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Now Democrats are hurting themselves
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 6/13/2008 12:06 AM

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For years, the talk in Illinois' political circles has been the mess that is the Republican Party.

Even before the Senate campaign fiasco of Alan Keyes and before the Operation Safe Road saga that led to the conviction of former GOP governor George Ryan, Republican conservatives and liberals undermined each other at every turn and contributed to their downfall as a successful political party.

Now it appears the Democratic Party of Illinois is doing its best to compete with the Republicans in winning the prize for self-implosion.

It is difficult to recall a time when Illinois was more Democratic than it is today. For the past few years, Democrats have controlled the governor's mansion and both houses of the Illinois General Assembly. In Congress, both our senators are Democrats, and of course, Richard M. Daley has ruled the state's premier city for a generation.

And now the infighting among the Democrats has become so toxic that Michael J. Madigan, the chairman of the state Democratic party and the speaker of the Illinois House, seems to want his candidates talking about impeaching their Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich. Is that really a successful campaign strategy?

We've not been shy about criticizing our current governor in this space. And the corruption conviction of his friend and adviser Tony Rezko certainly does little to imbue confidence in Blagojevich. And yes, we've supported efforts to try to institute recall for public officials in the wake of some of the governor's actions.

Still, with apologies for borrowing one of the governor's old campaign lines, the memo leaked this week that Madigan's Democratic Party of Illinois sent to candidates with talking points about impeaching Blagojevich has us asking, "What's he thinking?"

We understand Madigan and many Democrats distrust and do not like Blagojevich. We understand many citizens are frustrated with him, too. Still, we think a wiser political strategy might be to campaign on what the Democratic Party still can accomplish for the citizens of Illinois in these brutal economic times.

And then Madigan and the other Democrats ought to sit at the table with Blagojevich and try to get something accomplished in spite of the governor's problems that we noted yesterday in this space. That sounds like a responsible campaign strategy that will bring success.

The impeachment memo, meantime, has the potential to further harm Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. If they aren't already, McCain's camp and the national media soon will be asking Obama what the heck he's doing about his party's mess in Illinois.

Obama is supposed to be ready to run the nation and yet, they will say, he can't exert any discipline or control over his now-former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright; his friend, the Rev. Michael Pfleger; and now over Madigan and the other Democrats who control our state.

Democrats in the state need some political leadership. It's time. It's an ideal time for Illinois Republicans to capitalize on this leadership gap and regain some ground. It's time rank-and-file Democrats throughout Illinois demand a change they can believe in.