Rep. Brian Stewart Weekly Column: “Vote to Defend Our Republic”

Many of you have heard the old story about Benjamin Franklin. Dr. James McHenry, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Maryland serves as the quotes’ source. McHenry wrote, “A lady asked Dr. Franklin, ‘Well, Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?’ ‘A republic,’ replied the Doctor, ‘if you can keep it.’” The mid-term elections are underway, and Election Day is November 6th.

We are blessed to live in a country where we get to choose our leaders. “We the people” have an opportunity to “keep” our republic. We have been entrusted with a sacred duty. We are the guardians of liberty. And it’s up to us to defend it.

We certainly may not have survived as a nation without the leadership of George Washington as our country’s first President. The first national government under the Articles of Confederation was widely perceived as an abject failure, and for a new government to survive, it was widely accepted that General Washington would have to return to public life.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President by the Electoral College in 1861. True, he had received only 39% of the vote. But our first Republican President led the charge to protect our Union and to fight slavery and injustice. As a result of that victory we ratified the 15th Amendment which guaranteed the right to vote could not be denied to anyone based on race. In the early 20th century, we ratified the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote.

There have been efforts through the years to try and deny minorities the right to vote through the use of a poll tax, intimidation, and other methods. The Voting Rights Act and later, the Supreme Court case, Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, began to remove local obstacles to voting.

On the other hand, we all have heard the infamous tales of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley the First and the Presidential election of 1960 in which it was alleged that dead people were registered to vote, and voted!

Voting matters. We have had challenges over the years, and thankfully, we have an opportunity to peacefully decide the direction our government should take. For example, the Madigan machine is telling us that we should send people to Springfield who think we need to “explore” a vehicle mileage tax, pay more property taxes, and pay even more income taxes.

Illinois families already pay more state and local taxes than families in any other state in the country and I think our government should be a better steward of the taxes it’s already taking from us before coming back with its hand held out.

What kind of steward has the Madigan machine been with our tax dollars? Well, the last three budgets have spent a billion more dollars than they have taken in. Our bill backlog is over $7 billion, and our pension obligations are $130 billion and the state keeps borrowing money to try and pay its debts. According to the most recent estimates, our pension and retiree obligations alone would cost each Illinois family $41,000 on average. The Madigan machine thinks $41,000 is too low. They’re proposing a minimum of $10.7 billion dollars in NEW annual spending. Is this the kind of debt we want to pass on to our children?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we need to reform government spending. We need to put an end to corruption and cronyism. We need to secure the future by coming together and reforming pensions. We need to stop thinking about a vehicle mileage tax or increasing spending by one penny.

The Madigan machine is telling you that more taxes and more spending will solve all of our problems. My question to you is, have you seen it work so far? Some folks want to tell you, there’s nothing wrong with Madigan’s leadership, or that there is no Madigan and Chicago machine. Well, I think that idea is as wrong as saying LL Bean is headquartered in Freeport, Illinois instead of Freeport, Maine. Some people’s minds are just set.

Here’s what I believe. We need to create better paying jobs for working families by pursuing common sense solutions to expand job and business opportunities. We need to get rid of ridiculous red tape and reward employers for paying productive employees higher salaries. We need to expand agricultural and agribusiness opportunities because they are a significant driver of economic growth. More businesses making more money and hiring more people means more revenue to pay our debts, balance our budget and move Illinois forward.

We definitely need term limits and fair maps. I can’t understand these politicians who want to stay in office for decade after decade. I don’t trust them and neither should you. We need citizen legislators with common sense and life experience, not career politicians.

I believe voting matters. It is our sacred trust. I’ve shared some of the things I believe. They are positions and issues I have fought for as your State Representative. They are what I think is right. In the end, the choice is ours. We are blessed to live in this great nation. Every election we have a chance to make our community, our state, and our country better. I urge you to consider all sides, ask questions, make phone calls, and most of all – VOTE !

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