Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blue's Anatomy

While still coming out of a post-election haze and getting prepared for veto session, I wanted to attempt to briefly distill a couple of thoughts on the election.

First the big picture - Illinois and the rest of the country have never looked more blue. And while there is no doubt that the war played a large factor in the equation, I think that the result smacks of a more fundamental happening as well.

For a number of years now, I have been on the State Legislative Advisory Board of the Democratic Leadership Council, which is essentially the nesting place for centrist Democrats. I have aligned myself with the DLC because I believe that they are spot on in recognizing that the majority of our population resides in the ideological center and not on the respective fringes. I think that this election has ratified that belief.

For a number of years now, the Republican Party had been very effective in appealing to the centrist nature of many Americans, and the results were evident. But lately, for myriad reasons, the R's have been drifting to the right, and in so doing, they have left a void in the center. This has been especially evident in Illinois where moderate Republicans find themselves vilified, and abandoned, by their more conservative brethren.

This year, the Democratic party, under the national direction of my Congressman, Rahm Emanuel, acted decisively to seize this middle ground, on issues ranging from social policy to immigration to national security, and in so doing, made unprecedented gains. Locally, Illinois is bluer (sp?) than it has been in seventy years.

(On an aside, Rahm's efforts resulted in one of the funnier opening sentences I have ever seen in a political story:
Democrats across the country owe a big chunk of their new electoral success to a nine-fingered, ballet-dancing inspiration for a “West Wing” character with a reputation as a jerk.
Although technically, it's nine and one-half.)

I think that voters are becoming less likely to blindly follow party labels, and will increasingly support those candidates who espouse a message that resonates with them. This independence can be readily witnessed in the ward where I live on the north side of Chicago where the results were all over the place. The results for some of the races are as follows:

L. Madigan 83%
Fritchey 80%
Blagojevich 59%
Stroger 46%

Now this ward had essentially no field operation in this election cycle, so I think that it provides a relatively objective view into the mindset of local voters. In the past, it would have been unheard of to see this much variance in party support, let alone a Republican carrying a major race like County Board President. These results show that at least for the near future, the rules of engagement have changed, with neither party being able to take any voting bloc for granted.

What remains to be seen is if the Democratic party will be mindful enough of the source of their fortunes to navigate a path that may not be as far left as some in the party may like. At the same time, it will be interesting to watch if the local Republican party recognizes the futility in trying to force an overly dogmatic approach onto a common-sense, mainstream electorate.

In both Washington and Springfield, the actions over the next six months could well chart the future for years to come.

UPDATE - I uncharacteristically didn't get to the Sunday papers until just now. Rick Pearson and John Chase have a very good article on the very subject of the Illinois Republican Party potential search for the center.


At November 12, 2006 at 7:23 PM, Anonymous 47th Ward said...

I think you're right John, and congratulations on your reelection. The General Assembly could use more representatives like you.

You mentioned actions of the next six months that will be critical; can you give some specific examples of what to expect from centrists in Springfield and Washington?

PS: If I can guess your ward correctly, then Ald. Matlak is aiming for between Stroger's and Blagojevich's numbers in February. Seems like Rod's numbers are the ceiling at best.

At November 12, 2006 at 7:41 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...


Thanks for the kind words. In the upcoming session, I would watch to see how Congress handles the minimum wage issue. I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of Republicans get on board so as not to get whacked with it in '08. Same thing applies to the immigration issue.

In Springfield, the minimum wage issue will also be addressed, likely in a few days. As to what other specific issues we may be tackling in January, we'll have to wait and see.

I didn't intentionally omit my ward. I live in the 32nd. And I think that a lot of Alderman are going to be scrutinizing the election results over the next few days.

At November 14, 2006 at 2:03 AM, Blogger ArchPundit said...

You better watch it--if the left wing of the blogosphere finds out you are attached to the DLC you'll be attacked by Soap Box Chicago and Illinois Review.

I'm somewhat frustrated with the DLC in terms of From and Reed, but I still find Ed Kilgore to be a great voice in center leftdom. With the way the DLC has played against accountability in Iraq and into the President's hands, I have come to more identify with Simon Rosenberg.

More specifically though, I think there is an important distinction to what the Republicans have done. Since 1994 they haven't been centrist, but they have been able to appear centrist.

The worst lesson some Democrats take out of that experience is that playing to your base is how to win. The problem is that is exactly why the Republicans eventually lost--and would have lost sooner had it not been for 9/11.

In the short term a party can pretend to be centrist and win, but to build a long term winning coalition, one actually has to be centrist and thus the Republican Congressional Majority only lasted 12 years.

In the Illinois House it only lasted 2 years. Now the loudest voices in the Illinois Republican Party want to run to the right to which the only response is "have fun in the wilderness."

A long term center-left orientation is how Democrats can build a lasting majority--one based on opportunity and inclusiveness instead of social darwinism and exclusion.

At November 15, 2006 at 11:12 AM, Anonymous Patrick said...

John Congratulations on your re-election. The worst thing democrats can do is take this as a referendum on their politics (look at congressional approval ratings). I am pretty sure many people are like myself the republicans were so bad that the democrats seemed less so. However the secret "election" of todd stroger as the democratic candidate and the lemmings like Daley and Durbin and Quigley who supported such a poor candidate because he was a democrat doesn't sound any better than the republicans in Washington.

The next six months will tell whether the Democrats are hearing the electorate and work for the voter or just for their own re-elections.

One more thing I can't believe you didn't mention the reinstatement of the 7% tax cap for illinois homeowners. How did that fall off your radar?

Good luck and please work to lessen the burden on tax payers in illinois.


Patrick La Salle

At November 17, 2006 at 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Chicagoan, as far as I'm concerned, all this talk about the pros and cons of democrats vs. republicans is abstract, irrelevent nonsense. They might as well be talking about politics on Mars. There are no competing ideas here, only a criminal, ruling cabal with an agenda of keeping power and setting up triple dip pension opportunities. I'm plotting my exit before these swine steal all the equity in my house.


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