By Joe Kaiser -
It is possibly the most famous series of ads in the history of Illinois politics. In 2006, the Blagojevich camp aired scathing attacks across the state with the negative, but catchy, phrase “Judy Baar Topinka, what’s she thinking?” The ads are still remembered as a major part of Blago’s 10-point victory over Topinka and are a case study in negative campaigning.
At the time, conservatives and Republicans were frustrated with the overuse and effectiveness of that ad, but now, however, many are asking the very question the imprisoned former governor’s campaign asked: What’s she thinking?
Topinka’s “Illinois Has Heart” tour (examined last week), which advocates against legislator’s cuts to social services and has been praised by Progress Illinois, has conservatives furious and scratching their heads. Not only is the Republican comptroller making a case Republican voters likely disagree with, but many also believe what she is doing is not necessarily within the powers of her office.
Conservatives may feel somewhat betrayed because of this, but they should also not be too surprised. While at the end of the day only Topinka really knows why she is advocating for bigger government and less cuts, it is a fact, regardless of opinion, that she has been in office since 1980. When conservatives in Illinois are extremely critical of Mike Madigan for being in office since the Civil War, it would be objective, and good for the state, to realize that the Springfield culture may have also influenced Topinka and other career politicians, breeding more advocacy for bigger government as each Springfield insider looks out for each other as principles take a back seat.
Clearly, the issues and times have changed over the past 32 years. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected to his first term, gas rose to over a dollar per gallon for the first time ever, the Soviet Union still existed and posed a threat and I, the person who is writing about this topic, was still 12 years away from even being born. But unlike the issues, connections made within all the Springfield insiders have likely grown and remained strong.
It is just speculation to say that Topinka is opposing cuts because she is a career politician coming to the defense of other insiders, but it does not seem to be speculation that is baseless. With Illinois’ conditions and reputation going downhill over the past few decades with the same people in charge, it seems fair to ask questions about these career politicians and, with one in particular, ask once again what she is thinking?