Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Illinois: The Most Democratic State

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Here’s a fact that ought to further depress the feckless, disorganized Illinois Republican Party: Illinois is the most Democrat-dominated state in the union, measured by the party’s control over state government and its votes for U.S. Senate and president.

    The Democrats have controlled the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature since January 2003. They stayed in power even after their two-time governor was impeached following one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state’s history.

    The only place Democrats have been running state government longer? West Virginia.

    West Virginia also sends two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, but while the state remains true to its Southern Democratic heritage at the state level, it voted Republican for president in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Illinois trumped that by not only voting Democratic in 2000 and 2004, but providing the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

    For the four years between 2006 and 2010, Democrats even controlled all six statewide offices, and the state Supreme Court.

    Why are Republicans so powerless in Illinois? As the saying goes, geography is destiny. It’s all about Cook County, which contains half of Illinois’ voters. Only Delaware, Hawaii and Rhode Island -- tiny states with similarly Democratic voting records -- are so dominated by a single urban county.

    Illinois’ GOP has become irrelevant because of its association with the national Republican brand: white and rural, with a desire to bring religion into public life, and a belief that the government has no business telling people how many guns they can own.

    Unfortunately, the Republicans’ last gubernatorial nominee, Bill Brady, embodied those values. Brady campaigned as though he lived in the Illinois of the Republican Party’s dreams -- an Illinois that does not include Cook County. He counted on Downstaters’ resentment of the Colossus of the North carrying him to victory. The result: He won 99 of 102 counties, and still lost. Pat Quinn would have been elected to a full term even if he’d just carried Cook County.

    Republicans will just have to get used to the fact that the Democrats have become the natural governing party of Illinois. They may be able to sneak in a governor after years of one-party fatigue, but as long as the Democrats are the big-city party, and the Republicans the small-town party, they’ll never dominate this state again.