I was at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Tuesday night to celebrate the perpetuation of one-party rule in Illinois.
Henry Ford used to say that his customers could buy a Model T in any color, as long as it was black. In Illinois, voters can elect a politician of any party, as long as it’s Democratic. So far, in the 21st Century, there have been 41 statewide elections in Illinois. Democrats have won 35. That’s an .853 winning percentage — the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s only bettered that once. A Republican governor in Illinois is like the mumps — you get it once in your life.
WGN flashed “J.B. Pritzker wins second term as governor” at 7:07 p.m. — seven minutes after the polls closed, and before any votes were tallied. The Democrats in the ballroom began chanting “J.B., J.B., J.B.,” then petered out after a few seconds. They’re so used to winning they can’t get excited anymore. Elections in the former Soviet Union carried more drama.
This year, the Democrats got a big assist from the Republicans, who ignored 204 years of Illinois history by presenting the Land of Lincoln with a candidate who was Southern in his accent, his worldview, and his crewcut. Given his druthers, Darren Bailey would ban abortion and allow gun owners to pack heat without a permit. Pritzker’s opponents like to compare him to Fred Flintstone, but the governor had a cartoon counterpart in Hank Hill.
How outspent and outclassed was Bailey? Plutocrat Pritzker served free cabernet, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay to his guests. Meanwhile, according to Jake Sheridan of the Tribune, “Sources (the bartender) tell me a Sam Adams costs $7, a glass of wine runs $7.50 and a Jack & coke costs $8.50 at Darren Bailey’s watch party” at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield.
Pritzker delivered his victory speech just after 8 p.m. He never mentioned Bailey by name, but it was clear that he considered his opponent a symptom of Republican extremism that is not just un-American, but un-Illinoisan.
Illinois’s third Jewish governor recalled the words of Henry Horner, the state’s first Jewish governor, who was elected in 1932, during the Great Depression and the worldwide rise of fascism. Those were “unusual times,” Horner said. So are these, Pritzker said, when “our values are under siege.”
The wifi password in the Marriott ballroom was “BeLikeILTrustWomen.” Pritzker got the biggest cheers of his speech when he attacked “a Supreme Court that cannot take away from a woman what they never had a constitutional right to do. If they think they can come into this state and force some right-wing war on women’s bodies, you will never get an inch of Illinois!”
Donald Trump endorsed Bailey for governor. Trump has been teasing a big announcement next week, which tout le monde assumes will be a third run for the presidency.
“A cancer has spread through one ideological wing of this nation,” Pritzker declared. “They’ve had ample opportunity to treat the disease, and they have refused to do so at every turn. The result has been treasonous insurrectionists maiming Capitol police and an attack on the 82-year-old husband of the Speaker of the House in his own home. Donald Trump is the modern embodiment of the tyranny that our fathers feared the most.”
The Republicans have lost Illinois because Illinois has always resisted extremism, Pritzker said, making a reference to Lincoln and the Civil War without explicitly comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, or today’s Republicans to Confederates.
“When the fabric of our nation has been frayed and torn, Illinois has always had a large role in putting it back together,” he said. “This state is a special place — this sacred patch of land sandwiched between great rivers and Great Lakes, finding ways to produce great people.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth was re-elected. So were Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Treasurer Michael Frerichs, and Comptroller Susana Mendoza. Alexi Giannoulias was elected Secretary of State, so he can run for the U.S. Senate when Dick Durbin retires in four years. It was a complete Democratic sweep of statewide offices, the first time that’s happened in…four years. This is the first time in recent history that Illinois Democrats have won all the statewide offices with a Democrat in the White House. Democrats also appear to have won 14 of the state’s 17 congressional seats, kept control of the state Supreme Court by winning one of two contested races, and passed a labor rights amendment that would prevent the legislature from imposing a right to work law on the state. Democrats maintained their supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. Nabeela Syed, a 23-year-old Indian Muslim woman, defeated a Republican incumbent to win a state House seat in the northwest suburbs. While Republicans likely won control of the U.S. House of Representatives, thanks to flips in other states, those red swaps did not reach the shores of Lake Michigan. Illinois’s Democratic dominance is immune from national political trends.
Darren Bailey is moving out of his John Hancock Center condo and going back to his farm in Clay County. The Republicans will try again in four years, but they’ll probably get the same result. One-party rule is now the Illinois Way.