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Fight for change, but don’t succumb to cynicism in the meantime

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is a common belief in Illinois

Last month, there were 39 Senate seats up for election, but only 18 had more than one candidate running. In the House, all 118 seats are up for election every two years, but only 64 were competitive.

One reason people don’t run is because they know the fix is in. The maps are rigged. The Illinois politicians are picking their voters.

I have long been on record as favoring independently drawn district maps. But if everyone listened to the pundits and just threw up their hands in disgust and walked away, a bunch of Republicans wouldn’t have won two years ago and lots of Democrats and a couple of Republicans wouldn’t have won this year.

Start with the Republicans this year. Rodney Davis’ 13th Congressional District and Mike Bost’s 12th CD were both drawn to favor Democrats. But they’re both still with us despite a national Democratic landslide.

Now, to some of the Democrats. Gov. Bruce Rauner won the 21st Senate District by 32 points four years ago. He won the 24th Senate District by 29 points. And he won the 29th by 13 points. Those three districts are all Republican suburban areas that the Democrats barely bothered with before now. This year Democratic candidates won all three districts.

Maps can be overcome with waves and with strong candidates running good campaigns, as happened with Downstate GOP candidates two years ago. This year, Democrat Mary Edly-Allen defeated GOP Rep. Helene Miller Walsh in the 51st House District by less than a point. But Rauner won it four years ago by 40 points and he won it this year by 12.

Strong waves can also obliterate maps. Democratic Rep.-elect Anne Stava-Murray reported raising just $3,000 in the third quarter, but she defeated GOP Rep. David Olsen by almost 2 points, just a point behind Pritzker’s margin. Rauner won that district by 23 points four years ago.

* So, again, while I truly do want to see an independent map-making process in this state, one never knows when lightning might strike and that’s why my hat is always off to the people who fully engage in the process rather than just glumly choose to sit on the sidelines because they “know” they can’t win.

       

16 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 2:37 pm:

    No way that a 32-year-old Democratic black woman wins an outer-burbs/rural, nearly 90% white Congressional district that was “rigged” to be a safe GOP seat.


  2. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 2:51 pm:

    The maps are pretty stale now, but yes, a wave and a strong plan for walking precincts can flip almost any district.

    And Word is right. Would not have believed Underwood could win, even knowing people who believed in her early, but look at her now!


  3. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 2:52 pm:

    – The maps are rigged.–

    Yes, that rigged map out in DuPage that resulted in Suzy Glowiak losing by nearly 21 percentage points four years ago, only to run again and win this time.

    Do the “reformers” want independent maps?
    Or do they prefer the attention that comes with fighting.


  4. - jim - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 3:07 pm:

    The exception does not prove the rule.
    Waves don’t come around very often. What you call cynical is really and, unfortunately, being realistic.


  5. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 3:18 pm:

    To be fair, there is something to be said for having to defend some seats with some of the cash that has been strictly spent on offense.

    Fair enough, those candidates won those seats, but in many cases the difference in money was as big a difference as anything else. The more competitive number of seats there are, the better government you’re going to get in my opinion.


  6. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 3:31 pm:

    Well, this analysis of drawing maps certainly makes me feel somewhat better . . .

    But why do still I feel that a fairly drawn map would have made Ms. Underwood’s upset victory come out as a victory, and not as an upset victory.


  7. - Sideline Watcher - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 3:32 pm:

    If as much energy was placed on getting people to 1) vote in every election and 2)understand how government works, we would have more competitive elections.

    Right now small numbers of people are making the decisions on representation for everyone. I would argue that the kind of government we have is more determined by the people who DON’T vote.

    All this cynicism is designed to one thing only…make people believe that it doesn’t matter anyway so why bother participating. Its not designed to inspire action…its designed to depress. The civic engagement in this country is shameful when compared to other democracies. The Democrats don’t seem to mind making it harder to get on the ballot to protect incumbents, and the Republicans want to make it harder for people they deem “other” to vote at all.

    But what gets all the noise? The map. Which frankly lets the citizenry off the hook.

    “Strong waves can also obliterate maps.” Only if you show up. Politicians across the spectrum respond when you show up.


  8. - Moe Berg - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 3:46 pm:

    As soon as OH, TX, FL, GA, NC, TN, AZ, IN, WI… change how they draw district lines, I prefer Illinois’ current approach. There needs to be national agreement to adopt fair apportionment methods for state legislatures and the Congress.

    Otherwise, it’s unilateral disarmament for Illinois Democrats. I can see why goo-goo groups that get lots of $ from the wealthy and corporate interests advocate for it. Get paid, sit on the moral high-horse, and other people live with the consequences. Sweet gig.


  9. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 3:46 pm:

    You can’t win if you don’t try. Or in politicaleze you can’t beat someone with no one.


  10. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 4:11 pm:

    Yes, an intense wave can obliterate gerrymandering (though it’s not JUST gerrymandering - there’s the party’s structural advantages in financing, running dummy candidates, etc) and upsets can and do happen. But most of those happen in the handful of districts that can’t be “locked down” by gerrymandering. It’s asking a lot of people to likely sacrifice their time and money (and if they do business with government entities, maybe more?) given the forces that have been amassed against them.


  11. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 4:16 pm:

    An example I often give, though not directly to Rich’s point about candidates. Some of us donated time and money to get signatures for a redistricting referendum. Leave aside whether there were flaws in those proposals: two times the Illinois Supreme Court was asked to rule on one of Kasper’s challenges: whether ANY referendum could change the state constitution to stop gerrymandering. Two times the Democrat majority on the Court refused to rule on it, saving that bullet in case a third attempt was made and they couldn’t find a legal flaw in it. Yes, people can spend even more time and money on the hope that the Court’s majority isn’t as beholden to their political enablers. Or they can spend the time and money on their kids. Maybe we should, but it’s an unfair ask.


  12. - Roman - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 6:25 pm:

    How does the BGA explain the countless uncontested races for school boards, city council seats, and other local government posts?


  13. - Been There - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 6:42 pm:

    ===I have long been on record as favoring independently drawn district maps.===
    I personally would like to go back to having three candidates per district. And you would think the GOP would be for that also. At least you can have a chance in a district that leans against your views.


  14. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 7:43 pm:

    ===I personally would like to go back to having three candidates per district===

    I don’t believe that could withstand constitutional scrutiny these days.


  15. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 18, 18 @ 8:58 pm:

    –Fair enough, those candidates won those seats, but in many cases the difference in money was as big a difference as anything else. The more competitive number of seats there are, the better government you’re going to get in my opinion.–

    Same districts:

    Guy, 28 point swing from 2016 to 2018 for Casten.

    Louis, 22 point swing from 2016 to 2918 for Underwood.

    Lake Forest Louis, the 10th was a swing district, forever. Schneider won by 32 points in 2018.

    What don’t you ding-dongs get? Great Big Mystery?

    Reap what you sow.


  16. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 7:28 am:

    Great mystery? What was “sowed” was Donald Trump, though Rauner didn’t help them any. The GOP made no effort to win the 10th - couldn’t even tell you who they ran against Schneider.

    Look, if gerrymandering wasn’t important, Madigan wouldn’t fight so hard to keep it. The GOP wouldn’t fight so hard to keep it in other places, to the point that they’ll try to undue citizen-passed initiatives. See Illinois Supreme Court example above for the lengths they’ll go. I’m guessing those who pretend to disagree get a paycheck from a political party, public worker union, or government entity.


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