By: Mark Glennon*
This week provided a splendid lesson in why sham votes get taken in the Illinois General Assembly: Because they work. Much of the press gets suckered.
The Wall Street Journal rarely gets it wrong, but it sure did yesterday with that headline above. And it was far from alone.
First, understand what really happened, as WBEZ correctly reported it. Under the label bolded “plenty of political theater,” WBEZ said House Democrats “held a largely symbolic vote on a bill containing Rauner’s vision for education funding – a bill they knew would fail, given their majority in the chamber. It got zero yes votes. Republicans decried the vote as a ‘sham’ and didn’t participate.”
So, the measure failed on a vote of 0-60, but only because 33 members voted “present” and 25 didn’t vote. It therefore provided no real measure of support for anything or for prospects of the ultimately important vote to override Rauner’s amendatory veto.
But from most of the other reporting you’d think a referendum had delivered a decisive verdict. Examples of some of the headlines
“Illinois House soundly rejects Rauner’s school-aid changes.” –The Southern.
“House Vote Soundly Defeats Governor’s Public School Funding Method” –WJBD.
“House vote on Rauner school veto defeated.” –WQAD.
Those and identical ones are headlines used on a widely reprinted Associated Press story that barely mentions that Republicans boycotted the vote.
FOX Business fell for it, too. They reprinted that Wall Street Journal story, which had also been syndicated, with the same headline: “Illinois Governor Fails to Get a Single Vote for His Education Spending Plan.” It doesn’t even mention the GOP boycott of the vote.
Illinoisans who follow politics closely shake this off and assume stunt votes are transparent. Well, they’re not transparent, as the guys who sponsor them well know, which accounts for much of their longevity.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.