another thing, who the hell do you think you are, veering this discussion back on subject?

  • Jordan Richardson

    What Jet said. Add to that the embarrassing way in which McCain can’t seem to remember his own voting record and I’d personally rather have an alleged “centrist flip-flopper” guiding America than a senile old man who admittedly gives little-to-no thought to his votes, will continue the war indefinitely to prove a point, and who dumps women when they get ugly and “cuntish.”

  • http://bloggingontheedgeofsuicide.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    At least with Hillary we KNOW what we would get and how to deal with it…Better the evil you know?

  • Arch Conservative

    Well Jet…….you’re not going to get an argument from me about Mccain. I think he sucks.

    Neither Obama nor Mccain understand the first thing about the economy and what it takes to make it run.

    Both men have a love affair with illegal aliens.

    One is young inexperienced and arrogant, the other is old angry and arrogant.

    Both of them would suck at foreign diplomacy but for different reasons.

    My vote in the fall will probably come down to a few small issues that most most voters don’t base their decisions on such as:

    The fact that Obama is the most pro abortion candidate the nation has ever known and John Mccain is pro life.

    Obama is likely to nominate very far left leaning individuals to be supreme court justice and Mccain will nominater moderate to conservative leaning justices.

    Obama’s wife is one of the most offensive, obnoxious, smug, smarmy, condescending, angry, anti-American cunts I have ever seen in American politics while Mccain’s wife appears to be more the “useful” idiot type.

    Obama supports gay marriage while Mccain does not.

    Obama is going to raise taxes on the middle class despite his campaign rhethoric. Mccain won’t raise taxes but his ability to handle the economy beyond that is highly suspect.

    Mccain will most likely pick Romney as his running mate. Romney understands that private business is the engine that drives the economy and knows more about what it takes to get an economy on the right track than Mccain, Obama, and whatever Dem dimwit hack that Obama will pick as his VP combined.

    These are not usually the deal breakers with myself or with most American voters but it appears everything else is a wash in this election so I’m going to have to vote Mccain.

    He sucks slightly less.

    My secret hope is that Mccain will bw out due to poor health or the electors at the DNC will tell him no thanks and Mitt Romney will step up and end this three ring circus of an election.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Jet,

    Re #7 — True, we pretty much know about many of Senator Clinton’s major flaws, but I’m not confident that we know how to deal with them or with a Clinton-Clinton co-dependent co-presidency.

    Personally, I would prefer Senator Obama, Senator McCain, or even the Easter Bunny.

    What really galls me is that, once again, our choice boils down to which candidate is the lesser evil. With three hundred million plus people in the U.S., more than a fourth of them Constitutionally most likely qualified, it is incredible that it must be that way.

    Dan

  • Clavos

    Politics ia a dirty, stinking, backstabbing, take-no-prisoners business.

    One in which the participants must debase themselves and suffer all manner of indignities and prying into their own and their family’s lives.

    And that’s just the job interview.

    They are hounded, humiliated, harassed and hated by at least half the population.

    No wonder nobody of competence, stature and merit ever applies…

  • Clavos

    Dan,

    Congrats on the “Blogcritic of The Day” designation.

    When can I expect the check?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Clav,

    Many thanks — I hadn’t noticed until you mentioned it. I am, quite seriously, touched and honored.

    As to the check, you certainly deserve one for editing my stuff. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of sending a mere pittance, and any international funds transfer in an appropriate amount would be too awkward for both of us. So, you are stuck with just my gratitude.

    Dan

  • Clavos

    LOL. You are never at a loss for a good retort.

  • Arch Conservative

    You’re right about politics Clavos.

    I’m not a big fan of cliches but so many of them are fitting whern it comes to the nature of modern American politics.

    The system’s broken.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    Money is the root of all evil.

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

    The only way we can actually get people who trulty represent the public in Washington is if we get fid of the financial and power incentives.

    We need term limits to start with.

    A president can only serve two terms so why are Senators and Representatives allowed to park their bloated carcasses in DC until the day they die?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Arch, I’m wondering what you’ll do if McCain doesn’t put Romney on the ticket. I can hear the screams now…

    Rest assured though: I think that even if he doesn’t get the Veep slot, there’ll almost certainly be a job for Romney somewhere in McCain’s administration.

    Of course this is all academic because McCain doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning.

    Interesting question about the absence of term limits for sens and reps. I think the status quo is supposed to provide some sort of stability in Washington. Despite your cynicism, there are some genuinely good people in Congress and it would be a shame to have to kick them out of a job just because they’ve been there past a certain length of time.

    One idea might be to have a sort of ‘precall election’ – in which the voters in a congressperson’s state or district would have the opportunity to decide, based on his or her past performance, on whether he or she should be allowed to run for another term.

    Then again, do you folks really need yet one more election? :-)

  • Arch Conservative

    “Of course this is all academic because McCain doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning.”

    Just like Bushs didn’t have a shot in hell of winning in 2004 right dread?

    “there are some genuinely good people in Congress”

    Like who? And don’t say kucinich.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Doc,

    In Yes Prime Minister, a good answer suggested by PM Hacker to a question prefaced with “there are lots of people who say that . . . ” would be “Name three.”

    Three “good” Representatives and Senators would be roughly 0.56 percent. How about a full one percent, say six? That would be a nifty start.

    Dan

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Archie (especially Archie), Dan:

    You set an impossible task. One person’s good politician is another’s devil incarnate. But here goes. I’ll name six whom I like – three in the Senate and three in the House. In deference to Arch, I won’t name Kucinich… I wonder why he doesn’t want me to? I’ll also disqualify any 2008 presidential candidates, including those who’ve dropped out.

    Senate: Dick Lugar, Olympia Snowe, Jim Webb
    House: Keith Ellison, Barney Frank, Chris Shays

    There you go, three from each species. You can’t say I’m partisan!

  • Clavos

    “Then again, do you folks really need yet one more election? :-)”

    AMEN!

  • Arch Conservative

    Barney Frank? He’s the guy who hired the male prostitue he was banging to be part of hsi staff and then the prostitute started a sex business out fo Barney’s house right?

    There is one guy who is a rather prominent Democratic politician who I do kind of like as a person. ALthough I disagree with this guy he comes off as sincere and I do beleieve he gives a damn about the American people. He’s the kind of guy I’d probably like a lot and get along well with if we spent time together and discussed anything but politics.

    I won’t say who he is yet. I want to see if anyone can guess who I’m talking about.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Bill Clinton?

    [dons tin hat, ducks behind sandbags]

  • Clavos

    John Kerry.

    (dives into Doc’s bunker)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    And yes, Archie, that Barney Frank. The one who, though censured by the House, was cleared of any knowledge of the escort service his friend had been running out of his apartment.

    Funny you didn’t mention that all this happened eighteen years ago.

    Or that the member who pushed hardest for Frank’s expulsion from the House over the scandal was none other than – let me just pull this up on my browser here – ah, yes

  • Arch Conservative

    I will just assume you guys were trying to be funny with your two guesses and tell you.

    Joe Biden.

    Even though I disagree with him on pretty much every political and social issue I can’t help but thinking he’s decent guy that gives damn about this country. He’s likable too.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I was going to guess either him or Bill Richardson, but somehow never got around to typing the comment.

    I guess I was having too much fun with #23. Real life is seldom so poetic…

    You’re right, Biden does seem like a decent chap – if a little old-fashioned. He’d make a good VP, although by this time he’s probably well out of the running.

  • Arch Conservative

    Richardson is another Dem that I would probably break for if I was driving down the street and he was crossing in front of me.

    Smae as Biden. Disagreeable politics fo rth emost part but seems to be a nice guy who truly cares.

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