Illinois is one of those states, like Louisiana and Massachusetts, that has a long history of "colorful" politicians. We have a high tolerance for "characters." What citizens in other states call crooks, we call "rascals" or "rogues."
Unfortunately, our indulgence for the self-serving shenanigans of our elected officials has real consequences. What citizens of other states would reject as corruption, we seem to accept as "business as usual," with deleterious effects on our economy and personal liberties.
Even in Louisiana and Massachusetts, however, citizens have started to wake up. Bobby Jindal now occupies the Louisiana governorship once held by the likes of Edwin Edwards and Huey Long, and Scott Brown has assumed the Senate seat that once belonged, almost by birth, to the Kennedy family.
There are hopeful signs in this election that Illinois voters finally have had enough.
Mark Kirk's victory over Alexi Giannoulias in the U.S. Senate race is one such sign. Dwight Kay's defeat of longtime incumbent state Rep. Jay Hoffman is another.
Madison and St. Clair County voters had sent Hoffman to the statehouse ten times already, but rejected his eleventh bid to represent the 112th District. Though long overdue, his forced retirement signals a growing awareness in the Metro East that true prosperity depends on good government, not cronyism and paternalism.
Hoffman did all right for himself in Springfield, cozying up to our felonious former governor and advancing the aims of business-bashing trial lawyers like his friends and associates at LakinChapman in Wood River. But the man repeatedly chosen to represent us seemed to have no real interest in our interests and did little during ten legislative terms to improve the lives of the folks back home.
He certainly made a big show of supporting government-subsidized development projects in our district, but boondoggles and handouts only sap productive resources, ultimately undermining the local economy and making us more dependent on Big Daddy.