Democracy Dies in Illinois

A case study in how progressives entrench themselves in power.

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President Biden says last Tuesday was “a good day” for democracy, but he must not be paying attention to what happened in Illinois. Behold a case study in how Democrats change the rules to limit political competition and entrench one-party, public-union rule.

Democrats held supermajorities in both legislative chambers and a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court before the election. But their ex-boss Michael Madigan’s corruption scandal gave Republicans a chance to make gains in the statehouse, compete for Governor, and take control of the state Supreme Court for the first time in more than 50 years.

After deposing Mr. Madigan, Democrats last year did him proud by jamming through new state legislative maps that forced 12 Republican incumbents into six House districts. Democrats held 73 of 118 House seats under Mr. Madigan’s gerrymander. Their new, more extreme gerrymander helped them pick up four to five more seats.

Democrats also redrew state Supreme Court districts for the first time in 60 years. Three Justices are elected exclusively from Cook County, which includes Chicago. This guarantees Democrats three seats. But their majority looked in danger after a Democratic Justice representing central Illinois lost a retention election in November 2020 for the first time in state history.

Unions and Democrats have counted on the Democratic Supreme Court to block pension reforms and a ballot initiative backed by former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner that would have established an independent redistricting commission. Democratic Justices have prevented citizens from using the ballot process to bypass the Legislature and enact government reforms.

To retain their 4-3 High Court majority, Democrats this year needed to win one of two judicial elections. Both districts were trending Republican so Democrats simply redrew the map to give themselves an edge.

They also passed legislation limiting the influence of Republican donors like Citadel CEO Ken Griffin by capping individual contributions to judicial candidates and independent expenditure committees both at $500,000. A federal court struck down the independent expenditure limits, but the candidate caps hurt Republicans.

Even as Democrats claimed to deplore the influence of money in judicial elections, billionaire Gov. J.B. Pritzker circumvented the individual caps by using his personal trust fund to contribute to the Democratic judicial candidates in the two competitive races. Both won, giving Democrats a 5-2 majority. Not only did Democrats choose their voters, they essentially picked the judges who would hear any challenge to their overreach.

Democrats also spent some $30 million in the GOP gubernatorial primary to boost the Trump-endorsed candidate Darren Bailey and knock down Republican Richard Irvin, a black mayor from a Chicago suburb who stood the best chance of beating Mr. Pritzker. The Governor won re-election by 11.6 points against his hand-picked opponent.

Abortion politics and Donald Trump helped Democrats in Illinois as in other states. But Democrats in the Prairie State have also used every lever available to entrench their power. That includes a constitutional amendment they placed on the ballot enshrining the right to collective-bargaining that will augment government union power.

The sound you don’t hear is the national press deploring any of this, or even reporting it. Democrats in Washington have tried in the last two years to entrench their power nationally as they have done in Illinois. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin in this Congress blocked Democrats from blowing up the filibuster to do so. But Democrats haven’t given up. Democratic warnings about the death of democracy would be more credible if they didn’t try to strangle it themselves.

(Full article: Democracy Dies in Illinois - WSJ)