Category: Illinois Politics

Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

NEW POLL: Bruce Rauner is in deep trouble in re-election bid

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is completely separate from any election judge duties that the author may have in Illinois during the 2018 midterm elections.


Anzalone Liszt Grove, a Democratic pollster, recently did a pre-election opinion poll for the American Heart Association, and they found Bruce Rauner trailing “Generic Democrat” by a large margin. The poll found that Rauner trails “Generic Democrat” by a 47-32 margin, with that margin being quite a ways outside of the poll’s margin of error.

You may be wondering why a group like the American Heart Association, which is a non-profit group that aims to promote cardiac care, hired a political opinion pollster. However, the reason why the American Heart Association had Anzalone Liszt Grove release the polling data in the first place is because they were primarily interested in opinion polling on a proposed sugary drink tax in Illinois, which is considerably more popular than Rauner is according to the poll.

As someone who served as a poll worker during the actual voting during the November 2016 elections in Illinois, I can tell you that “Generic Democrat” or its Republican counterpart, “Generic Republican”, never appear on ballots. That’s because “Generic Democrat” and “Generic Republican” are merely designations for an unnamed major-party nominee that are used by pre-election opinion pollsters, typically with one calendar year or more remaining until the election for the office in question. There are three Democrats currently running in a contested primary for Governor of Illinois with more candidates expected to enter, so that explains why you didn’t see declared candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Chris Kennedy or Ameya Pawar, or potential candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Daniel Biss or Andy Manar.

In Illinois, it is not that difficult for a Democratic nominee to outrun “Generic Democrat” in a statewide race. Although “Generic Democrat” in Illinois is not a real-life person, if it were, it would be someone with a ton of political connections to State House Speaker Mike Madigan and/or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both of which are thoroughly despised by voters outside of the City of Chicago and are despised by strongly left-wing voters in Chicago.

However, Rauner does have one ace-in-the-hole that unpopular politicians running for governor in other states don’t have, and that is the redistricting process that Illinois uses (outlined by Article IV, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution). If the General Assembly (Illinois’s bicameral state legislature) cannot pass a congressional and state legislative redistricting plan prior to a certain deadline with either the governor’s support or by overriding a gubernatorial veto before June 30 of a year following a federal Census, an eight-member commission presumably consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans (per the state constitution, the State House Speaker, State House Minority Leader, State Senate President, and State Senate Minority Leader each appoint two members) would draw the maps, unless the commission can’t agree on a map by August 10 of the year in question; in that case, a ninth member, whose name is drawn at random and can be of either of the two major political parties, is added to the commission. The winner of the 2018 gubernatorial election in Illinois will, provided that he or she remains in office in 2021, have the power to approve or veto any maps that the General Assembly passes. If the redistricting process goes to commission, there is likely a 50-50 chance that the commission would approve a Republican gerrymander that Rauner would want.

Bruce Rauner is extremely unpopular in Illinois for a large number of reasons (mainly because his union-busting policies would destroy Illinois’s economy and his unwillingness to negotiate with anybody who doesn’t strongly agree with him), but the general election is a long ways away.

Women’s March participant wins Urbana, Illinois mayoral primary

On January 21 of this year, millions of women in the United States and around the world participated in a series of Women’s Marches in protest of the horrendous policies of President Donald Trump.

Last night, the Women’s March scored its first major electoral victory in a Democratic primary for Mayor of Urbana, Illinois:

An eight-year Urbana city councilwoman who campaigned on the promise of improving economic development in Urbana is one step closer to becoming mayor.

Diane Marlin took the Democratic mayoral nomination by a landslide in Tuesday’s primary — piling up 2,427 votes to 12-year incumbent Laurel Prussing’s 1,510 and Evelyn Underwood’s 316.

Next up: An April 4 date with Republican Rex Bradfield in the consolidated general election.

Diane Marlin was a participant in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois Women’s March, and now she has defeated a longtime incumbent mayor of one of Illinois’s most progressive cities. I live in another municipality in Illinois, but I wish Diane well in the general election in her city!

Illinois Democrats should hold an annual state Democratic convention

Unusually for a state-level Democratic Party organization, The Illinois Democratic Party does not hold an annual state Democratic convention. With Republicans controlling both the White House and the Illinois Governor’s Mansion, it’s clear that Illinois Democratic leaders should seriously consider holding state conventions on an annual basis.

Unlike many states, major political parties in Illinois are run by directly-elected state central committees, with elections for state central committee slots held during the spring primary elections in even-numbered years. For Democrats in Illinois, two state central committee members are elected from each congressional district.

While most or, if required by law, all party business can be conducted by the state central committee, an annual state Democratic convention would allow Democrats an opportunity to give prominent Democratic elected officials and activists an opportunity to get publicity that the local media, particularly the media in downstate Illinois, often will not give Democrats, as well as an event to rally the party faithful and encourage rank-and-file Democrats to organize political strategies to win over Illinois voters and advance progressive political ideas.

Illinois Democrats are in a great position to capitalize on the unpopularity of Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner. However, a state Democratic convention is needed to effectively rally the resistance to Trump, Rauner, and their Republican allies.

One of the most right-wing newspapers in the entire country couldn’t find a single Betsy DeVos supporter in the education community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally written on Medium by the administrator of this blog and has been republished in full.


Above the fold on the front page of today’s issue of The News-Gazette, a Champaign, Illinois-based newspaper that covers the east-central part of Illinois and has a very right-wing reputation, was this story about how many in the public education community are opposed to the nomination of Betsy DeVos to the office of U.S. Secretary of Education.

In The News-Gazette’s attempt to find a DeVos supporter, they couldn’t find a single one in the educational community in East Central Illinois.

The strongest opposition to DeVos came obviously from teachers’ union leaders, although many in management (i.e., public school administrators) strongly opposed DeVos as well. Sheila Greenwood, the superintendent of schools in the Bement, Illinois public school system (covering southern portions of Piatt County, Illinois), said this about DeVos:

Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood was so appalled by how DeVos answered senators’ questions last month that she contacted her legislators, “begging them to put a stop to this insanity.”

“She couldn’t answer basic questions about schools, funding or assessment. She is uber-wealthy and has no experiences with public education because she lives like the 1 percent and knows nothing,” Greenwood said. “I think Trump will have his puppet and others will run the department.

Jeremy Darnell, the superintendent of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley public school system in Illinois (map of district here), said this about DeVos:

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell was unimpressed with her hearing, as well, saying it was “very evident” she lacks understanding of current education issues.

[…]

“Votes should be cast on merit, preparation and the ability to effectively fill an essential role in our national government, not party line politics,” Darnell said. “All appointments should be considered for their ability to effectively advise our elected leadership. No leader can be a master at all so the essential need to surround yourself with experts in their field is more important today than ever.

The Bement and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school districts are located in some of the most Republican areas in all of Illinois, and voters in both school districts voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The closest person that The News-Gazette could find to a DeVos supporter was Mr. Seth Miller, the superintendent of the public school system that I attended, the Westville Community Unit School District in Illinois. I’m paraphrasing, but Mr. Miller’s thoughts about DeVos were basically of the “give DeVos a chance if she’s confirmed” mentality without offering any explicit support of DeVos:

“We have the best educational system in the world. A leader who is committed to children, who need access to public education, would receive my support,” Miller said. “… Spirited debate with informed constituents helps make us a strong country — big enough and brave enough for diverse opinions. It is my hope that whoever is confirmed as the next secretary of education will help perpetuate this democratic ideal in our public school system.”

Having seen video clips of the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, it is clear to me that, if confirmed, DeVos would be a downright horrible Education Secretary.

Peter Roskam is afraid of his constituents

The resistance has officially come to the Chicago suburbs:

The protests earlier today against Congressman Peter Roskam of our state’s 6th Congressional District were in response to Roskam’s congressional staffers canceling a constituent meeting because he’s afraid of being held accountable the media:

Rep. Peter Roskam’s (R-IL) office cancelled a meeting with constituents about Obamacare on Wednesday when a staffer for the congressman learned that a reporter was present, according to the Aurora Beacon-News.

Constituent Sandra Alexander told the Beacon-News that she arranged the meeting about the Affordable Care Act with Roskam’s staff ahead of time and informed them that she would be bringing along a small group.

But staffers cancelled the meeting before it could begin, ostensibly because there were members of the media present

Even though Roskam’s district was gerrymandered for him thanks to Mike Madigan and his cronies, there is a huge opportunity for a Democratic candidate to run against Roskam and possibly ride a wave of left-wing backlash towards the Donald Trump-era Republican Party all the way to a congressional victory.

The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

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Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

We now have a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary to celebrate the Illinois bicentennial

Next year, Illinois will celebrate the 200th anniversary of our state gaining statehood, and, as a proud Illinois Democrat, there is no better way to celebrate our state’s bicentennial than a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Well, we’ve officially got one, and it’s in the Democratic primary for governor:

“I am running because we’ve gotten to a point in this country where wealth worship is the only qualifier for public office, trumping public policy. Chopping benefits or declaring strategic bankruptcy or selling companies off in pieces for profit is somehow seen as the secret ingredient for an Illinois utopia,” said (Ameya) Pawar.

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar is officially running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois, joining businessman and former University of Illinois Board Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy, who intends to formally launch a gubernatorial bid later this month. CGK and Ameya are probably not going to be alone:

Does Pawar have the wherewithal to go up against the potential primary election cash of Democratic billionaires (Chris Kennedy & JB Pritzker)? Or to take on, maybe, a couple of state senators (Kwame Raoul & Andy Manar), a pair of congresswomen (Robin Kelly & Cheri Bustos) or an Attorney General named Madigan?

A note to gubernatorial candidates and potential gubernatorial candidates: don’t ask me if I want to be your lieutenant-gubernatorial running mate, because the answer is going to be no, and I’m currently serving a two-year term, which includes the spring 2018 primary, as an election judge in Vermilion County.

The 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

As 2016 comes to a close, I hereby present the 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards. The Person of the Year will earn a spot on the list of members of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner. Starting in 2017, listings of individuals on the list of recipients of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner will become separate from the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards.

PERSON OF THE YEAR – JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF

2016 was, all around, an awful year for progressives, both in the United States and worldwide. However, one bright spot in progressive advocacy is Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a women’s rights advocate from New York City. Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy for increased access to feminine hygiene products in public restrooms and advocacy for abolition of sales taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products has earned her support for her ideas from Democrats and even a few Republicans. States like New York and Illinois have eliminated sales taxes on tampon thanks to Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy, and Weiss’s hometown of New York City has mandated that tampons be made freely available in public restrooms of city schools, jails, and shelters. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2016.

ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – BERNIE SANDERS

For the second time in consecutive years, Sanders, who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, is the recipient of a ProgMid award. Although Sanders didn’t win his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and isn’t technically a Democrat, he has had a significant and largely positive impact on the Democratic Party. Sanders successfully pushed to make the national Democratic Party platform, which is non-binding for Democratic candidates, more progressive than in previous years and decades. Sanders helped bring progressive policies like making higher education truly affordable, single-payer health insurance, and expanding Social Security into the American political mainstream, even though none of those ideas will be enacted in the near future, at least at a national level. Furthermore, Sanders’s candidacy has led to the creation of the DNC’s Unity Commission, which will examine potential reforms to the Democratic presidential nomination process for the 2020 presidential election and future presidential elections after 2020. For his advocacy for progressive ideals and his efforts to improve the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the ProgMid Elected Official of the Year for 2016.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – LILLY KING

While 2016 was a banner year for the far-right Vladimir Putin regime in Russia, one thing that did not go well for Russia this year was their performance in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russia sent considerably fewer athletes to Rio than originally planned after the Putin regime was caught running a large-scale doping operation. Even worse for the Russians, they were completely embarrassed by Lilly King of the United States, who, after publicly criticizing Russia’s Yuliya Yefimova for doping, defeated Yefimova in the pool for the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. King was also a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay in Rio. For continuing the time-honored tradition of Americans defeating Russians in international sport, and for promoting ethical competition in sport, Lilly King is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2016.

PLACE OF THE YEAR – REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

While the far-right has gained significant ground worldwide, Austria is, to an extent, an exception. Austrians rejected a far-right presidential candidate not once, but twice, in 2016. In the first of effectively two presidential elections held in Austria in 2016, left-leaning European federalist candidate Alexander Van der Bellen received more votes than far-right fascist candidate Norbert Hofer in a runoff election after no candidate received an outright majority of the vote in the first round of the first election. However, the Constitutional Court of Austria annulled the runoff results because Hofer complained of election irregularities, resulting in the runoff being re-held. Voters gave Van der Bellen an even larger majority in the re-run of the runoff, and Hofer finally conceded. For rejecting a fascist would-be head of state not once, but twice, in the same year, the Republic of Austria is the ProgMid Place of the Year for 2016.

 

CONCEPT OF THE YEAR – POLITICAL RESISTANCE

As I’m sure that virtually everybody who reads this blog knows, Republican Donald Trump won this year’s presidential election despite winning a minority of the national popular vote. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more than a few people on the left, and even many establishment Democrats, call for a non-violent political resistance to the incoming Trump Administration. With a barrage of right-wing federal legislation likely to be enacted starting early next year, progressives are going to expect resistance from the Democratic minorities in both houses of Congress. Political resistance is the ProgMid Concept of the Year for 2016.

The proposed Danville, Illinois beltline would be a road to nowhere

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Approximate map of proposed Danville, Illinois Beltline (proposed route is in red and hand-written on a Google Maps printout)

One potential road-building proposal that could receive federal funding from any kind of federal infrastructure bill that could be passed with either Republican or bipartisan support in the Donald Trump era of American politics is an eastern one-quarter beltline highway around the city of Danville, Illinois, which has been proposed for many years:

The originally studied beltline was for a highway to bypass the city on the east side to connect Interstate 74 with Illinois Route 1 north of Danville.

The proposed beltline route, to run parallel to Bowman Avenue but farther east, ran from West Newell Road, hooking south on Bowman Avenue, going east on Poland Road and then turning south through farm fields, east of the railroad tracks east of the airport, stretching south between Daisy Lane and Brewer Road and hooking up with Interstate 74 and Perrysville Road.

The Federal Highway Administration approved construction of a new Interstate 74 interchange between the Bowman and Lynch Road exits years ago.

Some residents have voiced concerns in the past about the beltline’s need and the potential to hurt existing businesses, the impacts on their properties and increased noise and traffic.

It’s possible that U.S. Route 136 (US-136) and/or Illinois Route 1 (IL-1) could be realigned from their current routing in Danville to the new beltline, or, more likely, to a more feasible reconstruction of Bowman Avenue that would involve the construction of overpasses over railroads along the route. If IL-1 is rerouted to Bowman Avenue, it’s not clear how such an alignment of IL-1 would connect to the current IL-1 alignments leading to places like Rossville and Hoopeston to the north and Westville and Georgetown to the south. Another, even less likely, possibility is that part of the proposed beltline connecting to, and north of, Interstate 74 would be built to Interstate Highway standards and become part of an eastern extension of Interstate 72 running from its intersection with Interstate 57 in Champaign, Illinois to Toledo, Ohio via Lafayette, Indiana and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Danville doesn’t really have a high enough population nowadays to support another suburban-type development like what already exists along North Vermilion Street in the northern part of the city or along Lynch Road near the Indiana border. As a result, I don’t think there would be a ton of traffic along the proposed Danville beltline, meaning there probably will not be a lot of economic development opportunity. The proposed Danville beltline could end up being a road to nowhere.

I hope that any new federal infrastructure legislation goes primarily towards rebuilding existing bridges that are crumbling and/or obsolete, not gaudy new highway developments or, even worse, private infrastructure like oil pipelines.