Sunday, February 20, 2005
What's the matter with Kansas or what's right with Illinois?
I just returned from the DuPage Democrats dinner where I met fellow blogger and Naperville Township Dem Committeeman Rick Klau. One piece of Illinois trivia that I didn't know: there is a Democratic state senator with part of DuPage in the district. Give up? Don Harmon has about 10 precincts in DuPage. The keynoter was David Wilhelm and he led with this interesting frame. In most of the country, the GOP playbook is cultural wedge issues: gays, guns and abortion. Identify with the electorate on those cultural issues, define the Dem as alien based on some or all of the wedge issues and coast to a majority. Probably throw race in there too. That worls for the Republicans in a lot of places where the federal GOP agenda of enriching the wealthy and choosing Corporate America over workers and consumers wouldn't be enough to earn support - but the cultural wedge issues do. Thomas Frank (a former Chicago guy) wrote a good book on the topic titled What's The Matter With Kansas. Wilhelm pointed out that the playbook doesn't work here. In the Chicago suburbs, gay-bashing just doesn't play. Look at state rep Joe Dunn's vote for extending civil rights in employment and housing to gays as an example. He represents Naperville - a GOP stronghold - but the anti-gay stuff doesn't resonate. So Illinois is an example of a healthier electorate. Maybe it's because we are better educated or farther north. Whatever the reason, the Dems in other states should be studying us to see what we are doing right.