By: Joey Grant via The Qu
I spent the last 48 hours of the SB10 debacle in Springfield, and after a crushing end to a long week, there is a lot of blame going around. Online and in person, there is a new narrative emerging that blames the organizations that supported the bill, namely the Illinois Unites and the coalition working to win marriage in Illinois. I keep hearing folks say, “they were a mess, disorganized, and should have done more.” I hear grumbles about the opposition being much more visible and outrage that the other side made their voices heard and we didn’t. Having followed SB 10 since its introduction in the Illinois Senate, I have a different view altogether.
Illinois Unites brought together 100’s of organizations, African-American leaders, Latino leaders, clergy, and business leaders to support SB 10. You can easily find these lists on their website. They also held dozens upon dozens of phone banks and events to raise awareness and made over 200,000 phone calls. Working with coalition partners, they fought tooth and nail for months. Additionally, many news sources, grassroots efforts and organizations like The Civil Rights Agenda descended onto Springfield for months to organize meetings and lobbying efforts with Illinois House Representatives.
Let’s not forget this bill passed the Senate, largely because of these efforts by Illinois Unites. The House on the other hand, sat on the bill for months and until the last moments of their Spring session, they assured every supporter that the bill would be called for a vote. Sitting in the House gallery, Greg Harris greeted us and he repeated over and over that the bill was a in a good place and not to worry. Coming off the heels of statements by President Obama, the First Lady, and Governor Quinn, all throwing their weight behind the bill, and still no call for a vote from Rep. Harris or Speaker Madigan. So who is to blame? Those who are doing calling out Illinois Unites for the bill’s failure, where were you this entire time? Did you make phone calls, travel to Springfield and sit for weeks in the state capitol waiting for a single meeting with a Rep? I am sure some of you did. But as a community, did we do enough? Or, did we think our donations would do all the work for us? Even on the last day before the House adjourned, Illinois Unites urgently organized a rally of hundreds in the Capitol building in support of the bill with little to no sight of the opposition. (Actually, that felt a little odd, bordering on eerie – on the day the bill would be called, nearly no bigots stood outside with hateful signs of homophobia. Hmmm).
Let’s be honest, there’s a firewall in the Illinois Congress and it’s mostly guarded by inside deals and political gains. Lisa Madigan will supposedly run for governor and if she wins with her father as Speaker of the House, who do you think will control Illinois politics? After this bill’s failure, does anyone actually think having a Madigan dynasty in the state capitol is a good idea? As Illinois residents, we have become jaded and complacent because of a constant stream of corrupted politicians and what always seems like a rigged system. We continue to elect “democrats” who don’t align themselves with the party’s platform and even buck the President’s endorsement. In one day we legalized guns on beaches, but same-sex couples are still not allowed to wed? When you decide to throw some shade at the failure of this bill, look no further than the politicians we elected. Essentially, that falls back onto us and our own lackluster awareness of where our votes go.
Blame is an odd emotion, it’s similar to guilt: we project our feelings onto someone else. Now we move forward with (hopefully) many lessons learned from this fiasco. One: the community always needs to stand united and not just sit on the sidelines expecting all the work to be done by others. We can not rely on the promises of politicians, but rather we should rely on the pressure of a community. Even I was fooled by the co-sponsor himself, and felt that this was going to happen. Two: stop supporting the Madigan dynasty , because no matter how much support was behind this bill or any other bill, the Speaker holds all the power in Springfield. Think about it, our democratic Governor promised to sign the bill, our democratic controlled Senate passed the bill, yet our Democratic controlled House failed to even call the bill. If Madigan can get his house to pass a fracking bill and conceal and carry bill in those 48 hours, he very well could have gotten this bill passed. Now we are left pointing fingers at each other and writing misleading op-eds about the organizations that need us now more than ever. To tear apart our financial donors and demand the ridiculous idea that Greg Harris should resign as co-sponsor, does nothing to create a stronger strategic plan moving forward. The opposition did not just win this battle, but they succeeded in weakening our united front and we can only blame ourselves for that.
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