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156 Conclusions The search for answers to questions about Illinois state legislative activism during the three decades after World War II is a journey of many twists and turns. Such would be the case for any similar period of modern state political history. Each has a different signature. In part, that explains the fascination with unraveling state government’s trends, and it makes predictions about the future almost impossible. The period 1947 to 1977 is a product of postwar resurgence in population and education, new faces in the General Assembly representing war veterans who wished to escape memories of a depression and a war, and opportunities to create a state government committed to economic growth.Ithelpedtohavepoliticalpartyleadershipcommittedtobigideas and willing to cut the necessary deals. And don’t forget the role of power, deceit,andgreed.Inotherwords,timingiseverything,especiallyinpolitics , and money is usually the driver. However, nothing remained the same for long. During the thirty years attitudes changed dramatically as the nation fought more wars—in Korea andVietnam—andreformerstriumphedbrieflyoverold-schoolpoliticians late in the period. Pressures on state finances produced an income tax in whatturnedouttobeablessingandacurse.Regardless,legislativeactivism prevailedwithabipartisanflavorandrewardedpractitionerswhoknewhow to forge coalitions and balance the benefits across the state. Inevitably, the facesofleadershipchanged,reflectingtherealityofagingandfreshattitudes. Conclusions 157 What gave the period a certain uniqueness was a continuity of leadership and a regional political landscape that rewarded trade-offs and balance. Enter Paul Powell, John Stelle, Clyde Choate, and friends who represented a continuum through the decades and gave an advantage to downstate interests long after population trends had favored northeastern Illinois. The political world around them was in constant change, but the players managed to maintain control by adjusting tactics and applying the time-tested backroom methods that usually worked. And to the winners went the spoils: local projects, patronage, and insider money opportunities. This is not intended to ignore other leaders who found their own versions of playground strategies. The names are familiar: William Stratton , Richard J. Daley, W. Russell Arrington, Richard Ogilvie, and Daniel Walker. Strong and forceful men all, and well-publicized agents and spokesmen of change. (Only Daley had a length of tenure that matched thedownstaters.)Remarkably,theprincipalcharactersrepresentedinthis story prospered with and in spite of opposing forces. Details of specific projects such as the rise of Southern Illinois University and higher education generally, prosperity connected to horse racing, growth of social welfare programs, and greater taxation of businesses and citizens are not especially pretty. In fact, their progress to realization gives us an uncensored picture of the often messy and expensive sides of politics. Greater disclosure of governmental processes and higher levels of ethics had few advocates from 1947 to 1977. How should Illinois history treat the dealmakers and their deals? Forsomeofthosedeeplyinvolved,suchasPowell,thereisnotmuchmore for us to learn about their accomplishments and the trail of special favors they left. We know as much or more about Powell as we do about most others who provided political leadership in his lifetime. While it is not enough to say, “Politics is a messy business,” neither does it serve a useful purpose to condemn the dealmakers as total miscreants unworthy of praise. Looking across the spectrum of modern Illinois political history the achievers rarely were puritans. If one purpose of historical exploration is to uncover what happened and provide some context for understanding, then we need to know as much as can be discovered about the participants, from cradle to grave. 158 Conclusions The hope is that we will measure the highs and lows en route to an assessment . If that effort is clouded by labeling all actions as destructive or all motives as blessed, exploration has failed its purpose. In the literature of Illinois politics we know quite a bit about Powell. From the standpoint of John Stelle’s involvement in state politics of the 1930s, much has been written and little of it casts a positive light. We knowmuchlessaboutClydeChoate’spoliticallegacy,exceptasrelatedin accounts about his associations with others such as Powell, Senate leader W. Russell Arrington, and various governors. From the attention on Stelle and Choate in this book, we see more of thetotalpicturebecausetheywereexceptionalleadersandcoalitionbuilders . Stelle’s work on the GI Bill of Rights alone guarantees him a place of honor in Illinois history. In combination with his long-standing support of the state’s veterans, Stelle’s political impact is substantial. The concentration on Choate reveals him as much more than someone who warmed a seat in the House for thirty years. He was an accomplished achiever. Much good resulted from the deals made by...


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