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'It does appear to be more negative' : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
'It does appear to be more negative'
Former, current Kendall Co. area lawmakers assess political climate

by Tony Scott and Matt Schury


As we enter the final stretch of the Presidential election season, polls and pundits galore say we're more divided as a country than ever before.

According to various polls, the Presidential race is divided evenly, with a small percentage of "undecided" voters possibly making the difference at the polling place.

Some of those who have been involved in the political process in Kendall County over the years say that the country has always been divided along party lines, but that it's more pronounced than it's ever been.

Jim Detzler, a former Oswego Village President and current Oswego Township supervisor, and a Republican, said that he's seen a lot of anti-Obama stuff on the Internet.

"In all my years, there's probably been more stuff written on the Internet - comments and jokes and stuff - than I've ever seen before," he said. "Before you'd see, they'd badmouth Carter or they'd badmouth Reagan, but not to the extent that they do Obama. And you also see almost as many comments saying he (Obama) is the greatest guy in the world on the other side."

Detzler acknowledged that the modern cable news networks play a role in stoking the fires of partisanship, although he said he's a Fox News viewer and thinks most of the media favors the President.

"It's not fairly reported - it's so slanted," he said. "It seems like the mainstream media is in Obama's court."

Montgomery Village President Marilyn Michelini, a former Democratic Kane County Board member and election judge, said social media online helps fan the flames.

"I think it's the social media that's pushing the button on it," she said. "It does appear to be more negative, but I don't know how much a role the media plays in it. With all the modern means of communication, between Twitter and Facebook and so on, there's more rumors, there's more anti-this and anti-that partisan type of thing, and I think it's been pushed and pursued by the media to a large extent. I think it may have always been there, but it's more upfront now."

While many people seem to be dissatisfied with their government representatives, they also seem to want them to compromise more to get things done. In a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll in August of 3,000 likely independent voters, 70 percent said Republicans should "try to cooperate across party lines, even if it means compromising," and 71 percent said the same thing of Democrats.

Patricia Reid Lindner is a former Republican state legislator who represented Kendall County from 2002 until her retirement in 2009. She said things were different in Washington between the parties when her mother, Charlotte Reid, was in Congress between 1963 and 1971.

"When I think back to when my mother was in Congress in the '60s, I think the difference was that people got to know each other better and got to know each other socially, because they didn't come home as much," she said.

Lindner said her mother came home roughly once a month when she was in Washington.

"People became friendly with each other, and got to know each other personally," she said. "I think when there is a personal relationship, you may be of two different parties and have different ideas but you're not going to be so derisive toward other people."

Also, the immediacy of cable news and other media has "added to" the divisiveness, Lindner said.

"People had their own ideas," she said. "Now, I think, how does anybody know what's going on if they only watch their real conservative channel or their real liberal channel?"

The increasing popularity of negative campaigning - at the national and local levels - has also fueled the partisan fires, she said.

"Campaign managers have always said, 'Go negative, it works,'" she said. "And I don't remember that being the case that much in the past either. But I guess it must work, otherwise they wouldn't keep advising them to do it."

Hastert: Problem linked to
McCain-Feingold bill

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Plano, blames the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law for pushing funding to the extremes of both parties.

"I used to take some federal money or some soft money and I could put that in the state party, I could put it in the Kendall County party, and a lot of people did that," he said. "So there was kind of a party continuity and people worked together. When you take the money out of the party-the money's still there it. So where does it go? It goes to the edges, it goes to the far right, or groups who represent the far right, and the far left."

While the elected officials are "the same," Hastert said, the talk has changed.

"Basically the elected officials are the same, but the dialogue gets nasty because it doesn't represent the middle of the road--the 85 percent of people who just want to get government to do things and work together to make progress," he said.

Hastert acknowledged that the "fringes have become the voice of the party."

However, Hastert said the Supreme Court made the right decision on the Citizens United case, which has been criticized for allowing money to flow unrestricted to SuperPACs.

When he was in Congress, Hastert said, a congressman had to be an "advocate for your people, and you did things to help them."

"I never looked at myself as a moderate, but I looked at myself as somebody who could work with people," he said.

Hastert said he and other congressmen from Illinois "worked together."

"Quite frankly, we worked together as an Illinois delegation, so what was good for southern Illinois was good for northern Illinois, and what was good for Chicago was basically good for northern Illinois," he said.

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