Nothing to see here, folks, Cinnamon Rollgate was just a "mistake." Credit: Andrew Currie / FLICKR

I know I should be feeling optimistic as 2020 mercifully draws to a close with our chief objective having been met—President Donnie bounced from office.

Even if his rioting Proud Boy backers can’t abide by that.

But I still have this sinking feeling that rain clouds are approaching as my beloved Democratic Party does what it does best—destroy itself.

To put it more bluntly—keep messing around, Dems, and you’ll turn Illinois red.

Part of the problem is the age-old squabble between centrists and lefties—who used to be called progressives.

But Trump’s forced everything to the right. Meaning, today’s progressives are yesterday’s liberals. And yesterday’s liberals are today’s centrists. And yesterday’s centrists are Mitt Romney Republicans. 

And guys like me? Old-fashioned lefties are pretty much what we’ve always been: lefties on the fringe.

Though I will say we’ve achieved some successes. Even mainstream Dems champion legalized cannabis. And some sort of expanded health care. And a higher minimum wage.

Plus, they realize that putting Mayor Rahm in the cabinet is a political disaster for Joe Biden. I think even my centrist friends understand that—no matter how much they worship Rahm.

On top of the intraparty rivalries, Dems have to contend with the ongoing hypocrisy of party leaders who say one thing and then do something else. Thus, undercutting the message they want to convey.

I’m thinking of you, Alderman Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward.

I know you probably know the details of Cinnamon Rollgate, but just in case you don’t . . .

Tunney was essentially running what I call a Cinnamon Roll Speakeasy—so named for his restaurant’s speciality—out of his Ann Sather establishment on Belmont Avenue.

He got busted by Second City Cop, a blog run by—well, not sure who runs it. As it’s all anonymous.

They exposed Tunney’s hypocrisy with a dispatch last week that sent the mainstream media scurrying to play catch-up.

Turns out Tunney had been letting people into his restaurant to dine in the backrooms despite Governor Pritzker’s ban on indoor dining during this phase of the pandemic.

Or as Second City Cop put it: “You enter the restaurant and ask the staff on the sly, ‘Can we dine in?’ They’ll look around and whisper, ‘Yes’ and take you to the ‘VIP Room.’”

Having published this scoop, Second City Cop could not resist a victory lap. 

“This ‘Investigative Journalism’ thing is pretty easy—we can’t imagine needing an actual degree or talent to do it. All you need is a set of balls and a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. A taste for cinnamon rolls is also recommended.”

C’mon, liberals—even you have to admit that’s pretty funny.

As I said, the speakeasy was operating after Governor Pritzker had pleaded with businesses to stop indoor dining to keep people from spreading the virus. And dying from it.

Once busted, Tunney sort of apologized, calling the speakeasy a “mistake.”

Not sure I’d call willfully breaking the law that’s intended to stop the spread of a deadly disease a mistake.

It’s more like—willfully breaking the law.

In the aftermath, Republicans are saying—ha, ha, told ya’ so. Democrats say one thing and practice something else.

Tunney’s behavior fortifies the notion that the Democratic Party is run by elites who don’t even believe in the values and causes they espouse.

An accusation that’s haunted Democrats since the 60s, when Republicans gleefully pointed out all the liberal Dems who gave lip service to integration while sending their children to exclusive, mostly white private schools.

Basically, Tunney cut off Pritzker at the knees, undercutting the governor’s attempts to stop the spread of the virus. By opening up the backrooms of his restaurant, Tunney did as much damage to the fight against the virus as just about anyone, with the possible exception of state senator Darren Bailey, the leader of the antimask movement.

And as of yet, there’s no serious consequences for Tunney. He still gets to keep his position as chairman of the council’s zoning committee—making him the second- or third-most powerful alderman in the city.

In contrast, I could argue that Speaker Michael J. Madigan’s patronage abuses pale in comparison. At least he’s not endangering people’s lives.

And that brings us to the third problem the Dems face—what to do with Speaker Madigan?

Years of Madigan-bashing commercials—largely paid for by Kenneth Griffin and Bruce Rauner—have turned Madigan into a caricature of himself. He’s been weaponized against the party he runs.

Is it hypocritical for Rauner, Griffin, the Tribune editorial board, and other Republicans to bash Madigan while falling in line with Trump, who’s done much worse?

Obviously. Republicans are bigger phonies and frauds than the worst limousine liberal.

But the relentless barrage of commercials and editorials have taken their toll—as the last election shows. State Supreme Court justice Thomas Kilbride lost his retention fight. Every Democratic congressional candidate did worse than in 2018—including Congresswoman Lauren Underwood and Congressman Sean Casten, who were victorious. And the Fair Tax got clobbered.

All in part because Republicans linked these people or causes to Madigan.

He has to step down, Dems. Or at least, he has to ditch the Wizard of Oz persona he plays and come out from behind the curtain to vigorously defend himself.

Take a page from Trump. Go on the offensive. Counterattack the prosecutors. Rip Republicans. Take up tweeting, if you must. Anything is better than what he has been doing—turning out ponderous press releases that read like they were written by a committee of lawyers.

Well, I can’t see Madigan changing his ways. So look for him to remain behind the curtain while the Republicans continue to pound away at the Madigan piñata in the hopes of winning back the statehouse and turning Illinois into a right-to-work state. Which has always been the goal of the Griffin and Rauner crowd.

Damn, now I’m feeling all gloomy. So, I’ll close with some good news.

This just in from the New York Times— “the electoral College affirmed Joe Biden as the next president.”

Feeling a little bit better already.  v