The Old Illinois Political Machine May Be Dying. It’s Unclear What Takes Its Place.


CHICAGO — Michael Madigan battled governors, piped money into campaigns and steered the Democratic agenda in Illinois for a generation. Of all the titles he accrued over his 50-year political career — speaker of the Illinois House and “velvet hammer” among them — grand marshal at Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade was one he seemed to savor.

The parade in 2016 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, when Irish nationalists, many of them laborers, rebelled against British rule and proclaimed an independent republic. And that year, Madigan and organized labor had a common enemy: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who was fighting unions to create “right to work” zones. The Plumbers Local Union 130 runs the parade and saw Madigan, a pivotal figure in the state at the time who comes from a long line of Irish Catholics, as a perfect fit to lead a defiant procession.

Politicians of all stripes flocked to the event, held just days before the state’s primary election. Donning the traditional green sash and fedora, Madigan embraced his role in the celebration of the city’s bustling Irish community. He even shook hands with Rauner.

“Everyone wanted to wish him

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