Illinois’ choices reflect presidential winners

By John Dietz

Illinois successfully has voted for the winning president 21 out of the 23 elections in this century. Only in 1944 and 1976 did the state disagree with the rest of the nation and lose its predictive edge.

That edge has remained razor-sharp throughout much of the century and has been virtually a mirror image of the U.S. vote through the years.

The Republicans have shown impressive numbers in Illinois between 1948 and 1988. The last time a Democrat took the state was in 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson decisively won the state with 59.5 percent of the vote.

What explains this trend? George Beasley, Republican chairman of DeKalb County, believes that Illinois is broken down into two areas. The first is the city of Chicago and the second consists of the “collar counties” and downstate. Beasley said he doesn’t believe Illinois has completely voted Republican ever.

The House and Senate in Illinois remain Democratic while the governorship and presidential votes go to the Republicans.

Illinois continues to go Republican in presidential elections because of the increasing percentage of votes in the suburban communities.

The suburbs grew from 26 percent of the total vote in Illinois in 1960 to 38 percent in 1988. Suburbanites also voted 62 percent Republican in 1988, according to Science magazine. The sheer number of people who voted in the suburbs as opposed to the city (23 percent) helped the GOP carry the state in 1988.

This voting pattern still fails to explain the reason behind a Democratic House and Senate. Beasley, however, explains the mystery. “Maybe we’re just fickle. It could be that Illinois is big on having a gridlock on government,” Beasley said.

This same trend existed in Michigan, Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana. Bush could have carried any of these states in 1988 without getting one vote in the largest cities.

While people seem to be flocking to the suburbs, areas such as DeKalb steadily have grown in percentage of the population. So, how do the cornfields of DeKalb figure into the equation?

Since 1916, DeKalb has voted Democratic only once.

Beasley said the people of DeKalb have “a more conservative approach to getting things done. In this area, people do things for themselves. Instead of going to the government, people will give money directly. We don’t write for government grants.”

However, the economy continues to poke along and that seems to be the major concern of many voters. Democratic County Chairman Gene Sparrow said the main reason the votes don’t come as often for the Democrats stems from the inadequacy of funds and the lack of hard work.

Sparrow believes Clinton might turn things around for the Democrats in areas such as DeKalb.

“This year we could have some surprises. Clinton and Braun seem to be doing well in DeKalb County,” Sparrow said.

However, Beasley remains confident that “DeKalb County will still be a Republican county. I don’t see a trend of us losing that.”

Despite Beasley’s optimism, the numbers indicate that more votes have trickled in for the Democrats in the last decade. In the last three elections, the Democrats have received 29.4, 34.8 and 40.5 percent of the votes respectively.

Whether DeKalb continues that upswing for Clinton will be decided today.

As for this year’s election, independent candidate Ross Perot is making a difference in the election. There’s a long list of qualities in Perot’s favor. He’s articulate, handles money well, acts on his promises and he’s witty. There’s also a long list against him. He dropped out, he dropped out and he dropped out.

Both Beasley and Sparrow agree on two things. First, Perot won’t be a factor. Second, even if he did pull in a significant number of votes, it won’t help or hurt either of the other candidates.

As far as the other two go, Sparrow believes anything Bush comes up with now won’t convince many voters to trust him.

“There have been lulls in the economy of late,” Sparrow said. “We’ve been in a recession in the Midwest for the past 10 to 15 years. People are fed up with it and now the rest of the country feels it as well.”

“I think Clinton will win because people are fed up. Even if Bush focuses on the economy, and even if he can come up with the rhetoric, people don’t think he can execute it.”

However, Beasley remains skeptical of Clinton’s highly criticized economic plan.

“Many economists say if you look at Clinton’s figures, they don’t add up,” Beasley said. “Clinton will start putting tax increases on not just people making $60,000, $80,000 or $100,000 a year, but also on people making $20,000 a year and he’ll have to so he can pay for everything he’s proposing.”