The Founding Fathers talked about duty and the principles behind voting, but they didn’t live in Illinois. If they had, they would have seen just how useless this frustrating obligation can be. We found out again on Tuesday that voting in Illinois is like depression. You know that you don’t matter. You wonder why you don’t just give up. The vote doesn’t make a difference and our choices show that our parties don’t care about us anyway.
You don’t matter and neither do your values
This isn’t a conservative rant. The vote seems as useless to Illinois Democrats as Republicans, though the reason why is different. Democrats stick with their values and pretend their candidates support everything the party claims to believe in even while all the evidence screams otherwise. Republicans don’t even know what values they have. The goal is to put a candidate in office. We can worry about the why later.
Democrats compromise their #1 value
Democrats who blasted the 1% in the wake of the recession decided to endorse J.B. Pritzker, a candidate who epitomizes the wealthy elite. Not only is Pritzker a billionaire, he’s a white male billionaire, one of the most despised symbols known to liberal America. It makes no difference. The few who showed up at the polls on Tuesday not only decided he is the one to represent their diverse, inclusive, pro-woman, pro-immigrant views, they made that pick by a wide margin.
Why? Pritzker is a rich white guy. He’s very electable and the party knows it.
If you actually endorse the values Democrats made their stock and trade after Trump took office then Pritzker’s candidacy is just more proof that you don’t matter and that voting in Illinois is a hypocritical waste of time. If he really represented the poor and downtrodden and embodied his party’s values, wouldn’t he have been able to sell himself and his good deeds without spending more money than most working families can even conceive of? Perhaps all that campaign spending could have gone to paying the medical bills of the people being offered the promise of a state public option in exchange for their support.
That’s one way to promote liberal values, but it’s not how the system works. Politics is about big money, not big hearts. Without a pile of cash a big heart doesn’t matter a damn.
Republicans have no values
Republican voters didn’t fare any better. Much of what Jeanne Ives said about Rauner was right on the money, though the governor has a lot more of that than his opponent could lay claim to in her failed bid for the nomination.
Our governor has a lot to answer to conservatives for, so on Election Day we put him back in the race for another term.
Victory speech diversity setup?
While I listened to the governor’s victory speech I knew that something was off. Then it hit me. There weren’t any white guys on the screen. When the camera drew back and I saw who was out of the picture I felt like I’d been had. The whole thing was staged to make sure we knew Rauner was all about diversity. The governor isn’t stupid. Like Pritzker, he has to show that being a rich white guy isn’t a liability even though everyone expects Republicans to elect rich white men and women who spend their time on golf courses and lounging in country clubs.
The truth is that winning candidates on both sides can spend their time on golf courses and lounging in country clubs because they have lots of money. Democrats just do a better job of making it seem like they don’t.
Your option: give up on voting
So you’re unhappy and disillusioned. Your voice is never heard. You feel like you don’t matter and you’re right. The good news is that this isn’t your fault. The bad news is that in this state there isn’t much you or your vote can do about it.
You don’t matter because the policies that cause us grief aren’t made to benefit you or even the people they are created for. They are the product of a battle over principles that serve political, not public goals. If this wasn’t the case our state wouldn’t be in the condition it’s in.
In an ethically governed state public worker pensions wouldn’t put your 401(k) to shame while placing you on the hook for billions of dollars in retirement debt. A candidate for governor wouldn’t promise a public option health care system when he knows we can’t pay the bills we already have. Lawmakers would not return to the table year after year to see how large of a tax increase they can get away with to fund initiatives we can’t afford that look good on their political resumes.*
The ones best served by what goes on here have set up shop in Chicago and Springfield. The ones least served just got hit with another income tax increase to pay for it all.
What can you do to drag yourself out of Illinois’ pit of political despair?
You can give up on voting. No more trips to the polls, especially for primary elections no one seems to care about.
Why your vote will count more than ever
Or you can resign yourself to the fact that so many people have stopped voting that your vote counts more than it ever has. If only one third of voters take the time to go to the polls that means your vote speaks for those who are sitting at home on the couch eating chips and watching decades-old sitcoms. You make their decisions for them. The closeness of the Rauner-Ives race shows that voting matters. So does the election of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, candidates with wildly different political goals who were obviously elected by completely different voting blocs.
This is Illinois, not Washington. Madigan has a stranglehold on how this state is run so the governor makes no difference, or so we’re told. Rauner sold out conservatives with a record that includes a big tax hike and a sanctuary state bill, or at least that’s what Jeanne Ives would have us believe. Pritzker is a very rich white guy looking for something to do. You cast your ballot for one or the other. No matter what happens you know that you don’t matter. Your vote is a loathsome fraud, though if you are a Republican you know that the biggest joke is on Democrats tricked into voting for a member of the 1%.
The value lies in a moment of clarity. Illinois is on the way down but we haven’t hit bottom yet. When we finally do, whether it comes from the first state bankruptcy filing or a state composed entirely of politicians looking for people to tax, you will one day get to decide who will drag us out of the mess that Tuesday’s slate of candidates appears determined to maintain.
On that day your vote will count more than ever because you will be the only voter left in Illinois.
*March 24, 2018: one more thing I forgot to add
We also wouldn’t have a faux conservative Republican governor who continues to claim that “Illinois is worth fighting for” on his campaign website while the issues and values that put him in office are shunted aside because he is not the person who controls what happens in this state.
On one level we can sympathize with Rauner. The job was a fool’s errand from the start. On the other, he can’t ethically ask for money to fight for Illinois with his signature at the bottom of our sanctuary state bill, but a donation popup slaps you in the face as soon as you visit his campaign site. For now let’s assume this is the dirty work of his campaign managers. Perhaps the governor doesn’t know anything about it.
UPDATE October 18, 2020: this is how your vote matters two years later
I wrote this post in March 2018. Illinois Democratic voters got what they wanted. Now a white billionaire, the embodiment of everything they profess to despise, is our governor. Chicago has a new mayor, too.
Did your vote matter? Is life in Illinois better?
More debt and a lie about being fair to taxpayers
The solution, now that legalizing marijuana is behind us and the tax windfall from pushing drugs is long forgotten, is to be fair to taxpayers. That means a constitutional amendment that forces people with more to pay up in line with Democratic Party policy that defines what constitutes “weathy” and insists that wealthy people get off scot-free.
If the fair tax amendment passes the $3 billion it brings in will do almost nothing to reduce taxpayer obligations, but it will pave the way to ask for more. Anyone who thinks their less than wealthy income will shield them from future increases probably believes their vote matters, too.
You voted. Chicago burns.
We watched Chicago burn over the summer. Businesses were destroyed. Criminals walked away with as much loot as they could carry. Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed Donald Trump for the violence. She opted not to take responsibility for the same divisive leadership failures she blames the president for.
Dead children are a partisan problem. Lightfoot is not responsible.
Choosing Lori Lightfoot to be Chicago’s mayor was a victory for diversity. It worked out pretty well for violent criminals, too.
WGN Channel 9 reports that murders in Chicago exploded from 290 killed and 1480 people shot from January – July 2019 to 440 murdered and 2,240 shootings from January – July 2020.
Mayor Lightfoot is eager to pin this on the president, but the simple fact is that children and innocent city residents keep dying from gunfire in Lightfoot’s city and she hasn’t stopped it. She can blame Trump all she wants. She can reject his offers to help. The mayor can also do the job voters elected her to do and ensure living in her city isn’t a death sentence.
That hasn’t happened. It’s not going to. Everyone who voted for Lori Lightfoot and ended up dead on her city’s streets knows that, but they can never vote again.
Coronavirus deaths are surging. It’s not Pritzker’s fault.
Gunfire in Chicago isn’t the only thing that is killing Illinoisans. More and more are dying from the coronavirus. As I write this the death toll stands at 9,192. I would never consider blaming Governor Pritzker for pandemic deaths in his state except for one thing: his partisan eagerness to pin the mortality on Donald Trump. If Trump can be blamed, so can Illinois’ governor who is obviously mortified at the thought that what the virus did to his state can be pinned squarely on him.
Corruption, as usual
Mike Madigan has served Illinois taxpayers for almost fifty years. When the news broke over the summer of the Commonwealth Edison corruption scandal it looked like he might finally be ensnared by the same kind of public service malfeasance that takes down so many Illinois politicians.
Your vote got you nothing for Illinois
Two years have gone by. We have a new governor. A new Chicago mayor. More people are dead from gun violence. The pandemic continues to take a staggering toll. Illinois debt grows and grows.
That’s how much your vote mattered.
UPDATE November 1, 2020: if you don’t know what you are voting for you might as well give up on voting
The ads just keep coming for and against Pritzker’s campaign promise to finally make the Illinois income tax fair. Those for and against this amendment have much to gain and much to lose. That means the only truly reliable information comes from disinterested parties.
The Civic Federation is one of those sources. An October 20, 2020 article on the graduated income tax plan from the Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability observes that taxpayers at the low end of the income scale will:
bear roughly the same tax rate as their middle and upper-middle class counterparts. 2
That’s not what we’re hearing from proponents whose sales pitch to the uninformed is all about fairness. To be entirely fair, fairness doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means. The term is meant to elicit a knee-jerk response to timeworn Democratic Party attacks on wealthy Americans. No matter what happens with the fair tax amendment, lower income taxpayers will pay more because state lawmakers want money. They don’t care where it comes from as long as they have enemies to target to excuse their very non-progressive attacks on lower incomes.
The Chicago Tribune points out that Pritzker gave $56.5 million to pro-amendment Vote Yes for Fairness, a group that has been peppering the media with ads pushing voters to approve this plan.3 According to the Illinois Policy Institute the ads include a promise that passing the amendment will cut property tax rates even though there are no property tax provisions in the bill.3
This is a nice carrot for voters who have every reason to fear a new COVID-inspired need for revenue will lead to higher rates. Anyone who has lived in Illinois for any length of time knows that property taxes, like every other tax, only go in one direction no matter what we are promised about a new path forward. That direction is never down.
More responsible observers than Democratic state lawmakers report over and over that no tweaks to Illinois’ revenue collection schemes will change anything until Springfield gets its act together and does something to stop the rampant abuse of taxpayers. First and foremost that means fixing the disastrous public pension system. That’s where fiscal reform ends, too. Efforts at pension reform are like term limits. They are guaranteed to fail. There is simply too much political liability for Springfield Democrats to do what needs to be done.
That political liability means higher taxes in perpetuity. We can only hope state taxpayers are smart enough to vote an outraged no to the fair tax proposal. If the amendment passes it will eventually confirm what we already know: it doesn’t matter what Illinois voters do at the ballot box. Once we give our irresponsible state government what it wants it will come back for more.
UPDATE November 3, 2020: Election Day is here. You finally have a chance to matter.
Today Illinois voters have a chance to make a difference. At last, we can matter. All we have to do is say no to opening the door for Governor Pritzker and Springfield lawmakers to be fair by taking more and spending more while doing nothing to change their ways.
It is almost inconceivable that voters would ask the bloodsuckers in charge of Illinois’ finances to take a larger portion of our incomes. Anyone with the smarts to fill out a ballot should be wise enough to know that more revenue won’t fix anything. It only empowers the spending that brought us to this dreary, Fair Tax Amendment place.
The reason we don’t matter and our vote never makes a difference is because we keep saying yes to raising our taxes, fees, and fines by electing the same Democratic Party hacks election after election. I can only imagine the laughter from downstate when the ballots are counted and the amendment gets a thumbs up from taxpayers. It’s what they expect. Isn’t it about time we surprise them despite Pritzker’s threats of consequences if we don’t agree to more taxes?
We have a chance to matter by forcing the governor’s hand. A 20% tax increase won’t be a popular move in the state legislature, so it’s time to call the governor’s bluff. Frightening voters into approving a tax increase forced by state lawmakers’ refusal to change their ways is so outrageous it only makes sense in Illinois. The only thing that is more outrageous and makes even less sense is the possibility that we will bow to state Democrats again and ask them to take more of our incomes. If we do that, we deserve what we get.
UPDATE November 4, 2020: did Illinois voters just decide to matter?
It’s not looking good for Pritzker’s darling, the unfair Fair Tax. The margin isn’t huge and it’s not over until the vote counters sing, but it looks like Illinois voters finally decided to draw a line in the sand because we count more than the greedy Democrats fingers that control our state.
The governor vowed punishment well before the election if this doesn’t pass and we know Illinois government will never reform. That means we are drawing a new line in the sand.
The governor’s threat is a massive political mistake, because now any tax increase will be retribution instead of fiscal necessity. Springfield lawmakers may decide the governor’s liberal ego is not worth the political consequences of attacking state residents for not agreeing to be fleeced even more than we already are.
1Szalinski, Ben. “Report: Illinois Fiscal Health Again 2nd Worst in U.S.” Illinois Policy Institute. September 22, 2020. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/report-illinois-fiscal-health-again-2nd-worst-in-u-s/ retrieved October 18, 2020.
2“Civic Federation Position on Proposed Illinois Constitutional Amendment for a Graduated Income Tax.” The Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability at the Civic Federation.” October 20, 2020. https://www.civicfed.org/press-room/civic-federation-position-statement-proposed-illinois-constitutional-amendment-graduated, retrieved November 1, 2020.
3Pearson, Rick. “Pritzker-backed group promoting graduated-rate tax goes up with first ad of campaign season.” August 20, 2020. https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-pritzker-graduated-income-tax-ads-20200820-jpfqgmctvfgxhhs3s5koo5oi5u-story.html, retrieved February 6, 2021.
4Schuster, Adam. “Every state without an income tax has lower property taxes than Illinois. The progressive tax amendment includes no property tax reforms, so there’s no guarantee property taxes won’t rise as income taxes rise.” Illinois Policy. October 23, 2020. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/fair-tax-ads-falsely-promise-property-tax-relief-that-income-tax-hikes-cant-deliver/, retrieved November 1, 2020.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch link replaced with Chicago Tribune link on February 6, 2021. Content was not changed.