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Airbags

The fact that everything in the world, especially politics, is so simple and easy is nice for me. It allows me to reduce everything to trivial analogies and metaphors which are 100 percent applicable and perfectly analogous to actual situations. For example, preparing and passing a state budget, which will impact the day-to-day life of tens of millions of Americans, can be reduced to media events and gossipy spectacles, where the characters are more important than the substance. Because government is entertainment. Like video games.

Hey! Isn't this latest budget battle between Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan exactly like two-player fighting games like Street Fighter: II and Mortal Kombat? Governor Rod Blagojevich, who in this analogy is Bo' Rai Cho from Mortal Kombat: Deception, filed a lawsuit on Friday against House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who in this analogy is Sub-Zero (also from Mortal Kombat: Deception).


Governor Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Madigan engage in legislative maneuvering

The lawsuit is meant to compel the house speaker, an avowed though unspoken enemy of the governor, similar to Bo' Rai Cho and Shang Tsung (although in that analogy, I guess Madigan would be Bo' Rai Cho), to obey the governor's instructions when calling Special Sessions. Madigan made a mockery of Blagojevich's attempts to essentially keep the legislature in session over the summer by calling the sessions whenever he felt like it, not requiring House members to show, and dismissing the sessions almost immediately after calling them. The Special Sessions were Blagojevich's monkey kicks in Drunken Fist fighting mode; the dismissals, the combo-breaker (R2 + Forward for PS2).

This of course, infuriated Bo' Rajevich — I mean Blagojevich, who has had to put up with a pretty petulant Madigan since proposing his 2005 budget in 2004. Madigan's distaste for Blagojevich, and his unswerving drive to force the governor to accept a subservient role in the Democratic Party's power structure, has turned pretty much every single budget proposed since then into a titanic battle, usually with the effect of making Blagojevich look like a fool. This year especially, immediately after an election, Blagojevich risked looking like a putz: he made comprehensive health coverage his "positive" theme in the election (his negative theme being "Topinka? Seriously?") only to have Madigan dismiss his budget proposal almost out of hand, as though the Governor has no role to play in the budget-making process.

In this respect, Madigan's behavior was reminiscent of that of M. Bison, the boss of Street Fighter: II. You may recall that M. Bison would use repeated leg sweeps to make even the appearance of participation in the fight unnecessary: since the leg sweeps were unblockable. Of course, as the second player, this would lead to humiliation.

The chess match that has been this legislative session is worthy of the great Grandmaster matches, such as Capablanca v. Nimzowitch, or Raiden v. Raiden in Mortal Chess Kombat.


Raiden v. Raiden, 2005

But Madigan's dismissive attitude, and the accompanying rage felt by much of the legislature towards Blagojevich, isn't because they care that Madigan doesn't like the governor — it's because many of them have been given their own, personalized reasons to dislike the his behavior. Blagojevich has plenty of good ideas — certainly, a comprehensive plan to insure every single Illinoisan is great. Just discussing such a plan makes Blagojevich better than 90 percent of U.S. governors. But press releases don't make policy, negotiation makes policy. Blagojevich has ended up in these fights not only because he refuses to obey, but because he provokes legislators whom he perceives as being "his" legislators rather than "the people's" legislators.

It is as though the Senate is Kintaro and the House is Goro, and Blagojevich is Shao Kahn. And now, Shao Kahn must face the ramifications of trying to use Goro like his minion, rather than respecting his autonomy.

This doesn't end well for Goro (i.e., the state House); will the actual state House (i.e., Goro) suffer the same fate?

Of course, Illinoisans, like the crowd in the background of Ken's stage in Street Fighter II: Turbo, just throw up their hands and watch the spectacle of a governor suing a house speaker of the same party — in fact, the chairman of that party — with a "boys will be boys" type attitude. Perhaps the politicians in their bickering have reduced it to that, but I can't help get the feeling that the general failure to talk about the budget crisis as being about practical problems facing government, fundamental problems with how we fund our priorities, and what those priorities are, makes people disinterested and disillusioned.

Disillusioned and cursed to forever wander. Like Ryu.

Comments

chrissy / August 29, 2007 8:06 AM

whoa. you are a geek.

mike / August 30, 2007 9:20 PM

Nice follow through...

What sucks is that the alternative high school I teach at is going into the school year without a clear budget and I get to spend my mornings making copies of 1 book for 70 kids and buy my own supplies, which, actually, let me tell you, is not even that big of deal considering the serious money I make...

Political spectacles makes kids read poorly.


mike / August 30, 2007 9:22 PM

Nice follow through...

What sucks is that the alternative high school I teach at is going into the school year without a clear budget and I get to spend my mornings making copies of 1 book for 70 kids and buy my own supplies, which, actually, let me tell you, is not even that big of deal considering the serious money I make...

 

About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon studies and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at rc@gapersblock.com.

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