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Illinois Politics

Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Illinois Politics
    Book Description:

    Considered a microcosm of the nation, the state of Illinois stretches almost four hundred miles from its northern limit at the Wisconsin line to its southern tip at Cairo, nestled between Kentucky and Missouri. Its political culture is as intriguing as the state is long._x000B__x000B_Illinois has produced presidents and leading members of Congress. It also has a long history of political corruption, including, in recent years, the federal indictments of two consecutive governors. The population of the state is exceptionally diverse, with a significant number of new immigrants. Its political allegiance, once firmly Republican, has trended ever more Democratic. Illinois can be divided neatly into three distinct regions: Chicago, the suburban collar surrounding the city, and the ninety-five downstate counties._x000B__x000B_Based on the research and experience of respected veterans of Illinois politics, this book shows how the government runs, how politics operates, and what obstacles and opportunities exist for change. It explains how power is exercised and how parties compete for it. For engaged citizens, scholars, and students, Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide is a timely and much-needed roadmap for positive change. _x000B__x000B_Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide sheds light on these important questions and more: _x000B__x000B_Why has corruption flourished in Illinois even as reformers struggle for ethical change? _x000B_How do the three regions of the state compete for resources? _x000B_How does the legislature work?_x000B_When did the state become so blue?_x000B_What powers do the governor and other elected officials really have? _x000B_How are judges appointed to and removed from the bench? _x000B_Why does Illinois have more units of government than any other state? _x000B_How did higher education lose ground as a funding priority? _x000B_What role did politics play in the current budget deficit? _x000B_And how can Illinois move beyond its status as the "most average state in the nation"?

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09201-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. 1. Illinois in Perspective
    (pp. 1-23)

    Since its earliest days, Illinois has been captive to a political culture that treats government as just another marketplace in which to do business. In turn, this marketplace has provided a fertile setting for corruption, which has flourished. As we move into the second decade of the twenty-first century, glimmers of reform emanate from assertive good-government groups, and more ethical behavior may be forthcoming in reaction to a series of successful, nonpartisan prosecutions by a forceful, dogged U.S. attorney in Chicago.

    The state is also characterized by its diversity. At the center of the nation, Illinois is sometimes referred to...

  2. 2. Power, Parties, Groups, and the Media
    (pp. 24-42)

    Politics in Illinois is about the struggle for power and influence, which allow one to make or block change in public policy and to control governmental administration. This chapter illustrates the application of power and influence inside government and then assesses the roles of the primary institutions that affect, from the outside, what goes on inside—political party organizations, interest groups, and the media.

    Politics is a serious game in which the players apply their respective bundles of power and influence as skillfully as they know how in order to achieve their objectives. Power is the application of coercion, threats,...

  3. 3. Elections
    (pp. 43-75)
    Kent D. Redfield

    Although presidential elections continue to take place every four years in the United States, it has become increasingly more difficult to find any evidence of those campaigns in Illinois. Since the 1992 presidential election Illinois has been considered a Democratic (blue) state, with Republican presidential candidates making only brief stopovers there. After the 2008 election Democrats held all of the statewide elected offices, controlled both chambers of the legislature, held both U.S. Senate seats, and increased their edge in the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to 12-7. It is easy to think of Illinois as a lost...

  4. 4. Constitutions
    (pp. 76-88)

    State constitutions provide the dimensions of the ballpark in which the game of politics is played. The charters provide the structure of government and enumerate elective offices to be filled. Equally important, constitutions grant powers and impose limitations on government in general and on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in particular. Unlike the federal government, which has had only one Constitution since the Articles of Confederation, Illinois has had four constitutions since its admission to the Union in 1818.

    The number may be misleading, though, because the first “frontier” constitution was written hurriedly. Drafted, debated, and passed in three...

  5. 5. The Legislature
    (pp. 89-113)

    The Illinois legislature is a fiercely partisan body where horse-trading and sophisticated political stratagems often appear more important to lawmakers than the particular issues to be decided. High-pressure lobbying and generous contributions to legislators’ election campaigns tie them closely to labor, business, and other influential interests. Whereas short hours and low pay marked the early legislatures,¹ today lawmaking is a full-time endeavor for many, and good pay and generous pension benefits have lured many to make a career as a legislator.²

    Legislators tend to reflect the habits and mores of the districts they represent. In the Capitol rotunda, you might...

  6. 6. The Executive
    (pp. 114-138)

    A Golden Gloves pugilist as a teen, Governor Rod Blagojevich (2003–9) struck a combative tone with the legislature at the beginning of his second term in 2007, when he surprised lawmakers with massive proposals to provide health coverage for nearly everyone in the state and a $7 billion gross receipts tax on business to pay for the new program. Both were summarily rejected by the legislature, but the governor proceeded to expand his health program, called Illinois Covered, prompting lawsuits from Republicans that charged him with an unconstitutional usurpation of the legislature’s authority to appropriate funds.

    Blagojevich might well...

  7. 7. The Courts
    (pp. 139-160)

    The entangling of the courts with politics should come as no surprise to anyone in a state that elects its judges. Illinois voters nominate judges in partisan primaries and elect them to the bench in general elections. It is easy to see that in cases tried or appealed in the courts there will always be winners or losers. In any case, court decisions resolve conflicts, enforce community norms, stigmatize people, apply statutes or determine their constitutionality, and legitimize or reject decisions made elsewhere in state or local government. Clearly, litigants have the opportunity to wield power through the courts for...

  8. 8. The Intergovernmental Web
    (pp. 161-181)

    In our federal system, powers are formally divided between the national, that is, federal government, and the state governments. The local governments are, in contrast, creatures of their respective state’s constitutions and laws. In the real world, however, the federal government heavily influences, even controls many state-administered programs, because of superior revenues and aggressive policy making by Congress, the president, and the federal bureaucracy. Even the creatures of state government at the local level exert strong pressures on state government through organized lobbies and local political power centers. This chapter provides an overview of Illinois local governments and of the...

  9. 9. Education
    (pp. 182-207)

    Education is arguably the most important function of state and local government. Illinois enrolls more than three million students from pre-kindergarten through higher education, about one in every four of the state’s 12.8 million people. Illinois governments spend about $30 billion annually, about 5 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, on education.¹

    After decades in which Illinois ranked in the middle or lower rungs among the states in financial support for kindergarten through high school (K–12) public education, the state and local school districts showed strong support for public education from the 1990s to 2005. In 1992, for...

  10. 10. Taxing and Spending
    (pp. 208-225)

    Budgets are the scorecards of politics. The ponderous documents tally in dollars the winners and losers in the game of who gets what.¹ The politics of budgeting revolve not only around who gets what but also who pays, and how much. Elected officials have strong political incentives to do thingsfortheir voters (for example, more spending on programs) and avoid doing thingstothem (for example, imposing more taxes). As a result, budgets have a natural tendency to increase over time, often faster than revenues.

    The only way to make up the difference, besides cutting back on spending, is...

  11. 11. Illinois: Strong but not Achieving
    (pp. 226-232)

    Illinois is a relatively wealthy state with a huge, diverse economy. The state is richly endowed with natural resources of fertile farmland and enviable water supplies. As the great American Heartland’s metropolis, Chicagoland continues to be the pulsing heart for rail, air, interstate highway, and waterway traffic probably unsurpassed in the nation. Yet the state suffers from a dispiriting culture of corruption and a “we’re just average” complex that seems to restrain leaders and citizens from aspiring to distinctive high achievement as a state. Possibly affecting the complex is a severe lack of state identity, with Chicagoland and southern Illinois...