Last week news broke that many of us thought would never come: Mike Madigan has actually (finally) been indicted.
Immediately, elation set in among Madigan’s many, many foes. Boss Madigan is going down and his enablers will finally be held accountable at the ballot box.
But…is any of that statement true?
The day Madigan was indicted, I posted, “Mike Madigan: Guilty until proven guilty.” Point being, we all know Madigan is guilty. We’ve known it for years. Even in conversations I’ve had since with Democrats, apolitical people, members of the media, and even Madigan’s former precinct workers, everyone has echoed the same thing: he’s always been guilty.
But can the feds prove it? It reminds me of a line from the surprisingly good movie, Law Abiding Citizen: “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove in court.” While the indictment shows instances where Madigan wasn’t as careful as we all assumed, he still successfully led an “enterprise” for decades that many knew was corrupt and likely illegal yet couldn’t take down.
We don’t know if this was the feds reaching the conclusion of what they considered a wildly successful investigation proving Madigan’s guilt without a doubt—or their investigation culminating with much less proof than expected but they moved forward with an indictment anyhow to at least try to take Madigan down.
While we wait for the legal drama to unfold, it’s important we understand the political ramifications because many are misreading the tea leaves.
It’s true Madigan’s indictment is yet another drag for Illinois Democrats, and the negatives are piling up. But there are three very important things to keep in mind when strategizing for November:
Most importantly, this trial isn’t happening by November of this year. Heck, it might not happen by November of next year. The time from indictment to trial date for those in Madigan’s “inner circle” indicted in the ComEd bribery case (Mike McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty) was 22 months, and that trial date might be pushed back in light of this indictment. Those expecting the daily news to be nothing but negative coverage of Mike Madigan between now and November are going to be disappointed.
Another important thing to note is corruption doesn’t move votes in Illinois like it should. Despite polling consistently telling us Illinoisans are sick of corruption, when featured in campaigns the issue repeatedly has failed to win elections. It’s one of a handful of issues that polls well in standard support/oppose questions but drops like a rock in priority questions. Why? Because there’s no direct connection to people’s daily lives. As memorialized in “Boss,” voters in Chicago and much of Illinois care only that things are getting done to make their lives better, not how those things are accomplished. (I’m not saying that’s right…just saying that’s how it is.)
Finally, Mike Madigan isn’t on the ballot in 2022. I’m afraid Republican operatives will use this as an excuse to fall back on the mostly failed “Madigan! Madigan! Madigan!” strategy. This tactic works in specific instances where the Democratic candidate has low name recognition and direct dots can be connected showing they’ve worked with Madigan to make people’s lives worse: a prime example being Justice Thomas Kilbride in 2020. But the vast majority of the time, “your state rep is bad because Mike Madigan is bad” has failed miserably—voters would gladly vote against Madigan if given the chance, but guilt by association doesn’t stick.
A red wave is coming in November of 2022 because, for the first time in memory, Republicans dominate on every issue voters care about right now.
In poll after poll over the past year, the top issues to Illinoisans have been crime, the economy, and inflation, three issues on which voters strongly favor Republicans. That’s where our focus needs to be. (Additionally, while voters have extremely short attention spans on national security issues, if Russian aggression continues as we approach November, that’ll be yet another top issue for voters that favors Republicans.)
With suburban voters and key demographics softening towards Republicans, the stars are aligning for Republicans in this election…as long as we don’t screw it up. And thinking the indictment of Mike Madigan last Wednesday was the key to us winning in November is exactly how we can screw it up.
Founder, Cor Strategies