Tammy Duckworth is running for re-election to the United States Senate next year. So far, she has two Republican opponents. Neither has served in office, so you probably haven’t heard of them. Allison Salinas, from Beijing, hosted an “open graduation ceremony” at the Illinois State Capitol for students whose debuts have been canceled due to COVID-19. Peggy Hubbard, of Belleville, describes herself as a “pro-God, pro-life, pro-Trump, pro-veteran, pro-first responder conservative.” A little better known is Governor JB Pritzker’s main challenger, Darren Bailey. Last May, the state senator from Xenia was ordered to leave the Capitol for refusing to wear a mask, then led an anti-lockdown protest at Buckingham Fountain.
Illinois Republicans have drawn most of their candidates to the two most important offices in the state on the right periphery of Trumpers, COVID deniers, Second Amendment absolutists and All Lives Matter slogans. (Also in the race for governor is paving and roofing contractor Gary Rabine, who refuses to say definitively that Trump lost the election.) In Land of Lincoln, Lincoln’s once dominant party – there are 25 years, the Republicans controlled the entire constitutional function – was reduced to a marginal outfit. Consider these facts:
■ Illinois is one of six states where Democrats hold qualified majorities in both houses of the legislature, in all state offices, and in both Senate seats.
■ This century, Republicans have won just five of 38 statewide elections – a winning percentage of 13.2.
■ The last Republican Senate candidate to win over 50% of the vote was Peter Fitzgerald – in 1998.
■ Before the 2020 election, Republicans in Illinois had $ 3.6 million, compared to Democrats $ 26.9 million. “We are as poor as a church mouse,” says new party chairman Don Tracy.
■ Republicans hold five of Illinois’ 18 seats in the US Congress, their lowest total since the Civil War.
Republicans have become a permanent minority party here and have no chance of ruling the state any time soon. Here’s why.
Illinois is a blue state
In the 1990s, Illinois voted for the moderates of both parties. Bill Clinton won our election votes in 1992. Two years later, Republican Governor Jim Edgar was re-elected in a landslide in 101 counties. In the age of red versus blue of the 21st century, however, political polarization has made most states democratic or republican monolithic. Ticket splitting is at an all-time low. Cities and states that win in the modern economy vote Democratic, while those that stay vote Republican. With a large city that attracts college graduates, Illinois votes more as a coastal state.
Republicans lost the suburbs
Look at a map of Clinton’s victory in 1992. He swept across southern Illinois and lost the Chicago suburbs. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by winning big in the suburbs despite a big loss in the upstate. Suburbia once saw itself as a counterweight to the Chicago Democratic machine; now his constituents are aligning with the city on social issues. The trend for urban areas to vote Democrats and rural Republican areas has been a bad deal for the Illinois GOP: DuPage County, once the state’s first Republican county, has 180 times as many voters than Gallatin County, once the most democratic.
Republicans no longer have Mike Madigan to roam
In 2020, Republicans’ biggest victories were the defeat of the so-called fair tax and the retention of Democratic Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride. In both elections, the party ran against the former Speaker of the House, seen as the epitome of Democratic corruption. “I chaired the campaign that toppled Kilbride, but our real opponent was Mike Madigan,” said Jim Nowlan, former Republican State Representative, columnist and co-author of Repair Illinois, who lives in Princeton. “We saw Kilbride as a Madigan toady, and it worked because most voters knew and hated Madigan. Republicans will try to keep this alive.
Bruce Rauner moved to Florida
The ex-governor donated $ 36.8 million to the Illinois Republican Party between 2014 and 2018. Then he lost the governorship, left the state, and stopped writing checks. Ken Griffin, the Conservative movement’s new sugar daddy, realized that funding Republican candidates here is futile and spent his money defeating the Fair Tax, rather than building the party.
Trump divided the party
U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Channahon, voted to impeach the former president for inciting the storming of the U.S. Capitol, then launched the Country First PAC to “reject the politics of fear and all who practice it “. It’s a popular position in the exurban Kinzinger neighborhood, but the further south you travel, the more popular Trump remains. The two representatives from southern Illinois, Mary Miller and Mike Bost, voted against the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory. Bailey, the ultra-conservative gubernatorial candidate, called Kinzinger a Democrat and suggested he step down. According to John Jackson of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University: “Kinzinger has statewide ambitions, but seems to me to be a much stronger general election candidate than a Republican primary candidate.” – which is dominated by pro-Trump voters. It’s a puzzle for the whole party. “The kind of Republicans who have always won in Illinois – Jim Edgar, George Ryan, Mark Kirk – were not Trump people,” Jackson says.
Republican National Committee member Richard Porter sees a glimmer for the party in Pritzker’s rejection of the fair tax. Republicans, he believes, can once again connect with suburban voters on economic issues. “The game is won in the suburbs,” he said. “They escaped us in 18 and 20. Can they come back in 22? We need to communicate with suburban voters where they are. They tend not to be cultural conservatives, but they believe in providing government at a reasonable price. It will also help, he said, if Democrats “overplay their game in promoting ultra-liberal policies.”
In recent decades, Republicans have only won statewide elections by running against weak or unpopular Democrats: Peter Fitzgerald versus scandal-victim Carol Moseley Braun; Mark Kirk against Alexi Giannoulias, whose campaign was marred by allegations against his family’s bank; and Bruce Rauner v Pat Quinn, who raised corporate and personal taxes during his only full term as governor. Now they have to hope that Pritzker shoots himself in the foot so badly that not even his billions will be able to bail him out. (In March, he preemptively dropped $ 35 million into his campaign coffers without even committing to a re-election bid.) That’s what he happened to for Illinois’ Second Party. : Republicans no longer win elections here; Democrats are losing them.