Do voters really want cooperation?
I couldn’t shake that thought while reading commentary from state Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Kankakee.
“Across the country, those running for office run into the nastiness that has defined our politics these last few years,” Joyce wrote in the Daily Journal, adding things are different when he meets constituents personally. “People want our elected officials to work together, to set aside the petty political differences and produce results.”
As part of a 41-18 majority, Joyce and his colleagues don’t need Republican support to pass legislation. It’s unlikely the voters who report they seek cooperation are hardcore leftists. The attitude is much the same among primary candidates for federal or statewide office, for whom bipartisanship is seen as capitulation and the campaign strategy requires proving who sticks closest to the party’s ideals.
All that said, I agree (or would like to believe) Joyce when he says “Our most difficult problems are resolved by compromise, not conflict.”
This could mean something like Democrat-led legislation to preserve nuclear power plants in safely Republican districts. Or consider a bill Gov. JB Pritzker signed Tuesday allocating $700 million for Medicaid-funded nursing homes to hire more and pay better.
Capitol News Illinois wrote the Senate amendment to House Bill 246 passed both chambers unanimously as the result of two years of negotiating between Pritzker’s administration and the nursing home industry, despite moments where it seemed no deal was possible.
Such results should inspire optimism. Although Republicans and Democrats remain bitterly divided across certain ideological divides, those differences shouldn’t matter when it comes to the 45,000 senior citizens and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid as part of their nursing home care – about 70% of all nursing home residents statewide.
Money alone doesn’t solve state problems (exhibit A is child protective services, also an arm of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services), so it’s important to note this plan attempts to protect against facility closures by requiring additional ownership disclosure to help state officials apply the new structure to for-profit homes.
All that said, you’re not likely to hear about any of this during the primary or general election campaign season. Agreeing on stuff is boring. To win votes a candidate must be different, must have strong views on abortion or school regulation or income tax rates and so on. Candidates from communities in which one party has an overwhelming majority have even less reason to consider the opposition, or even those pleading for moderation.
Voters like Joyce’s constituents who earnestly hope for cooperation and results will only succeed by crowding out extremists who demand partisan purity. This includes the public square but especially so in the ears of their elected representatives.