Editorial: Harris joins growing list of departing legislators

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State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, has become the latest suburban lawmaker to announce he’s fed up with the decrepit condition of Illinois politics and won’t seek another term to the House of Representatives.

It may go without saying that we’re disappointed to see him join a growing list of dedicated, hardworking legislators who are leaving the arena — including fellow Republicans Christine Radogno of Lemont, Mike Fortner of West Chicago, and Steve Andersson of Geneva, and Democrats Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook and Carol Sente of Vernon Hills.

But some additional observations need to be stated.

One of the most striking is to consider the landscape of the General Assembly if these departing lawmakers are not replaced by individuals with a similar commitment to principled yet cooperative and collaborative governance. In short, if you like the stagnant state of government in Illinois now, just wait for what could be next.

If the only Democrats available are those who demonstrate doctrinaire fealty to the Michael Madigan banner and the only Republicans are doctrinaire obstructionists, the state faces only two prospects, both of them distressing.

One is that Republicans who appeal to a mere minority of the party will make it through the primary but face harder challenges in the broader general election, enabling Democrats, who already have solid but not impenetrable control of the General Assembly, to gain absolute, veto-proof rule.

The near one-party government that exists today could be turned into unbreakable one-party rule for years into the future.

The other is that obstructionist-determined Republicans will make it to the legislature, where because of the Democratic majority, they at best will be able only to mount the continued form of divisive inaction that has plagued Illinois government for at least the past three years.

These are not pleasant options to contemplate. They demand that voters begin paying attention now, preparing to participate in the March 20 primary and beyond, looking to elevate candidates from both parties who can demonstrate not just the tired cliché of bipartisan rhetoric but a real ability to work with representatives who have different points of view from their own.

In each of their announcements, all five departing suburban lawmakers expressed frustration with the atmosphere in Springfield and the overwhelming difficulty of being effective in an atmosphere of distrust, division and concentrated power.

Sadly, that atmosphere does not improve with their departure and may prove only to deepen if we as voters let it.

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