Dan Proft: Good afternoon, Dan Proft, and joining me on this edition of Illinois Rising is Illinois Policy Institute president and CEO, John Tillman. John, the presidential campaign is going on, you may have noticed.
John Tillman: This is an election year?
Dan Proft: Yeah, it is, but I wonder if the outcomes are going to be fait accompli before they get to March 15th when candidates come to town and Illinois voters have a chance to make their selections. I’m referring on my morning show to President Elect Trump, already at this stage; is that where you’re at, or are you holding the candle for another candidate?
John Tillman: I think given that we’re just finishing the eighth year now of President Hillary Clinton’s victory from 2008, I don’t think we should jump to conclusions here. There’s a long ways to go – I think only about 5% of the delegates have been selected; I think after Super Tuesday, it’ll be about a third – but there’s still a huge backload chunk of delegates that go all the way out into June. So I don’t think anything is a set in stone; I think the bigger question is who’s going to rise and get above the 40% mark and put Trump into second place. Can Rubio do it? It seems to me Cruz is starting to fade. And with all these conversations about politics, by the way, Dan, they are my personal opinions, of course.
Dan Proft: I understand that – your right as American – given to you by our Lord above. For some perspicacious insights…
John Tillman: Percipications, Dan?
Dan Proft: Perspicacious.
John Tillman: Perspicacious, aha.
Dan Proft: Yes, perspicacious insights into the state of play and the presidential race we’re not joined by Chris Robling, Republican Strategist and Principle at Clearspan Strategic. Chris, thanks for joining us!
John Tillman: And you’d better see a doctor about that p-word.
Chris Robling: Good to be with both of you. Hello, John, hello, Dan.
Dan Proft: So, Chris, President Elect Donald Trump – your reaction.
Chris Robling: I think we have to get out of politics and we have to get into something bigger. There’s something bigger going on here, I guess, and I think – I don’t know how you guys felt personally when you saw that 45 coming out of Nevada – but I just thought ‘This guy has somehow linked himself to the spirit of the moment’, and it’s no longer about anything with which we’re familiar from the typical political realm. We’ve gone into sort of a phenomenon in which he has connected with people, a lot of people… and it’s a lot of people, it’s not everybody, but it’s a lot.
Dan Proft: Well, let me suggest something, that we have seen this phenomenon before, and the synonym for populism in 2008 was hope, and the synonym for populism in 2016 is winning. We just have a populist candidate on our side eight years after democrats had one on theirs.
Chris Robling: Yeah, I want to believe that. I think that’s really terrific, Dan. Please, I want to subscribe to your newsletter, because, let me tell you, what’s troubling to me is not so much the fact that he’s struck this chord and generated this response; it’s all of this stuff on the side. There are these very concerning elements of how he has gotten here and I think that… two things, two quick points: number one, I agree with Chris Matthews, and that’s rare, very rare…
Dan Proft: Mr. Tingle.
Chris Robling: 20 years I’ve never agreed with this guy, but I think Chris Matthews appropriately parsed out the Trump proposal, and Trump’s basic proposal is ‘Either we have a country or we don’t. That’s what I saw at the City Club in Chicago in June, that’s what I’m hearing tonight. I think there is a brilliance to that.
John Tillman: But I think that… oh, go ahead, Chris, I thought you were done, sorry.
Chris Robling: That’s the big concept under which the guy is operating. Now the little concept is sort of his own personal style, and that personal style is kind of a brawling New York real estate developer, and I think that that’s laid down some things that are offensive to me as a long time conservative, Reagan conservative kind of guy, and that’s not to deny there weren’t things very offensive about Obama. It was hope and change eight years ago; I completely agree with that too, Dan.
John Tillman: Yeah, but I think what’s interesting about Dan’s narrative there about populism is the difference between Trump and Obama is that Obama ran as a populist driven with demagoguery and ideology. Trump is running as a populist driven by narcissism – and of course, Obama has his share of that, but Trump has no ideology that is discernable. We have no idea what he will actually do if he becomes president, and that is both thrilling and terrifying to me at the same time; could be great, maybe he becomes Reagan, right? Can you believe that? On the other hand, maybe he’s the second coming of Barrack Obama.
Chris Robling: Reagan’s personnel chief, Pendleton James said famously, ‘Personnel is policy’; the great stuff Illinois Policy Institute puts out is well written and it’s well thought out, well reasoned and everything else, but you need actual human beings to physically get that stuff done, and if real people don’t get it done, it’s still just words on a page. Okay. I agree with you. We don’t know exactly what he’s going to do on X or Y or Z and there are some things that are very troubling about what he says. I’m not as troubled on this whole Muslim thing; Donald Trump is in Dubai, Donald Trump has got a big tower in Turkey. I don’t think he’s got personal animus to categories of fellow human beings, but I think that, on the other hand, he might take us in a Smoot-Hawley protectionist direction that would be disastrous, not just for our overall macro-economic health, but would also hurt many working Americans, because in the long run, protectionism hurts the middle class; they’re the ones who pay the price.
Dan Proft: As we look at Illinois, with the primary here a couple weeks away – so Hillary Clinton has about a twelve point lead on Bernie Sanders; Donald Trump has about twelve, thirteen point lead on Ted Cruz; now, of course, that could change; there’s momentums of funny things, even happens on Super Tuesdays and the like, but don’t you find that interesting: The republican primary elector of Illinois giving Donald Trump a double digit lead?
Chris Robling: Well, I remember gubernatorial candidates a few short years ago who was very, very much out there calling for an appropriate revolution in Illinois governance.
Dan Proft: Yeah. How’d that work out for that guy?
Chris Robling: Well, but I thought he was laying down a lot of markers that got picked up by a guy named Bruce Rauner.
John Tillman: You’re too early, Dan, too early.
Dan Proft: Yes, yes, the story of my life.
Chris Robling: Well, everybody needs a John the Baptist, and so Dan the Baptist went there…
John Tillman: Wow! You know how that ends, right?
Dan Proft: You’re going to be a smote down for that comparison, Mr. Robling.
Chris Robling: But I want to say, I think that people are fed up. This gets back to the beginning. There is a spirit of the age, okay? A zeitgeist right now and I believe that this is directly aimed at Obama’s excesses and at the establishment republican’s recesses, okay? Too much from Obama, too little from the republicans; we’re sick of everybody; let’s try Trump.
Dan Proft: Well, and what does Trump represent? I agree with you, it’s psychological; it’s not substantive, and so it’s swagger. I’ve got the swagger, I’ve won in life, and now I’m going to bring winning to you after you have been fleeced by a government you’ve financed by both parties for the last 15 years; and then blamed for everything that’s going on top of it. You’re losing your – kind of – access to economic opportunity, as well as the culture – what you thought defined America; I mean, culturally there’s been a huge shift, even just from 2012 to present.
Chris Robling: I couldn’t agree more, and honestly, I’m going to use a name here probably for the first time on your august radio program: I’m not really sure where Donald Trump and his many former spouses, and then the sort of fashion stuff, and he has always… and then you get to the Kardashians, and then you’re into God knows what. So there’s some kind of weird societal acceptance of all of this excess that’s going on, and I think that the regular voter – you go to the regular voter in South Carolina, you go to the regular voter in Nevada; ‘Well, that shows that he’s a successful business man’. There is this sort of broad societal whatever if takes to win kind of thing, and now it’s being applied to politics.
John Tillman: I think the part of that that is interesting; I don’t think that there is a broad societal acceptance of all of these things. I think there’s a media-cultural-arts acceptance of all of this, and so therefore it feels like it’s been mainstream, but I think that what Trump is tapping into – to go back, really way back to the silent majority; the people that just sort of live their lives, go to work, most of them go to church, maybe not all the time; they might not be the most devout person, but they’re trying, right? They’re aspirational, and all these things to try to live a good civic life. And they see all of this stuff from Kardashians, to Trump, and just the craziness that goes on, to the Super Bowl halftime show, and they’re like, ‘What is our world coming to?’ So he is appealing to that; it’s that sense of rebellion, of the elite status quo on both coast that people are responding to, and that desire is trumping policy imperatives.
Chris Robling: That, I think, is very well said, and goodness only knows what he’s going to do about taxes. Goodness only knows what he is going to do about social security, about entitlements, you know? In many respects, we’re playing in a realm that is defined by Obama’s cowardice to deliver on his own self-generated campaign promise to address entitlements. That has, in my opinion, overwhelmingly set the landscape of 2016 and beyond. ‘I missed the press release, I missed the white paper’, what is he doing to do about entitlement.
Dan Proft: Yeah, right, that’s the thing. The concern is you don’t know what to be concerned about.
John Tillman: It’s going to make him great.
Chris Robling: It’s going to make him the greatest ever.
Dan Proft: Chris Robling, Republican Strategist, Principle at Clearspan Strategic. Chris, thanks for joining us! Appreciate it!
Chris Robling: Great to be with you, thanks!
Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with John Tillman, president and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. John against the backdrop of the bankrupt CPS and proposal by governor Rauner – essentially foster a state takeover of CPS as they can’t seem to manage their finances or educate children, two kind of important things.
John Tillman: But they do employ teachers and pay them well with excellent benefits and retirement programs.
Dan Proft: They do, and they also want to crowd out competition in that space. Charter schools have been positive innovation, provide more competition, more choice for families in Chicago, and elsewhere, but in particular in Chicago, where choices are desperately needed, and yet, what the Teacher’s Union want, and what Rahm Emanuel and other politicos in Chicago seem to be willing to deal is to cap charter schools. It’s a very curious thing, because on the one hand, there seems to be an agreement outside of the Teacher’s Union that charter schools were a positive innovation, as I described, and so we want a limited number of those.
John Tillman: Right, you want to cap the children’s potential to do better. They agree that charter schools are a better option for some kids – maybe not all kids, but some kids – and now we want to limit that. What a bizarre thought. It’s really a chit in the negotiations with the Union, it has nothing to do with the children.
Dan Proft: We don’t want to satiate ourselves with too much goodness in Illinois.
John Tillman: Because we have so much already.
Dan Proft: That’s right! You have to limit that; small doses. State representative Barb Wheeler, Republican from McHenry County has introduced legislation to lift the cap on charter schools in Illinois, and she joined us now. Barb, thanks for joining us, appreciate it.
Barb Wheeler: Oh, great to be with you, Dan! It’s always a pleasure.
Dan Proft: So kind of unpack the legislation that you’ve introduced, and the impetus for introducing it.
Barb Wheeler: I’m a big fan of charter schools. I think they do a tremendous throughout the state, specifically in Chicago and areas where families need access to high quality schools. I’m a big believer in competition. So this arbitrary number that the state has in regard to the cap of 120 statewide charters, basically the bill, it’s not a new bill, it’s been introduced and reintroduced, and I’m introducing this year to remove the cap throughout the state.
John Tillman: Barb, John Tillman here! Hi, how are you doing? Thanks for introducing that bill. It’s been around for a while; maybe with a governor advocating for us we can see a little bit more attraction; in the past, these kinds of pieces of legislation have gotten bipartisan support, and what I think is interesting about this is you live out in the bucolic suburbs, and yet you’re trying to lift the cap not just for a statewide, but would have the biggest impact in the city of Chicago. Tell people why you care about that; why it’s important to you.
Barb Wheeler: Thank you again for having me on today. Dan and John, I know that you know that I’m a former teacher. I think that being able to provide the best quality education for students is my number one priority as a state rep. I’ve done tours to charter schools, I’m a big fan of school choice, I’m a big fan of home schooling, and being able to provide everyone throughout the state with all of their options, and the best options for the students is a priority. I think getting rid of the charter school cap in the state of Illinois always comes up when they’re negotiating the union contract, especially in the city. The time on this bill is good. You restart the conversation, and you’re right: Governor Rauner’s a big fan of charter schools, he’s a big fan of education for all students and providing the best opportunities for them. That’s without a doubt. I got to give the new director Tony Smith of K-12 education a lot of credit too. It’s really important to him to create autonomy within the classroom and be innovative to it, which goes along with what the charter schools are trying to do as well.
John Tillman: As a former teacher, I’m sure that you must have – whether you wanted to or not – have been a member of the Illinois Education Association, of course, in Chicago, through Chicago Teacher’s Union. The unions have come out strongly against this legislation in the past; they will again, and every chance they get, they oppose any kind of expansion of choice for parents for better educational outcomes. Since you were once a teacher and part of that union, what can you tell people to help them understand why the teacher’s representative of the union is always so in opposition to legislation that would actually improve children’s educational outcomes.
Barb Wheeler: It’s interesting, I often think about that. The stuff that teachers – individual teachers in the classroom want to do is to be innovative, not demanded by the state and this is exactly what they do, they really push back on so much state testing, how that’s mandated by the state, they really want – the magic word is – autonomy, which is, quite honestly, if you would ask them individually how they feel in regard to the overall and overarching ideas of charter schools and choice, I think that is they drilled out and think about it, they would be more in agreement with individual schools to be able to have some more freedom, especially within their own classroom. Having said that though, the members of a larger and very strong lobbyist group have a lot of pull and is very powerful in the state of Illinois, and I often wonder whether the IEA is more concerned about their number growing their numbers in the membership than really representing their members’ true intentions as they close the door and teach it in their own classroom. I do believe that that is often times a polarizing issue.
Dan Proft: She is state representative Barb Wheeler, Republican from Crystal Lake. Representative Wheeler, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it.
Barb Wheeler: Well, thanks for having me.
Dan Proft: It’s interesting too, to Barb’s point about the teachers. On the one hand they say ‘That’s not fair because charter schools don’t have all these mandates that they have to comply with like we do’. Instead of saying ‘Why don’t we remove the mandates for everybody, and give everybody the latitude and the flexibility?’, they say ‘No, make their situation worse, just like it is for me’, rather than making everybody’s situation better.
John Tillman: I once, years ago, on Craig Dellimore’s Show, debated the chief education officer for the city of Chicago, and this is exactly how it played out. I said ‘Why are charter schools performing almost the same level as suburban and downstate schools with the same kids in the city, because those kids are taken by lottery, they’re not selectively enrolled?’, and she said ‘Well, because the charter schools don’t have to operate under the collective bargaining agreement’, and so then I said ‘Why don’t we charterize the entire system?’, and of course, she had a meltdown.
Dan Proft: Right, there you go. For more on this topic, from an association global perspective, we’re now joined by Jelani McEwen the External Relations Director for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Jelani, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
Jelani MrEwen: Thanks for having me, Dan.
Dan Prof: Give people a sense of the state of play with charter schools. One of the things that’s often argued by Karen Lewis and other Teacher’s Union heffes is that, ‘Look, a lot of the charter schools are not out performing in their neighborhood schools; it’s a mixed bag, and so this is why we shouldn’t be divesting from the local school and funding these charter schools’.
Jelani McEwen: Well, I can say we know that to not be true; 100% false. INX briefly did an analysis of student enrollment patterns in Chicago, and so what we did was we took every charter school, and we looked at their students, and determined where that student would have gone to school if they followed the zoning pattern; if they’d been to the school based upon their home address, where would they have gone? And so we took all the student schools that they should have gone to, and created an average on the CPS, on Chicago Public Schools, school quality rating policy metrics, we took an average of that, and then we compared that average for all of the schools they should have gone to, to the quality of the school they’re in. And in Chicago, 72% charter schools were performing at a higher level than the average of the schools students otherwise would have been zoned to.
John Tillman: Jehlani, John Tillman here. I think one of the things that you have done such a great – your organization and charter schools in general have done a great job – and just this moral-righteous storyline that we need to get out, which is Chicago kids can compete; Chicago kids can’t perform when the educational system is responsive to their individual needs. That’s what the charter schools do.
Jehlani McEwen: Completely true. I think that’s one of the biggest issues I struggle with, with the union rhetoric. Sometimes, the argue is that because the communities and the young people that are in the schools come from a vulnerable, low income backgrounds, that those are the hurdles that forbid them from learning, and they’re not accountable for those outcomes. But that’s not true. We have proof points across Chicago of charter schools that are serving low income kids, that are serving low income communities, and they’re growing, and they’re learning. Poverty is not a bar that prevents people from learning, right? We know now that a school coacher that is supportive, that believes in the kids, that a curriculum that is prepared to meet the purse-right needs of each learner, and a managing structure that can manage themselves well, those are leverage for change that can help all children learn, especially our most vulnerable kids.
Dan Proft: Now, one of the other arguments that’s advanced is – and this is against private schools as well, but also charters – is that the difference between these competitive options is that they don’t have to take all-comers, where the local schools do.
Jehlani McEwan: That’s not true either. Charter schools are open enrolment schools. Any student in the city of Chicago can apply to these schools and if they are picked through a lottery, right, it’s randomized because there’re more students who want a seat in the building that there are seats, there’s a lottery, but we have to take anybody who comes. We have to help whoever comes through the doors whether we have the resources to or not; so that’s a common misconception. We don’t get a choice in who comes in the building, we’re not selective.
Dan Proft: And I suppose the fact that there’s more demand than supply says something about the state of affairs.
John Tillman: Oversubscribed, yes.
Jehlani McEwan: You’re totally true.
Dan Proft: Alright. He is Jehlani McEwen, External Relations Director for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Jelani, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
Jehlani McEwan: Thank you, Dan, appreciate it.
Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with John Tillman, president and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. Illinoispolicy.org And John, new gallup poll and some interesting results. Not particularly surprising, except with one exception; which is it… except with one exception, it’s a little bit redundant, sorry about that. New gallup poll shows Illinois residents are the least confident in their state government, of any residence in the country; three quarters of Illinoisans say they are not confident in their government; compare that to North Dakota, on the other end, where 8 in ten North Dakota residents are confident in their state government. The only thing that’s surprising to me about these numbers: I want to meet that 25% that are confident in the Illinois state government.
John Tillman: Right, right. They work for the government, Dan, that’s why. That’s who they are.
Dan Proft: Yes, exactly. Or it’s like Madigan and Cullerton packing the vote, just like they do on Election Day here, they’ve got their ends on gallup. Well, for more on this and what distinguishes those state governments that have the trust of their residents, versus those like Illinois that do not, we’re now joined by Todd Davidson, from the State Policy Network, where he works as a policy specialist. Todd, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
Todd Davidson: Yeah, thanks, Dan, thanks for having me on.
Dan Proft: So, with respect to this survey, where Illinois bring you up the rear as we all want to do when it comes to things like trust and government and quality of life, what is it that distinguishes those at the bottom of the list in terms of residence trusting their government from those at the top of the list, like North Dakota?
Todd Davidson: Yeah, Dan, there are a couple things that I saw in this, and I think the most important of all of this is just jobs in that state: job creation. If a person has a job, they come home from work and they see their care for their family, they’ve been rewarded for their hard work, they’ve a confidence in the future, and then they have confidence in their states economy, and then they have confidence in their states government. Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, all those states at the bottom, not creating jobs, personal incomes aren’t growing, whereas the states at the top, you see job growth – higher than average job growth – and people are being rewarded for their work.
Dan Proft: And Illinois is the seventh worst unemployment rate in the country, I think.
Todd Davidson: Yeah, at the end of the year 5.9, which was pretty terrible.
John Tillman: John Tillman here. It’s particularly terrible, Todd, when you look at the labor participation rate in Illinois, more people are getting on food stamps that they are finding new jobs and when that ratio starts to flip, it goes to the very core of what you’re saying. I think what’s interesting about that, the ones that are performing well is big states, small states, northern states, southern states, east and west, and so the common denominator is jobs, and the other thing I think is interesting – that politicians ought to figure out – is when you have a really robust tight growth economy, the people are pretty forgiving. They’ll let an awful lot of carnage go on – that’s what happened here in Illinois for decades until it all came home to roost.
Todd Davidson: As truly, winning is kind of a deodorant that gets rid of anything; people are very forgiving when they’ve got a job and they have that confidence.
Dan Proft: What about on the spend side, you talked about employment now; kind of all of these are inextricably linked, but when you look at the states that are distributed across this gallup poll from 1 to 50, is there anything on the spend side, the states that are more inclined to have balanced budgets versus states that have out of balance budgets, and unfunded liabilities versus funded pensions, and those sorts of things.
Todd Davidson: Yes, I look at that correlation, and I see another really high correlation. You got states like Nebraska, who has pretty good prudent management of their government. They do have a couple of problems, but for the most part, they’ve got healthy preserves and a good balanced budget. Utah is probably the best example of good prudent conservative governments and budgeting, and then on the other hand, Illinois – of course, you guys know all about Illinois, but Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, for instance, is looking at a three billion dollar tax increase right now, because they need to balance their budget. Even, unfortunately, my home state of Kansas, is in a little bit of budget trouble when you see them… I think that explains why they’re so far down the line.
John Tillman: That’s interesting; I thought that governor Sam Brownback was solving all the problems in Kansas.
Todd Davidson: He’s done a good job at lowering the tax burden, but as you know, got caught up in kind of a political fight that left a little bit of a budget hole that’s taken them a few years to dig out of, and it’s been a pretty nasty fight, but I imagine as they get that corrected and the lower tax rates start to reward them economically, that state’s going to grow. It is really good on job creation, it’s got a pretty low unemployment rate, but I think that slight fiscal situation is dragging it down, for the time being.
Dan Proft: And when you have a state like Illinois, with three quarters of the populous not having faith in their government, something else that tends to happen is people leave, and so I wonder, at the bottom end, where Illinois is, if you see, those are the states with the largest out-migration as well, which kind of furthers the economic death spiral in states like Illinois.
Todd Davidson: Yeah, absolutely. I talked to my friends at the Yankee Institute there in Connecticut, and big news out of Connecticut was the leaving of General Electric this past January, but that’s not even the real story; the true story: small businesses like Borgeous’s Universal, this business makes the steering joints that you probably used to drive your car at work today. It’s been in Torrington, Connecticut, which is a town of 35.000 people, for 101 years, and it had 43 employees, they moved out of that state for South Carolina. It’s stories like that that are putting Connecticut down at the bottom. Illinois, you got the same thing. A well documented story – Jesse Huerta – I’m sure you can tell it much better than I can.
John Tillman: Jesse Huerta worked in Cook County, and eventually relocated over to Indiana and became a supervisor at a manufacturing facility over there, and did a video with us, and just tells this amazing story, but he didn’t want to leave, and this what I think is interesting about this, that we’ve started talking about it a little bit, is while 50% of the people in Illinois say they would leave if they could, nobody wants to leave; people have their homes and families here. They want to stay here, they want to see a change, and that’s what I think is what’s interesting about the battle we have unfolding here in Illinois right now, between the Rauner point of view, and the progressive Madigan point of view.
Dan Proft: He is Todd Davidson, policy specialist at the State Policy Network, Todd, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your time!
Todd Davidson: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it!
Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with John Tillman, president and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. John, many interesting legislating primaries, this primary season, March 15th, just a couple of weeks away; one of the more interesting ones, because of the incumbent is Mike Madigan, house speaker Mike Madigan, who has been the house speaker since Illinois has been incorporated in 1818, but he’s just another state legislator like everybody else, he’s got to run every two years in his South – Westside district, he’s facing a challenger from a young man named Jason Gonzalez, and I say young because he’s my age, makes me feel young;
John Tillman: You just did that to hurt my feelings. That’s why you did that.
Dan Proft: Yes, sure, right. Just to distinguish…
John Tillman: A little stab at the gray haired dude over there.
Dan Proft: Yeah, I mean, might be respectful of my elder. John Cash wrote about Jason Gonzalez this week, and the challenge that he is mounting against Mike Madigan. It’s interesting – I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm to see somebody who is actually pretty sharp, and this Gonzalez kid is; he’s got pretty impressive academic credentials, he’s well-spoken, he’s been successful in business.
John Tillman: Yeah, and the trusting backdrop before all that, life story challenges growing up, difficulties, got a little trouble with the law, had a total turnaround, redemption, these are the kind of things that I thought the democrat party would champion; that a guy who starts up with some trouble, then finds his path, gets great degrees from MIT, and I think Duke, but apparently Mike Madigan’s campaign literature is really wanting to focus on the bad part of Jason Gonzales’ life. I’m so surprised.
Dan Proft: I hope Mike Madigan’s life ends how Jason’s started, with trouble with the law. We’ll have to see how that goes.
John Tillman: With the attorney general Lisa Madigan, I don’t know how likely that is.
Dan Proft: No, that’s going to have to federal prosecution of some sort, but Madigan… Is Madigan really vulnerable? Seems to me, as I’m watching this race unfold, there’s a lot of unbounded hopefulness, but unbounded.
John Tillman: Well, I know you are always more tough on these questions than I am; first of all, I said all along, I think this is a long shot. But sometimes long shots come in. Will this one come in? It’s a long shot, so the odds are no, but what I think is interesting about the discussion is how seriously Madigan is taking this race; normally, as you know, the way it works, Madigan chooses his primary opponents; they actually work for him, the people that collect the signatures for his primary opponents, to fill the ballot, are people that work for him.
Dan Proft: Well, it just makes it easier.
John Tillman: It’s just much simpler when you’re on both sides of the victory.
Dan Proft: Totally.
John Tillman: In fact, it just illustrates just how corrupt the system is; when Jason Gonzalez went in 15 minutes before the deadline to drop off his petitions, there was a Mike Madigan employee who had both stacks of petitions for the other two people, because there’s four people now on the ballot – the other two, a man and a woman, both also with Hispanic names, just to kind of confuse people about the Hispanic challenger – and it wasn’t just that; those kinds of shenanigan standard are having some parking problems in Mike Madigan’s district.
Dan Proft: I think it’s nice to see somebody that keeps the soviet style system of elections going.
John Tillman: Right.
Dan Proft: And Mike Madigan certainly does, with Gonzalez as the exception, but yeah. So Gonzales has a campaign office in the district, of course, and all of a sudden, after he moved into his campaign office, and John Kaz writes about this, no parking tow zone signs go up in front of his district.
John Tillman: And I think it was February 23rd to March 15th, right?
Dan Proft: Right.
John Tillman: Just a coincidence! Being the primary day…
Dan Proft: Well, I appreciate the candor. Don’t do it like April 1st , make sure you understand, this is just for you, and just through the primary. The things that’s actually interesting about this, is I find this to be representative of a kinder, gentler Mike Madigan, because back in the day, instead of just putting the no parking signs up to harass your opponent that way, they just ripped off the sidewalk. You know, so you couldn’t walk
John Tillman: Right. So you couldn’t get inside your building.
Dan Proft: There’d be horses there, right, maybe put some scaffolding up too, so you don’t have any visibility.
John Tillman: We have two weeks left, Dan, don’t give them ideas!
Dan Proft: True, I was just saying, maybe Mike Madigan has lost his edge, but it is interesting, because the more Madigan does something like this – and when you have a challenger who’s not intimidated, like Gonzalez, this – a cruise to his benefit – people see him being persecuted, people see him treated unfairly, people see Madigan for what he is, and that’s continuing to happen. I think there’s a recognition of Madigan in the last couple of years, particularly since the last year, since governor Rauner’s been elected, an awareness of him, the kind of person he is, the kind of ruling class pawl that he is; that maybe hasn’t been the case even for most of the last three decades.
John Tillman: Yeah, and I think that as the district where Madison is continues to change demographically – now everybody says demographics are destiny – I think Mike Madigan’s very likely to prove that’s not true this time, but I think Jason Gonzalez’s play is for the long run, and to try to make inroads, and say, you know what, it’s time for us to pick somebody who represents our interests – 71% Hispanic district there.
Dan Proft: Well, the other things too would be interesting, democrat primaries tend to be more on the center-right side; certainly I do, and I believe you do too in your role as a private American citizen.
John Tillman: Citizen John?
Dan Proft: Yes, but seeing some new generation democrats challenge the old guard democrats, seeing some democrats are willing to step out on particular votes, willing to say that ‘If I’m elected in this primary I’m not going to vote for Mike Madigan as speaker; I’m going to be truly independent because I may not affiliate with the Republican party, but I see the power structure in the Chicago democrat party as just as illegitimate.’
John Tillman: I think what’s interesting about that is we’ve long said that the democrat’s agenda has hurt people in the poor parts of the city, people who are dependent on public education in the city, if you happen to be – whether you’re a poor middle-class African-American that crosses the spectrum, you are being screwed by the system. If you’ve bought a beautiful house down in Southern Cook County, in Flossmoor, and you’re African-American, or you’re struggling to survive and you’re living in a rental property on the South or West side, and you happen to be African-America, or for that matter Hispanic, the democrat party has been screwing you for decades, and that is starting to settle into people’s consciousness, and that’s – I think – what the Gonzalez candidacy and the other people you’re talking about are all about.
Dan Proft: And I also think very much like what’s been starting to happen to the republican party over the last several cycles. Talented young people in their 30s and 40s, they’re getting sick of this wait your turn mentality. The republican party did it to its detriment for the better part of the last two and a half decades until recently, the last several cycles, and of course, the Chicago democrat party has done the same thing, and maybe they’re sowing the seeds of their own minority status.
John Tillman: The new blood coming up isn’t actually interested in having a career in politics and making their living through politics. They’re actually interested in changing things, and I think that’s also the big difference.
Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with John Tillman, president and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. John, at the start of the show we talked to Chris Robling about the presidential campaign as it wanted to treat Illinois in March 15th , and I got a question for you, as Trump is starting to pile up victories, as he is starting to appear to be the inevitable republican nominee, you have conservative intellectuals Erick Erickson, some of the writers over at The Federalist saying better Hillary than Donald Trump. I will not vote for Donald Trump, and there are some that say ‘I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump’, and some ‘I’d rather have Hillary’… the argument is that we don’t want to be responsible for an enemy inside our perimeter. Better to have an enemy where the lines are drawn and we fight that enemy, than allow someone like Donald Trump, who could be a facsimile of Obama or Hillary in our camp to define the Republican Party, to define the conservative movement and destroy it from within your conservative intellectual. You a subscribe to that theory?
John Tillman: That is one of the most insane positions I have ever heard. Hillary would be…
Dan Proft: Describing you as a conservative intellectual?
John Tillman: Exactly. Both are true. This is an insanity, and it’s actually an indulgence. What this reflects is people now on the right who are mirroring what people on the left do, the people in the North Shore who go ostentatiously to the black tie events to support some ostentatious charity that helps the poor and disadvantaged, rather than going to the soup kitchen on a Sunday and volunteering, and then they can’t help but always talk about that, and they’re ‘holier than thou’, I am such a worthy human being trying to take care of everyone at the cocktail party or at the dinner circuit. This is the same thing. I am so pure, I am so wonderful, I am so enlightened, that I will not deign to vote for Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. Have they been paying attention who Hillary Clinton is?! She is an amoral, dishonest, power hungry politician who gives not one wit about the poor, the disadvantaged or the average American people, and will use the executive branch and abuse it even more than this president – Obama – has currently done. It is dangerous. The debate I had is, who would you rather have in office for the Republican Congress, though they are weak and they have problems there, to hold check on? Would you rather have the progressives have control of the judiciary and the executive branch for another 4 years, with an impotent congress, or do you rather have Trump and all the risks that are there, that I acknowledge, be tried to hold in check by a more robust congress who’s worried about his excesses. I will take that every day.
Dan Proft: Well, alright then, I think you’re right to describe this as a bit of an indulgence, you know? It’s easy to be a theoretician or an op-ed writer at one of these opinion journals and take this position in the long game, where people are really suffering in the short run and the prospect of eight years of Hillary Clinton, for example, the kind of damage that would do. Think about the eight years of president Obama. Could we survive it? Of course we could survive it. We can survive anything, but it doesn’t mean that we should make the incline that much steeper coming out of potentially sixteen years of Obama and Hillary Clinton progressive policies; but they would say in response, just to play this out a little more, they would say ‘Look, you have to look long term; if Trump is an authoritarian in a way that president Obama has been, and essentially concedes all these foundational principles, and then the policies that stem from those principles, then he destroys the party, he destroys the movement, and you won’t be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again after four years of Trump.
John Tillman: I think that’s just preposterous on its face. One of the things you and I both know, because we’re both people involved in this in our citizen lives, is you build a movement from the extremes back to the middle. So you build a movement from the pro-liberty, pro-freedom point of view, from the right back to the center, and if Trump goes south on the right, then it is incumbent upon all of us who care about the freedoms that we fight for every day to hold him accountable, and that the work that we’ve all done here is Illinois, it started out by holding republicans accountable – they were a little uncomfortable with that, but now we have the situation, and we are now where we have less of that and we can actually start working across the aisle in terms of the work we do in politics or legislative advocacy. It’s the same idea here: if Trump goes rogue, it’s up to us to solve the problem. That is a much better problem for us to have than the other one.