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Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 03:09 pm

Why Democrats will rule Illinois for the next 40 years

James Carville’s book, 40 More Years: How the Democrats will Rule the Next Generation, was probably written with Illinois in mind. After Gov. Dan Walker left office in 1977 Republicans would dominate Illinois politics for the next 26 years. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Democrats started to make a comeback in Illinois, taking control of the Illinois House of Representatives in 1994. Rod Blagojevich solidified that comeback with his election as governor in 2003, and in 2012 Illinois Democrats won a veto-proof majority in the legislature. Following the 2010 U.S. census Illinois Democrats redrew the congressional districts in their favor, which essentially guaranteed a Democratic majority for at least the next 10 years. Illinois Republicans appear to be headed into an unprecedented era of political obscurity, facilitated by a failed ideology, topped only by a remarkable inability to be flexible and embrace change.

Republicans in the legislature have supported drug testing for welfare recipients, requiring I.D. to vote, cuts to education, cuts to low-income housing and cuts to foster care. These are examples of proposals that are deeply unpopular with Illinois voters. Another example of the party’s inability to embrace change came on the heels of the gay marriage debate, when all but one Senate Republican voting against passage. Republicans are operating off of a Ronald Regan brand of conservative ideology which in the 80s and 90s produced great results, but it’s a brand that is failing the test of time in 2013.

Party infighting is another obstacle for the Illinois GOP. Early this year Pat Brady resigned as chairman of the Illinois GOP because of his position in favor of marriage equality, which some deemed as a break in party ideology. When Pat Brady came out in support for gay marriage it infuriated the more conservative faction of the party, and it triggered a failed attempt to oust him from the position. Even Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is under fire from some of the more conservative members of his party because of his support for same-sex marriage and reasonable gun control legislation.

Illinois Republicans risk remaining in the “super-minority” if they fail to adopt a more moderate stance on social issues, and hold at bay their affinity for drastic cuts to government spending. The indication is that they will not embrace a more moderate position, because the people who are speaking the loudest are the far right wing of the party. Moderates who choose to speak up publicly run the risk of alienating the party faithful. Democrats will be wise not to aid the Republicans in their desires to regain control of the state legislature. With the incarceration of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the misdeeds of former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, and the federal indictment of Representative Derrick Smith, Democrats risk leaving the impression that they are unable to properly police their members, which will have consequences in future elections. Illinois Republicans have seven years to fix the party, and unify the different factions before the 2020 U.S. Census. If by 2020 there is still party infighting and a refusal to adopt a more moderate brand of conservatism, Illinois Republicans will all but guarantee the next 20 years to be dominated by Illinois Democrats. As long as Republicans are a bane to their own existence, Illinois Democrats will be free of a competitive opposition party for, if you agree with James Carville, 40 years.

Adonnis Shaw of Jacksonville is Ward 1 alderman on the Jacksonville City Council, and can be contacted at aldermanshaw@yahoo.com.
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