Smile Politely

Two takeaways from the Illinois Primary

The primary elections for November’s general election were completed on June 28th. These midterm elections are critical; this year we elect our representative to the newly redrawn House Districts 13 and 15, the governor, and a handful of local positions including many Champaign County Board seats. We looked over the results, and we have two key takeaways. 

Republicans continue to be the party of dangerous, violent extremism, and they got some significant wins.

This is neither new nor surprising, but is worth reiterating. In the last decade, the GOP has worked to embrace the language, strategies, and candidates of violent authoritarianism and facism. These methods are not only encouraged, but they are rewarded: Mary “Hitler Was Right On One Thing” Miller has unseated Rodney Davis in IL-15. She will almost certainly win that district, and be reelected to Congress to continue to ensure “victory for white life.” 

Darren Bailey has won the Republican primary for governor (with the help of the Democratic machine). Bailey recently made headlines for telling folks to “move on” about an hour after the mass shooting in Highland Park. He is also a candidate who raffles off AR-15s and steals designs from other candidates. He made a name for himself as a state senator when he sued Governor Pritzker over COVID mitigations and was kicked off the floor of the Illinois General Assembly for refusing to wear a mask. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of integrity, attention to detail, or deep, critical thinking by the Bailey team. That is dangerous. 

Electing these sorts of anti-democratic extremists to all levels of government has dire consequences.

Democrats need to mobilize and turn out voters.

In sticking with historical trends, turnout in Champaign County for this primary election was abysmal. Of 120,538 registered voters, only 28,539 people voted. That’s about 23% of the electorate, and fewer than the 2020 primary election. Within that 28,539, only 12,643 Democrats voted (or at least asked for a Democratic ballot). 


(And yes, we assume we are preaching to the choir, here, so just groan in frustration with us.)

If we — residents of Champaign County, progressives, Democrats, pro-choice, independent thinkers — want to codify what remaining rights we have, regain the rights we have recently lost, and ensure the rights for those who have never been guaranteed them, we must work to elect Democrats. Are they exactly what we want, all of the time? Most certainly not. But they are the only path we have within the existing system to try to push for the things we need and want. We cannot build our imagined future on the foundation of authoritarianism, violence, and disenfranchisement. 

To this point, we’ve been thinking about something Rebecca Solnit wrote on Facebook on June 26th (emphasis ours):

I don’t care how people feel about Democrats, their aesthetic choices, fundraising frequency, etc. They are the vehicle to get the things we need, and there is no alternative but letting the destruction run unchecked. Right now if you’re interested in winning on behalf of the most vulnerable, from those who can get pregnant to those hit hardest by climate chaos, building campaigns to take the senate and keep the house and keep people motivated and participating is how you do it. And pushing politicians to do better is, yes, a very different thing than disparaging them while not otherwise participating, just as critical analysis is different than kvetching. If you truly can’t stand them, focus on non-electoral work like supporting abortion access directly.

All this flouncy complaining in the midst of a crisis discourages turnout and participation (and often culminates in someone stating they’re not going to vote because they’re not delighted by the options). It seems to come from identifying as a consumer rather than a participant-producer. This Yelp review mindset–“I ordered the easy right-away and got the complicated process, and it did not taste like I expected”– is not a valuable contribution. The perfect remains the enemy of the good, and yeah, making the good better or the not good enough better is a whole different thing than trashing the better option because it’s not perfect. That makes it worse. Refusing to understand how the government and laws work is also a kind of sabotage, often a pretense that there is some quick, simple solution that doesn’t actually exist, and excoriating those who don’t take that nonexistent option. 

Republicans famously have longterm [sic] strategy, aka do what they need to get where they want to go. They will be defeated only by others with strategy. Refusing to participate and discouraging participation because the options are not exactly what you ordered is whatever the opposite of strategy is. Strategy is understanding that the things you want are where you are headed, not where you start. Strategy is figuring out how to get there and sticking with it until you arrive.

We must remember what is at stake, and commit to a long term strategy just as Republicans have. Should Regan Deering be elected to represent IL-13, that will be one more vote for guns, for limiting the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community, for increased funding and latitude for law enforcement and border patrol, for requiring ID to vote. It will mean one more seat toward losing Democratic control of the House, toward another two or more years of gridlock. 

Locally, every county position is up for grabs this cycle. There are a couple of county board races that will be especially competitive: Districts 4 and 5. With redistricting, Democratic candidates Jenny Lokshin and Elly Hanauer-Friedman in District 4 have an opportunity to oust current Republican board members Jim McGuire and Brad Passalaqua. Mike Ingram has done a pretty good job of recapping some of the more contentious county board meetings, and McGuire’s behavior on the board has been particularly egregious.

It’s easy to sit at a computer and lament all of the ways our Democratic (and democratically elected) representatives are failing us, but here in Champaign County, it’s almost as easy to request a mail-in ballot, or figure out where your local polling station is, or vote early. There are many complicating factors to consider as we reflect upon our past and present and imagine our future, but the one weird trick we can all do to achieve the weight loss of Republicanism is to deny them the power to make decisions by voting them out. 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.

Top image compliation from (l-r) REUTERS/Kate Munsch; Getty Images; Regan Deering’s website.

More Articles