The reality of the upcoming general elections come Nov. 2 is that they are going to be decided in the land we often call the “collar counties.”
That’s not exactly a bold prediction on my part. Some people might say I’m merely stating the incredibly obvious – such as pointing out that the Chicago White Sox do NOT wear white socks.
BUT FOR ALL those people who want to talk about political revolutions and serious shifts of the thought process of the people across Illinois, the reality is that most people in this state will vote in predictable manners – and in ways that are completely in line with the way they previously have voted.
Considering that Barack Obama’s popularity rating ranks significantly higher in Illinois than it does the rest of the country (the Gallup Organization on Wednesday gave him a 49 percent “approval” rating nationally, with 45 percent disapproving), much of the rhetoric is about political people trying to convince themselves that everything they want to believe isn’t a whole batch of hooey.
Chicago and Cook County is going to vote for Democrats. People here (just as in 1994, the election cycle that gave us Newt Gingrich and the “Contract with America” that many Republicans want to believe is repeating itself this year) aren’t going to be as swayed by the same rhetoric that people in the rural parts of the state will be.
Why else would Democratic Cook County Board president nominee Toni Preckwinkle feel secure enough on Wednesday saying she won’t rush to repeal the sales tax increase that outgoing President Todd Stroger enacted during his time in office? The mood of the “angry electorate” may want to repudiate everything Stroger-related and go so far as to erase him from county history, but one-time state Sen. Roger Keats of the North Shore isn’t going to be able to use that as an issue against her.
OF COURSE, THE result of eight years of Democratic Party control of Illinois state government is that the rural parts that remain loyal to the Republican party get ignored. The few rural districts that have elected Democrats are going to want officials who are willing to ignore their own political party, because they’re ready to blame it for their lack of relevance in recent years.
It is those collar counties where we will have to see what happens.
These are the places that used to be solid Republican, but in the past couple of decades have seen a GOP that has in its adoption of such conservative ideology become so rural that these suburban people no longer clearly identified with it.
It is why Democratic Party organizations in those counties have made some increases (even getting significant support for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid in that one-time GOP bastion of DuPage County) in winning elections.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN in places like Naperville, Romeoville and Elgin? Will disgust with Chicago and urban life send them back to the GOP for this electoral cycle? Or will all of these rural types seem so alien that they will wind up sticking with their past trends – in which case, many Democratic officials likely will win re-election (albeit by smaller-than-usual margins of support).
Part of what is going to decide this is going to be the behavior of William Brady, the GOP nominee for governor who is counting on the fact that people will associate “Democrat” with “Chicago” so closely that they will revolt – essentially creating a government allied against the city and allowing them to tell the city what will happen (just like what occurred back in 1995-96, an era that saw the General Assembly push for a conservative social agenda; much of which eventually was struck down the the Illinois Supreme Court).
Much has been made of the fact that Brady comes from Bloomington, which is roughly the cultural dividing line between Illinoisans who associate with Chicago and those who despise it enough that they deliberately choose to associate with St. Louis instead.
They say he’s too different to identify with people in Chicago and the surrounding area. Which would mean a Pat Quinn electoral victory essentially by default.
BRADY HIMSELF WANTS to knock down that kind of talk. He soon will begin airing his campaign ads in the all-significant Chicago television market (which is the one that covers the area where about two-thirds of people live). The fact is that most people in Illinois don’t have the slightest clue who Bill Brady is.
The fact that he is competitive in recent polls is more a sign of some Quinn displeasure (he can appear so indecisive at times). Will Brady be able to maintain that kind of support once Chicago gets to know him as someone other than the guy who supposedly wants to euthanize pets?
Those campaign ads will be all-important, because too many people wind up getting what little they know about a candidate from those spots that try to say as little as possible while also smearing an opponent.
These spots that largely will be ignored in Chicago by political people (Quinn will win Cook County, which accounts for about 45 percent of the state’s population) will also be seen in those collar counties. Brady may play well in Peoria, but how will he play in Plainfield?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN he sets foot in a place like Aurora, where a significant Latino population will be inclined to view him in a hostile manner – even though they really don’t know him. I can’t help but notice that Brady has gone out of his way to say as little as he has to when it comes to Arizona and immigration reform.
He doesn’t want to start an outcry that would cause what popularity he has in May to tank by November, although he has to give his rural conservative backers something, otherwise they might start getting suspicious about him just like some of the ideologues are now starting to think he’s not “anti-abortion” enough because his wife won’t come out and say clearly that she also opposes the medical procedure.
It is those collar counties that make up just over 20 percent of the state’s population. Which means that as much as it will shock people who think neighborhoods such as Bridgeport or Beverly are the center of the universe, it may very well be places like Lombard and Peotone that ultimately decide who our state’s new governor will be.