There are one too many silverback gorillas shaking the same banana tree in Springfield, and masculine hormones are driving the budget stalemate between Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Mike Madgian.
At least that's how state Senate President John Cullerton sees the impasse dragging social programs throughout Illinois into the doldrums.
"We have a testosterone problem right now," Cullerton said Monday while meeting with The Southern editorial board. "Women make better legislators and I'm not just saying that."
A bipartisan coalition of female lawmakers already have been pounding away at the budget while the men beat their chests and grapple, Cullerton said.
"He hates Madigan," Cullteron said of Rauner, who just recently dumped $1 million into an ad campaign labeling the longtime speaker "a crook." Cullerton likened Rauner's television blitz to trying to make a deal with one's wife by beginning with "insulting your mother-in-law."
And the government-grinding personal disdain works both ways.
"I'm not sure the speaker is for the bill," Cullerton said of compromise legislation, which includes Rauner's much-desired property tax freeze, the Senate approved in August. "He might see it as a win for Rauner."
For his part, Cullerton's property tax bill, for instance, had something for everyone to love and hate. It contained Rauner's tax freeze, but without the gutting of collective bargaining between unions and local governments that the governor lusts after. It would force a total overhaul of the unfair school funding formula, which basically everyone agrees unduly hammers poor districts. And it would start to deal with Chicago's massive pension issues.
Lawmakers of all stripes could claim a win here, yet Republicans again voted "present" when it reached the Senate floor. Rauner has panned it as a gimmick. It's gone nowhere in the House -- predictably.
"He's immovable,' Cullerton said of Rauner, noting that the freshman governor has yet to actually call a formal meeting of the "three men."
Here, folks, is the fundamental problem with the "three men in a room" that so dominates state budget negotiations. If two of those men refuse to talk, the entire system fails. Republicans, equally terrified of unions and Rauner's substantial war chest, refuse to vote on much of anything. Democrats are remaining loyal to Madigan. And Rauner never got the strike or shutdown he needed to really force Madigan to adopt some of his agenda.
All the while, Southern Illinois University, already facing budget problems of its own, has pledged to pick up one semester's worth of state aid students would otherwise get. Programs for the elderly are cutting back substantially or shuttering altogether.
Cullerton isn't the first to argue that, for one reason or another, women tend to shine in deliberative bodies when the men are petulant. A bipartisan cadre of women in the U.S. Senate -- the likes of Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Susan Collins -- were brokering deals during the 2013 federal shutdown while the men exchanged dung projectiles. Ted Cruz read "Green Eggs and Ham" and called it a filibuster. Yeah, that bit of national embarrassment.
Maybe, as Cullerton suggests, women are better suited for deal making at a genetic level. Maybe nature selected for women who work well with others. Maybe it was a function of humanity's long history of polygamous family groups, where a dominant male surrounded himself with several females. Maybe the flip-side of that evolutionary history equates to men innately raising their hackles when a conversation is all that's needed.
Or, just maybe, it's something more cultural, a function of the relatively recent rise of the modern, empowered American woman. Working together is required when battling entrenched power.
It's probably a complex jumble of all of the above. Either way, it's a phenotype Illinois could use right now.