I know, I'm late. Sorry it took me awhile to post.
I found the day rather uplifting. There were two events that I attended. The first was the annual fundraiser brunch ($25 ticket) of the Downstate Democratic County Chairman's Association, led by the Rock Island Democratic County Chair. There were probably 800 people there. And what other fundraiser for 25 bucks gives you a chance to hear from Barack Obama, Rod Blagojevich, Emil Jones, Michael Madigan, Dan Hynes, Pat Quinn, Jesse White and Lisa Madigan? And then go and meet them all. It's the type of fundraiser that makes one feel good about politics -- lots of people with a low dollar amount. The second was the free rally at the state fair.
The theme, of course, was unity, and that means unity behind Governor Rod Blagojevich. I thought Comptroller Dan Hynes had the best breakfast speech. He began his talk with a question: how did a state that faced a 1994 Republican sweep (remember, Governor Jim Edgar beat Dawn Clark Netsch by an almost 2-1 margin, they won every single constitutional officer and won control of both the State House and the State Senate) work back to a near Democratic sweep in 2004? In other words, how did Illinois go from red to blue in 10 years?
Dan Hynes had three points that are worth repeating:
1) Stand for Democratic principles that people respond to.
2) Run strong candidates with integrity.
3) The main reason: Illinois is lucky to have hundreds of leaders who work very hard in the precincts to get the Democratic vote out for no pay and very little gratitude.
The first two reasons tend to get a lot of attention, but it reinforces that the Illinois success story is due largely to strong Democratic messages, not GOP-lite messages. The last point is very important -- we only enjoy Democratic control because hundreds of people (and that means you!) decide to spend a lot of time and effort getting people to vote. So one of the best things you can do to implement policies of justice is convince 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 people to vote in every election.
Speaker Madigan made the point clearly. He began by thanking the people who came out and noted that any opportunities that Democratic officeholders enjoy to improve our standard of living is due to volunteers working to get out the vote. And then he captured the core Democratic message succinctly: The welfare of the people is served by a Democratic Administration more than the alternative. People who realize that and work for that Democratic Administration (whether legislative or executive) are the reason why we enjoy one.
President Emil Jones seemed buoyant and shouted out that we have a million pieces of legislation that make lives better, and we are going to take that message to the people and win. Bloggers in particular can help with the narrative about all these small but significant laws that the Democratic General Assembly has implemented in the last three years.
Governor Blagojevich's speech was also pretty good. He is focused on setting up the problem of Republican rule for 26 years marked by huge deficits, a bloated state payroll and lots of tax and fee hikes, before talking about the last three years. It's probably a good idea to continue to contrast the 2003-2006 period with the 1976(!)-2002 period as much as possible. He had a funny line. He was talking about how Republicans see health care as welfare, and mentioned that "Republicans aren't bad or evil people. They love their families. They want to make money. (pause) They're good at it."
And Governor Blagojevich's main message was the "we Democrats believe that government can be a vehicle to help people."
Barack Obama had an interesting insight. He mentioned that he has noticed other Democratic Senators in D.C. often acting insecure or nervous about how trumpeting a core Democratic position might play back home. He doesn't need to worry about that, and he doesn't need to equivocate or cut corners in D.C. on what he believes, and he credits the hard work everyday people do for the Democratic Party every year for his freedom to advocate forcefully in Washington.
So even though Jim Oberweis apparently mucked up Republican Day, the only real way to neutralize the threat of a Republican resurgence in Illinois (and Dan Hynes mentioned that Karl Rove is focused on rebuilding the Illinois GOP) is to personally take responsibility for recruiting more Democratic voters, convincing one citizen at a time to support the Democratic Party and ensuring that these new supports do, in fact, vote.
It's a heady feeling to think that convincing a few dozen friends and neighbors to spend five minutes once a year voting for Democrats can change the world. But it can. And in Illinois, it has.