The Annals of Government


My home state is a proud one. The 21st state admitted into the USA, Illinois boasts beautiful country and a healthy agricultural presence in the south and booming, vibrant Chicago in the north. There we have Second City, the lakeshore, and Navy Pier. What else can I say? We border Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, and Missouri. The state fish is the bluegill. I know these seemingly trivial facts due to the decision, made sometime during my youth, to educate the state’s students about Illinois’s legacy.

And, fine state though Illinois is, there were some traditions that my second grade teacher failed to illuminate for all of the young pupils in my year. Most notably, the longstanding, incredibly dubious system of politics in Illinois was not a subject of attention.

Of course, back then, it might not have been such an obvious disaster. Governor Ryan had not yet been sent to jail, and Blago had not been discovered trying to extort cash from a children’s hospital while concurrently attempting to sell Obama’s vacant senate seat. These were new acts of depravity — which is not to say that Illinois, the state famed for the miraculous resurrection of deceased voters at every election, was particularly surprised. In fact, the noble state of Illinois seemed in many ways overjoyed when Blago’s misdoings were finally uncovered. It had only really been a matter of time, as my father told me from the spontaneous family party that erupted when Blagojevich’s crimes were first reported. Once Blago is convicted, which seems all but inevitable, Illinois will be in the unique position of having four of its last eight governors in jail for a variety of crimes. Go team!

As if this were not embarrassing enough, Illinois can now begin a new chapter in the hilarious chronicles of its corruption. Scott Cohen, who had just won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, recently had to resign from the race before he ran because the incredibly illegitimate dealings of his past were brought to the light after the someone saw his name on the winner’s list and thought, “wait a minute…” Like a bad punch line waiting to happen, Cohen had so many strikes against him that he was forced to step down, as Democratic party leaders massaged their temples and shook their heads, wondering how Illinois manages to attract such candidates.

I wonder sometimes if this is Illinois’s curse. While other states surely boast their fair share of ridiculous politicians, Illinois seems endowed with a unique knack for scraping the bottom of the slime barrel and emerging with candidates so spectacularly absurd that hundreds of hours of press coverage are devoted to their mockery. Jon Stewart has a particularly funny take on Rod Blagojevich’s almost unbelievable antics, but Blago certainly doesn’t make it difficult. As a friend once warned me, I do harbor a fear that Blagojevich might be able to successfully register a plea of insanity. His actions throughout his scandal would not refute such a claim.

And yet, despite all of Illinois’s ridiculousness, I do believe there is hope for us yet. After all, we did have Lincoln. Sure, that was eons ago, but now, more than a hundred and fifty years later, we have Obama, who — though no messiah — hasn’t tried to make puppies work in salt mines or any other such atrocious act. Perhaps Obama’s influence will prove a boon to Illinois politicians, who may finally fade quietly into competence. In any event, I wish the candidates for the upcoming elections luck, and ask only this: do your best to keep my state out of the news and away from the comedians.

Riva Riley ‘12 (rjriley@fas) has no idea where these people come from.