This is the Progressive's Crime. Some of us can stand tall. Progressives have a huge burden to bear for this fiasco in Illinois, and none have been more damaged by this catastrophe than the weakest on whom's behalf progressives claimed to advocate.
The governor and his cronies richly deserve pillorying. But, as we focus on them, we should not overlook that he was reinforced by well-intentioned people and groups seeking his support for worthy causes or fearing retribution if they challenged him.
Advocates for early childhood education and expanded health-care coverage showered praise on him even though he was spending beyond the state's means. Most of them spoke softly, if at all, as Blagojevich castigated House Speaker Michael Madigan and others who suggested the escalated spending would require higher taxes or result in bequeathing a mega-tab to future wage earners.
When the presidents of our largest universities acquiesced to budget cuts and the governor's ridicule of higher education, Blagojevich saw them as patsies, and they proved him right by striking a Faustian deal during his re-election campaign. To recoup some of the losses in their budgets, they endorsed his zany, ill-fated proposal to have taxpayers bankroll tuitions for more affluent Illinoisans even though it would have adversely impacted impoverished students.
Children's champions, education leaders, major health-care providers and grant recipients hailed him in news releases and flanked him in front of cameras and microphones as he gloried in his accomplishments. Privately, they questioned his integrity, they worried over the growing deficit and they resented the bullying. But, unlike Shakespeare's Mark Antony, they came to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
He basked in their smiles, he heard their accolades and he collected their campaign contributions. Blagojevich saw no reason to abandon his ends-justifies-the-means approach. Voters ultimately re-elected him despite a blizzard of media reports documenting impropriety and incompetence in an administration he had vowed would be the most ethical ever. The millions amassed by aggressively soliciting those seeking state business and coveted appointments funded a juggernaut of largely misleading, negative commercials that duped Illinoisans into believing a woman they had elected as state treasurer three times and who had nowhere near his ethical baggage was somehow less trustworthy.