Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek
I was texting with some family members over the weekend and I'm sure it will come as no shock that one of my sisters told me she'd done the deed and voted early, figuratively holding her nose all the way up and down the ballot.
It's not a stretch to predict there'll be more of that than ever before this year with polls showing most of us don't like or trust the major party presidential candidates. And then, within Illinois, Democrats and Republicans are breaking records spending money on tearing each other apart.
One of my nephews chimed in that he'd be happy to vote for several of us and would we please just run because he really needs someone to clean up this state.
I'm sorry, bud, but I don't see any of us becoming candidates any time soon.
And here's the thing, voting is one step. A big, critical one to be sure, but it's one step.
We've got a long way to go and many, many steps to take before we get close to a clean up.
That doesn't mean we should give up before we begin.
Maybe it would help if we all learned to think of ourselves as being a part of one big, raucous family in Illinois? We voters are the parents and our elected officials are the children. (Truth, right?!) At the first sign of the kids getting in trouble, parents don't just walk away.
We can't give one lecture, or cast a vote now and then, and think we're done.
Most of us commit to our families through thick and through thin. We keep trying and arguing and looking for different approaches and solutions when something or someone in the family goes wrong because we're committed to each other long term.
We keep trying to remember that relationships take work. They require that we don't take each other for granted. Or, more likely, we do take each other for granted and then we work harder to make up for that mistake when it happens.
And so, it stands to reason, voting cannot be like that once every five years or so extended family holiday dinner where we all get together, stuff ourselves to the gills, fight over who's washing dishes, yell it out and then retreat to our separate corners to ignore the problems until the next gathering of the clan.
We've got to work at it constantly. Keep the kids in line. Keep the pressure on for good grades. Make sure the homework and the chores are done well and regularly. We've got to deliver some stern discipline to the kids when and however often it's needed.
That kind of involvement, steady attention and stewardship is what it will take to start making headway in Illinois as well. Voting is one thing. We've got to pay attention to what happens after that. We've got to put in some quality time with the kids regularly, pressure them to quit their procrastinating and moaning and groaning and get to work at solving our debt problems and our pension problems. We've got to make sure the kids know how to live within our means, create a budget and live with it and put away some savings for college and the rainy days ahead.
Listen. There are plenty of people in Illinois politics and government who don't expect any wholesale dramatic improvement after next week's election in Illinois. Despite the hyperbole tossed our way in all the election messaging, few people expect many seats will change parties. Madigan will remain speaker and Rauner will remain governor. More and more, people say the two feuding teens don't intend to collaborate on their group assignments and pass a budget until after we vote again when Rauner takes his run at re-election in 2018.
Ugh. If that happens and we do nothing about it, the family will fall apart. A study by the United Way found that, already, one million of us have lost services and been hurt by the refusal of those two teens to work together.
To end the extended metaphor, voting is one step. We've got to walk toward a new way. We've all got to tell our family members, friends and neighbors to join us. Get engaged. Learn about Illinois' problems. Commit to spending even 15 minutes a day keeping up to date on those problems by reading a reliable news source. Pressure whomever wins those state representative and state senate seats. Call, email, show up at their offices at least once a month. It really won't take that long. Tell them they need regularly to pressure Rauner, Madigan and the other legislative leaders to quit acting like teenage dumb jocks and work together to solve the family problems. Tell them that's what you expect and remind those lawmakers they work for you.
We can save this family. But it will take commitment and effort from us all. We're worth it. Vote now and then let's keep working hard at moving forward.