Saturday, November 19, 2005

The End of an Era: Rest in Peace Daniels Dynasty

Lee Daniels's retirement announcement signaled the end of a bittersweet chapter in Illinois history. Known to many by only the distinctive mononym "Lee," the man once ruled the Illinois House with so much steely contempt that his adversaries fled to the Senate rather than face retaliation. The prevailing atmosphere of paranoia and contempt inalterably changed what it meant to be a House Republican-until Leader Cross deposed Daniels in a successful coup that earned him the hearts and minds of his members-and voters across Illinois.

Daniels's tenure saw the Republicans hold the House for all of five minutes-and relegated to minority status for a disastrous eight years. They're still in the minority, but accomplished more in the three years under Cross than they ever did with Daniels's majority. Lee's demise will leave behind only two of his former operatives-Art Tenhouse of Quincy, whom Cross defeated in his bid for minority leader, and Bill Black, an arguable convert to the Cross regime. (Johnson is now in the US House, and Churchill is running to join him.) Both are nearing retirement.

However deserving of contempt Daniels may be, he is equally deserving of sympathy. He suffered years of domination by then-senate president Pate Phillip-and endless blame for Phillip's misdeeds. The young and ambitious legislator who first became minority leader at the age of forty-three spent years years lusting after the speakership. For over a decade, he used the Illinois House of Reps as a tool to advance his own Machivellian ends:an abuse from which we may well never recover. In return, Daniels lost his profession and will soon lose his seat: and that's a lot to lose. Rest in peace, Daniels dynasty. You may be gone, but far from forgotten.

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