Yesterday (Saturday, July 8, 2017) Melissa & I went to see two Democratic Party candidates make their pitches to local Democratic Party organizations in Chicago. At noon, Rep. Scott Drury (campaign, Wikipedia) pitched to 33rd Ward Democrats (Dianne Daleiden of 40th Ward Alliance & Robert Murphy, the Democratic Committeeman of Ward 39, were also there). At 2 PM, MJL & I switched over to Ald. Ameya Pawar (campaign, Wikipedia) speaking at an event that was organized by Ward 45 Independent-Democrats, the Women's Huddle of NW Side, plus Northside DFA*.
The 33rd Ward Democrats event was at Albany Park branch of Chicago Public Library & Ward 45 I-D event was at Filament Theater.
This blog entry is going to be long and meandering. Chalk it up to me being out of practice. Below the fold there will be: my clumsy synopsis of Drury's pitch.
If you didn't know this about blogs, they are grossly unfair and biased toward the perspective of the author. Newspapers are the same way, but blogs have the decency to admit it.
* Melissa and I are co-chairs of Northside DFA and the Arena's generously list NDFA as a co-sponsor of their events, but I never feel like NDFA does enough to encourage people to attend Ward 45 I-D's events.
Scott Drury (the Democrat in Illinois House who voted against Madigan for Speaker)
I talked to two people after seeing Drury present. One thought he was pretty good. One thought he was awful. I thought there were some valuable nuggets buried in his presentation, but that I didn't want him as Governor or in Illinois General Assembly.
The origin story
Drury started with a long story about Speaker Michael J. Madigan requesting a meeting with Drury in October, 2016**. Madigan asked Drury his list of questions***. Drury responded, "Yes," to all Madigan's Qs. Then Madigan asked for $$$ to go to a super PAC (LIFT) organized by Sen. Dan Biss that was running adds designed to tarnish the entire GOP by linking them to Trump.
Drury declined to support LIFT. Madigan asked Drury to support Democrats. Drury noted that some of the Democrats on Madigan's list weren't contested elections, but hadn't reached their caps for giving to LIFT.
Drury said he decided to contribute to Personal PAC & Gun Violence Prevention PAC. Illinois State Board of Elections records say Drury gave $6,000 to Personal PAC on Nov 3, 2016 & $7,500 to Gun Violence Prevention PAC on the same date****.
Drury declined to give to LIFT b/c he said he felt dirty about the request. It bothered him the money was going to win state rep seats in Illinois--particularly Downstate--instead of winning Michigan and Wisconsin for Hillary Clinton.
Getting into the race late
Drury did acknowledge getting into the race late. He said he hoped there would be a candidate he could support. He portrayed all the other candidates in the race as being insiders aligned with the Madigan establishment & Drury was the one candidate who was different, independent.
Having scene Pawar speak at Governor candidate three times (January 28, May 8 & July 8), I believe Drury would be ahead of where he is at making his case if he had started early. Pawar has gotten much better. But from my idiosyncratic perspective, Pawar was better on Jan 28 than Drury was on July 8.
Drury did not spend much time talking about Gov. Rauner. He did say Rauner & Madigan genuinely dislike each other. And that Rauner's priority was to break the ability of Democrats to win elections by diminishing the power to labor unions & trial lawyers to give to Democrats.
Theory of change
Drury sees Madigan as a "fact of life" & does not foresee a scenario where Drury could become Governor & Madigan wasn't Speaker of the House. Drury said that his goal vis-a-vis Madigan was "not overthrow. That's not the goal."
It takes 60 votes to get a simple majority in the Illinois House. Drury theorizes that if the Democrats hold the majority and enough Democrats decline to vote for Madigan to be Speaker to bring Madigan's vote total below 60 (but enough to beat the GOP) there would be a sense that this block of Democrats would be strong enough to push independent maps, term limits & ethics reforms.
Culture of fear
Drury said a defining aspect of Springfield culture in Illinois General Assembly is fear. There's fear of leadership. There's fear of losing. There's fear of not having enough money.
Drury halfway impressed me when discussing trust. Drury more than once discussed the import of government building trust with the people, so it can act on the people's behalf. Drury would give examples of Springfield behaving cynically. He pointed to Illinois' protracted budget fight. Drury characterized the solution as very close to what the final bill was from the beginning. Drury likened the stopgap budget bills as heroin fixes for an addict.
While I believe in creating a society based on trust--which is a broader conception than Drury's ideas about trusting elected officials to govern--Drury somewhat lost me when he declared what was needed to restore trust. Drury's ideas about what's needed to restore trust are largely, making gov't reflect what affluent, educated, liberal White suburbanites want.
I think it's a bit more complicated & the perspective of others needs to be taken into account more.
Drury mentioned a few past votes. He avoided discussing his vote against amending the Illinois Constitution to allow a graduated income tax. (Drury was asked about the graduated income tax in Q&A, but not his vote against the graduated income tax.)
Drury noted that as a member of the pension committee he voted "no" on the pension "reform" bill that was ultimately found unconstitutional by Illinois courts. He said he voted "no" b/c it violated the Illinois Constitution by diminishing pensions.
The mandatory cuts offended Drury. When discussing his plans for pensions he favored making cuts that pensioners would accept voluntarily.
Drury has a true blind spot about racism. When discussing education Drury said that everyone--including Republicans--can agree that every child in Illinois should get a high quality education.
Drury then went on to say that the reason voters reticent to give money to school districts like North Chicago (part of Drury's state rep district) & City of Chicago is that the voters fear the money will be managed in a corrupt way.
Bullshit, Rep. Drury. The corruption excuse is how racists justify racist policies. If Rep. Drury hasn't figured this out in three terms of representing North Chicago... he's got a serious blind spot about racism.
Drury was proud that he sponsored a police reform bill that reduced the number of innocent people convicted in Illinois. He was particularly proud that he started working on it before police reform became a hot issue.
Drury was quite critical of Speaker Madigan & Democrats for not passing a minimum wage increase when Democrats had the votes and Pat Quinn was Governor of Illinois.
While Drury opposed forcing retirees to take pension cuts, he favors buying them out at $0.70 on the dollar (of theoretical pension obligation).
1. Drury's theory of why retirees will take the deal is that uncertainty about pensions creates a situation where cash in hand might be better than a guarantee from State of Illinois. He wants to leverage cynicism about gov't to get people to act against their own interests. (To me this seems to contradict Drury's emphasis on trust.)
2. It's not hard to see this as analogous to blockbusting. The people who get bought out early get $0.70 on the dollar, but people who hold out are at risk of getting less as the political support for protecting pensions erodes.
3. If there's no coercion built into Drury's idea, it could be a money loser. Retirees with a cancer diagnosis take the buyouts and the healthier retirees don't.
Drury--who voted against amending the Illinois Constitution to allow progressive taxation--is opposed to Democrats promising to fix the Illinois budget by implementing a graduated income tax. He argues:
a) the revenue won't be there until after the amendment is passed (a couple years)
b) Democrats probably won't have the votes to pass the amendment out of the ILGA anyways
Drury favors creating a state level "Earned Income Tax Credit" that will make taxes "more progressive" without amending the Illinois Constitution.
On the plus side, Drury said the solution to gun violence is to "invest in neighborhoods".
On the minus side, Drury referred to gun violence as a Chicago problem more than once.
Bernie Sanders & 2016
Drury credited the 2016 election with convincing him the voters wanted change. He made reference to Bernie Sanders multiple times. I think he sees the Democratic Party as seeing itself as needing to appeal to Bernie voters. Different people had slightly different interpretations of what Drury's references to Bernie Sanders meant.
** I have tweeted to Drury asking him to clarify the dates.
*** Madigan's fundraising pitch includes Qs like "Are you a good Democrat?" & "Do you want the party to win?"
**** Drury's campaign committee had $319,133.76 on October 1, 2016 & finished the quarter, December 31, 2016 with $280,154.73. So the $13,500 to two Dem aligned PACs didn't deplete his campaign account much.