A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Epstein for Governor, Maddon for Speaker

Bill Knight column for Mon, Tues., or Wed., Oct. 26, 27 or 28

As a liberal, a Die-Hard Cubs fan and fan of Illinois (the state, not the UofI “Golden Parachutes,” despite being an alum), I felt mixed emotions last week.

But a Canadian political victory and a baseball future spooned in my mind, an unexpected miracle.

“We beat fear with hope,” said 43-year-old Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau after his election as Canada’s next Prime Minister. “We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision.”

That’s a sentiment present at Wrigley Field in Chicago – but absent at the Capitol in Springfield.

Finishing the season with 97 wins, followed by a Wild Card victory over the Pirates and a divisional series win over the Cardinals, the Cubs were unlikely winners after five losing campaigns. Their young club, stocked with talented rookies and experienced veterans, beat back fear of silly “curses” with real hope, and woe-is-me negativity with a true vision.

Has Gov. Bruce Rauner, who says he’s a Cubs fan, been watching – particularly in recent off-seasons and the time building to this year? Has Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan, from Chicago?

It’s doubtful, because they might have learned something, like hard work can conquer cynicism, as Trudeau said.

So, Springfield: Get to work on a budget.

Also, Illinois voters might take notice and look for political “rookies.” Younger representatives – or at least outsiders – might bring new vigor and ideas to a moribund statehouse. Upon becoming U.S. President, Obama was 47, Grant 46, Bill Clinton 46, Kennedy 43 and Teddy Roosevelt 42. Today’s presidential candidates include 62-year-old Jeb Bush, 64-year-old Ben Carson, 67-year-old Hillary Clinton, 52-year-old Martin O’Malley, 74-year-old Bernie Sanders and 60-year-old Donald Trump. Rauner is 58; Madigan, 73.)

Can’t think tanks, universities and advocacy groups “draft” new faces with new voices and fresh thinking?

Next, Springfield: Lose the status quo, just like Cubs guru Theo Epstein took up Moneyball-style sabermetrics over salty scouts with vague hunches. Dump all-or-nothing politicos’ smoke-filled rooms and adopt numbers-crunching, grassroots organizing to reach common ground.

Consensus and compromise aren’t worse than stalemate and hardship.

Also, Springfield: Have the courage to recognize reality. The Cubs had to accept five years of pain for the gains of tomorrow. Illinois is in a financial hole that means we all should have to endure trimmed programs and higher taxes (that’s “ALL”) without sacrificing our rights, and Rauner and the legislature just must explain why taxpayers will have to pay more and get less – and show progress.

Even long-suffering Cubs fans were patient with a genuine “turnaround agenda” on Clark and Addison.

Further, elected officials: When opportunity knocks, open the danged door! Just as Epstein saw potential breaks when successful manager Joe Maddon and proven pitcher Jon Lester became available, Rauner and Madigan – and lawmakers – must consider that possibilities for cooperation and progress exist, and be willing to grab even unusual ideas if they present themselves.

For instance, in a non-sports example, a few African companies are working to address two calamities with one offbeat inspiration. Sustainable fuel and safe sanitation are crises in the developing world, causing tens of thousands of deaths in urban and rural areas, and damaging the environment. Recently, companies including Sanivation and Afrisol are transforming human waste into efficient energy like briquettes: one unorthodox solution to two serious problems.

Possibly, other thinkers could address other problems – from climate change or AIDS to violence or Illinois’ budget – by considering fresh approaches. Epstein and Maddon took lemons and made lemonade.

Certainly, it’s past time for Madigan and Rauner to take the muck and fuel the economy.

Already looking ahead after the Mets beat the Cubs for the NL pennant, Cubs manager Joe Maddon accepted the miracle-in-action, saying, “We can just jump on it [next year]. We know what we want to do and we can just do it.”

Springfield: Do it.

[PICTURED: Photo from]

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