Congress’s vote to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory, which finally concluded at 3:45 this morning, laid bare divisions within the Illinois congressional delegation — and the Illinois Republican Party — which are as old as the state itself.
Only two of Illinois’s 17 representatives voted against confirming all of Biden’s electoral votes: Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Rep. Mary Miller, R-Oakland. Both represent Southern Illinois, the most conservative part of the state. Back in 1861, when Sen. Stephen Douglas heard rumblings of pro-Confederate sympathies sprouting in Southern Illinois following his own defeat by Abraham Lincoln, he returned home to deliver his “Protect the Flag” speech, urging Democrats to unite behind the president. Failing to support a duly elected leader over partisan differences would “convert you from patriots to traitors,” Douglas warned his fellow Democrats.
That’s not how Representative Miller sees it. Miller, a freshman who ran on a pro-Trump platform, believes that she’s the patriot for standing by her president, win or lose. Here’s her December 29 press release on objecting to “Tainted Election Results”:
Mary Miller, Congresswoman-elect (IL-15), joins patriotic leaders across the nation in announcing her intent to object to the Electoral College results.
“I am fighting for the people of my district and with President Trump to ensure the integrity of our elections,” pledged Congresswoman-elect Mary Miller. “I promised to stand with President Trump and I will keep that promise. It is my responsibility to the great people of Illinois to object to the Electoral College certification.”
For his part, Rep. Bost denounced the pro-Trump mob that broke into the Capitol as “un-American,” but was still one of 36 members to sign a document contending that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin “violated… the Constitution in their selection of presidential electors.” Two-thirds of the signers represent former Confederate states. (Not surprisingly, rioters paraded through the Capitol carrying Confederate flags.)
In Illinois, the further north a district, the less likely its representative was to support Trump’s challenge. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, who represents Abraham Lincoln’s old district, voted to certify Biden’s victory, despite “concerns about irregularities in the presidential election in states that circumvented their state legislatures to make election-law changes.”
“Congress does not have, nor should we, the authority to take the power of electing a president away from the people,” LaHood said. “Overturning the results of the Electoral College would far exceed the power given to us in the Constitution, establish poor precedents, and usurp the will of the people.”
That technical acknowledgement of Trump’s defeat was far from Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s caustic condemnation of the president. Kinzinger, R-Channahon, is the only Illinois Republican who represents territory north of I-80. Ever since the election, Kinzinger has been attacking Trump for refusing to accept defeat. In December, he quote-tweeted a Trump election conspiracy with the message “Time to delete your account.”
Kinzinger’s disapproval of Trump’s post-electoral denial went a lot further than simply voting to certify Biden’s election. He accused Trump of inciting the mob that ransacked the Capitol, then urged Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, stripping the president of his powers for his remaining 13 days in office.
“The president has become unmoored, not just from his oath and his duties, but even from reality itself,” Kinzinger said in a video posted to social media this morning.
State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, a leader of the legislature’s ultra-conservative Eastern Bloc, has called Kinzinger a “Democrat” for his criticism of Trump. This week, Bailey suggested Kinzinger resign from Congress.
“We need to find those bad elected officials and get them out of office,” Bailey said. “People like Adam Kinzinger up north. He calls himself a Republican. No. He’s a Democrat. Get him out of office.”
That “up north” dig suggests that the divisions within the Illinois Republican Party are as much regional as they are ideological. A century and a half after Douglas urged Southern Illinoisans to choose Lincoln over the Confederacy, the region has shifted its partisan allegiance from Democratic to Republican. Once again, though, it’s resisting the election of a president who doesn’t share its conservative values.