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Larry Lough

Where have you gone, Rod Blagojevich?

Rod Blagojevich was supposed to be political gold for Illinois Republicans in 2012.

Congressman Bobby Schilling and other “tea party babies” from 2010 were supposed to change the nation’s political landscape for the next generation.

And the tea party revolution of 2 years ago was supposed to create momentum to help Republicans capture the U.S. Senate this year.

Welcome to the reality of political cycles.

And to Illinois politics.


And the curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.

LOYAL READERS OF this column might recall that the editor’s entry of Nov. 6, 2010, ended with those closing words of Bob Dylan’s anthem of inevitable social change.

As we suggested then, Dylan’s lyrics give little heed to short-term American political cycles.

That’s why the 2004 election, despite what some conservative pundits predicted then, failed to establish a “permanent Republican majority” in Congress.

The Republican Party was pronounced dead 4 years later after Democrats, in two election cycles, took back the White House, Senate and House.

But that lasted only 2 years, when another “historic” election gave the GOP control of the U.S. House and put them on track to take the Senate – and, some thought, the presidency – in 2012.

Didn’t happen.

The times, it seems, always are a-changin’.

BARELY 16 MONTHS ago, ex-Gov. Blagojevich was convicted of multiple counts of corruption.

And just 7 months ago, as a 2012 political gift to Republicans, Blago moved, amid much media fanfare, to a federal prison in Colorado.

How could all of that publicity, all of that public outrage over state corruption, not signal a Republican sweep in the Statehouse?

Well, you have to remember who the players are in this political playhouse.

Democrats controlled the Legislature when Illinois House and Senate districts got redrawn last year, and they know how to game the system to their advantage.

And Republicans in Illinois are ... how best to describe it ... the people who tried to keep Barack Obama from winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004 by putting Alan Keyes (who?) on their ticket.

So instead of developing and articulating a coherent plan to solve the state’s tax, budget and pension problems, state Republicans chose to center their campaign on attacking Mike Madigan (who?), the powerful speaker (what?) of the Illinois House (oh!).

As a result, Democrats not only avoided an electoral disaster last week, they actually gained seats in the Legislature. They now have veto-proof super majorities in the House and Senate.

Welcome to Illinois politics.

EVERYBODY endorsed the re-election campaign of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling.

That is only a slight exaggeration.

He had the backing of business (U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and labor (International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150).

He had the endorsements of every Illinois newspaper – from Rockford to Peoria – that bothered to weigh in with an opinion on who should win the 17th District race.

He had the snark machine of the National Republican Congressional Committee cranking out daily diatribes against the positions – real and imagined – of Democratic challenger Cheri Bustos.

He had big money from the NRCC and Super PACs blanketing the airwaves with attacks – deserved and otherwise – against Bustos.

But then, it was mostly a new district from which those creative Democratic mapmakers had dropped all or parts of 10 counties in west-central Illinois that had helped to elect Schilling in 2010. The new boundaries stretched north to Rockford to include all or parts of five counties where the Republican incumbent had never campaigned.

And there was the politically naive pizza-maker from Colona who signed Grover Norquist’s “no new taxes” pledge and participated in all the Republican show votes on time-wasting bills (including 33 to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act) that had no chance of becoming law.

That was before he made a Romneyesque move toward the political middle as his re-election campaign evolved. Alas, it was too little, too late.

Maybe he had no chance of winning anyway.

Welcome to Illinois politics.

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S re-election surprised a lot of “information disadvantaged” Americans.

That’s how one observer described people on the political right who consume only news and commentary that reinforces their beliefs without giving credence to opposing views or to the possibility they might be wrong.

Maybe the U.S. is, politically speaking, a “center-right” nation, though the evidence is shaky, given the stakes of this year’s election.

The Democratic candidate has won the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. Would you describe Clinton, Gore and Obama as “center-right”?

Obama this year won the vote of women by 11 points, young voters by 24 points, Hispanics by 40 points.

A regional executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce observed, during an appearance in Dixon this week, that “the Republican coalition is disappearing” as the white vote continues to shrink.

The history of political cycles in this country has taught us not to put too much stock in any one election.

But the country is ... well, it’s a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he who gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is raging’.

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.

Where have you gone, Rod Blagojevich? shaw-push-component-1