Why Illinois is America's Most Liberal State - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Illinois is America's Most Liberal State



    Why Illinois is America's Most Liberal State

    Is Illinois the most liberal state in America?

    This week, the state House of Representatives defeated a bill to allow the carrying of concealed weapons. That makes Illinois one of only two states to ban conceal carry.

    In March, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill making Illinois the 16th state to ban the death penalty. In January, we became one of 10 states to allow gay marriage or civil unions.

    Oh, and we also produced America’s first black president.

    Our Midwestern state is home of the city that gave the world the expression, “Will it play in Peoria?”, as a measure of middle American squareness. So why are we piling up a more liberal record than the Sodoms of the East Coast and the Gomorrahs of the West Coast?

    Because no other state is so thoroughly dominated, politically, by a big city. New York City makes up a larger percentage of New York state than Chicago does of Illinois. But New York is composed of five counties, each with their own political machine. Chicago is part of Cook County, the overwhelmingly Democratic entity which contains half the population of Illinois.

    As any frustrated Downstate conservative will tell you, whatever Cook County wants, Cook County gets. The governor, the speaker of the House and the Senate president are all from Cook County. It was one of only three counties Gov. Pat Quinn won in his successful election campaign. Quinn would still have remained governor even if he’d only won Cook County.

    As a city, Chicago is no more liberal than New York or Los Angeles. It’s less liberal than Boston, Portland or Seattle. But Chicago’s ability to impose its will on its state legislature is unmatched by any other city. The other 101 counties must wonder why they even send legislators to Springfield, for all the influence they have there. 

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available on Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!