The Chicago Cubs are - almost indisputably - the best team in baseball. Hard to believe that the team that was once the punchline of so many sports jokes is now at the top of the Majors. Not more than a few years ago the Cubs were still known as the “Lovable Losers” of baseball. In fact, I was once told by a Cardinals and a Sox fan that C-U-B-S stood for “Completely Useless By September.” Not this September.
Allow me to use the Chicago Cubs as a metaphor for the state of Illinois because I just see far too many similarities. I know what you’re thinking, “Leave it to a politician to make baseball political,” but I promise you there is a valid point to be made.
Let’s back up a bit. The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. That’s by far the longest drought in American baseball. After years of trying the same “strategies” for building a team, the Cubs became the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. Finally, the Cubs were purchased by a new family - the Ricketts - that wanted nothing more than to win. The new owners understood that a ground floor rebuild was necessary, and they fully committed to the rebuild.
The three key ingredients in the Cubs’ rebuild were: 1) They hired a new General Manager 2) They replenished their farm system and traded for new players, and 3) They brought in a new manager to coach their new players. After six years, the Cubs are now a completely different team.
Like the Cubs, Illinois also has several ingredients that are necessary for a complete rebuild:
1) Illinois already hired a new “General Manager” in Governor Bruce Rauner. Though we may not always agree with him on every issue, he is fully committed to a rebuild in Illinois, but he needs the personnel to accomplish that goal. You as the stakeholders in Illinois have the power to accomplish that.
2) We need to replenish our farm system and trade for new players. Instead of the same old career politicians that give us nothing but a losing record, we need new blood. That comes in two parts: term limits and redistricting reform. Our politician-friendly districts combined with unlimited tenure help career politicians stay in power for as long as they want. A losing ball club can’t win the World Series with the same roster it had the year before, and neither can Illinois achieve national prominence with the same roster it has had for decades.
3) We need a new “Manager” in the dugout. Once we have completed the first two steps of our state’s rebuild, we can move forward in the right direction. But that will never happen as long as we have Speaker Madigan leading the team onto the field. In baseball, if you lead your team to losing season after losing season, there’s no way you could keep your job as manager.
In baseball, you are doing one of two things: you are either winning or you are losing. The same is true for our state. And to be completely honest, right now we are losing. But there is a silver lining: on the positive side, we have already completed the first step of our state’s rebuild. Now it’s time for us to commit to term limits and redistricting reform.
You hear this same message from me over and over again, but that’s only because I believe it to be so important that it deserves to be repeated. Illinois is broken, and we need to fix it! We cannot continue to perpetuate ourselves as the picture of insanity by trying the same old, tired ideas over and over and over again and expect a different result. We are on the brink of bankruptcy and all we are doing is discussing new ways to spend money, and our only method of paying for these new programs is by increasing the already heavy tax burden on working families.
We should - we must - do better. By doing the same thing, by electing the same failures over and over again that have run our state, we will only secure our destiny as the “lovable losers of the United States.” So I urge you: commit to rebuilding this state as the Cubs have done with their baseball team. Commit to making this a state that we can proudly hand off to our children and grandchildren. And finally, commit to embracing a new, prosperous direction for Illinois as opposed to the downward spiral that currently exists.
As Willie Stargell said “To me, baseball has always been a reflection of life. Like life, it adjusts. It survives everything.” There is no doubt that we will survive this mess in Illinois. But the real question is: how long will it take for us to make the necessary adjustments? The longer we wait - the more it will hurt.
Illinois can and will be a winner once again but that will only happen when we fully commit to our rebuild. The year was 2010 when the Cubs began their complete overhaul. In six short years they have turned “Lovable Losers” into a force to be reckoned with. We can have the same total rebuild here in Illinois by committing to total reform.