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Tag: illinois

Once Again, Gerrymandering Threatens To Throttle Democracy

It's a redistricting year in the blue state of Illinois, which means that Republicans are getting less consideration than a missionary on the Las Vegas Strip. Democrats have been winning in the Land of Lincoln for a long while, controlling the state House for all but two of the past 38 years. But they see no harm in running up the score.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a vow to take reapportionment away from politicians and turn it over to an independent commission. But that didn't happen, and when the General Assembly sent him district maps that exemplified partisan gerrymandering, he signed them into law.

"Make no mistake, these maps were drawn solely for the Democrats to maintain their political power in the state of Illinois," House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. Democrats outnumber Republicans 73-45 in the state House, and those numbers are likely to grow more lopsided.

Similar things are going on in New York, where Democrats have plotted new district lines with the goal of cutting the GOP's eight members of Congress to four or even three of the 26 seats the state will have. That's less than 16 percent of the seats in a state where 38 percent of voters went for Donald Trump. New York's Republican Party chair Nick Langworthy said the redistricting "is a political sham built on a foundation of lies and hypocrisy."

Shams are the norm in this process, where lawmakers celebrate the glories of democracy while scheming to make elections an empty formality. Democrats in blue states are more than willing to ignore their good-government allies to cement their control in state legislatures — and to keep Nancy Pelosi in the speaker's chair.

After losing out on Maryland's last congressional map, Republicans took the fight to the Supreme Court, arguing that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. (The court disagreed.) So you might think that Republicans would be determined to put an end to partisan reapportionment. But hypocrisy is a two-way street.

Today, the GOP has control of the governor's office and the legislature in 23 states, compared to 15 such "trifectas" for Democrats. Such dominance is never more valuable than in a redistricting year, giving those in power the chance to supersize their advantage for a full decade.

Political scientists Alex Keena, Michael Latner, Anthony McGann and Charles Anthony Smith wrote in The Washington Post, "We found that, after 2011, 45 state legislative maps had been drawn with extreme partisan gerrymandering. Of these, 43 favor Republicans, while only two help Democrats. Because of these gerrymandered maps, Republicans held onto power after losing the statewide popular vote in Virginia in 2017, and in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2018."

That explains why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has no interest in a Democratic bill that would make it impossible to tilt the playing field. The For the People Act would require states to hand over redistricting to independent commissions. With that reform, incumbents would no longer get to tailor their constituencies to achieve permanent tenure.

It would not prevent either party from winning most legislative or congressional seats in a particular state. Such bodies already draw maps in several states, including Arizona, where the GOP has held a majority in both houses of the legislature since 2003, and California, where Democrats have done the same since 1997.

In most places, the issue is not which party will dominate. It's just by how much.

Besides, no one objects when a party getting a majority of the votes wins a majority of seats. Objections are in order, though, when the party getting a minority of the votes wins a majority of seats. Last year, Democratic candidates for Congress got 43 percent of the votes cast in South Carolina — but only one of the seven House seats, or 14 percent.

A federal solution is needed because at the state level, no party in power wants to cede control of redistricting. Democrats say they can't afford to unilaterally disarm in the battle for power, and Republicans show no interest in mutual renunciation of gerrymandering.

But in the long run, a fairer system would be a good thing for both parties. It would give each more opportunities to compete and more incentive to stay in tune with the preferences of those they represent.

It would be best of all for the voters, many of whom have been effectively rendered powerless. Democracy is supposed to rest on the consent of the governed, not the governors.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

’Sundown Town’ In Illinois Sees Its First Black Lives Matter Protest

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

The image on Facebook showed three raised fists — one white, one brown, one black — with the hashtag BLM overlaid in large letters. A date and place to meet was at the bottom: Thursday, June 4. The location: Anna, Illinois.

A Black Lives Matter protest. In Anna?

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Only One State Has Met Federal Criteria For Reopening

Only one state has met all of the criteria contained in guidelines issued by the federal government for safely reopening businesses and easing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis by ProPublica. Despite the lack of progress by the overwhelming majority of states, Donald Trump is still pushing them to reopen.

ProPublica based its analysis on state-level data, updated daily, for five metrics stemming from the guidelines for reopening issued by the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its metrics are the number of positive tests per 100,000 people; the percentage of tests that are positive; the number of tests per 100,000 per day; the availability of ICU beds; and the number of hospital visits for "flu-like illness."

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Trump Loses Two Delegates Because Of Their Foreign-Sounding Names

Two Trump delegates with foreign-sounding (i.e., Muslim) names failed to make the top three spots during last night’s Illinois primary, despite overwhelming Trump support in the districts they represented.

The state has one of the most complex delegate allotment schemes in the country. Rather than receiving just one delegate per electoral district, the Illinois primary provides three delegates per electoral district. That means that Illinois has 54 delegates who have already pledged to a presidential candidate to draw from its 18 electoral districts. And following the results of the primary, the first place candidate, is awarded another 15 delegates during the national convention.

The results were further proof of Trump’s pandering to prejudice in his run for the Republican nomination. The two candidates, Nabi Fakroddin and Raja Sadiq, prevented Trump from winning even more candidates in Illinois. The drop in support for the two was notable because Trump delegates won in the third and sixth districts. In the sixth district, Paul Minch won the district with 35,435 votes while Barbara Kois got 35,120 votes. But Fakroddin finished sixth with 5,000 fewer votes, despite running as a Trump delegate. That allowed a John Kasich supporter to take the third place spot, giving the Ohio governor an extra delegate.

The same took place with Sadiq in the third district. He should have finished somewhere in the top three, again, given that Trump won the state. But he also finished in sixth place, with 25 percent fewer votes than Doug Hartmann, the Trump candidate who won. Ted Cruz supporters took second, third and fourth place there. Even the fifth place finisher, Toni Gauen, also a Trump delegate, got 4,000 more votes than Sadiq.

While the loss of a couple delegates won’t hurt Trump as he bulldozes his way to the Republican nomination, the virulent form of Islamophobia he has espoused likely played a roll in the results for Fakroddin and Sadiq. Trump’s supporters are among the most hostile to Muslims. Some 67 percent hold unfavorable views of American Muslims, while 87 percent said they support his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country.

It’s unlikely that this phenomenon will repeat itself, simply because there aren’t many Muslims supporting Trump. But if the Republican frontrunner’s targeting of other minorities (Mexicans, Hispanics, African Americans, women) continues, Trump delegates with non-white names could see themselves losing primary races due to the same man they represent. In that case, it would be perhaps the only time Trump’s overt appeals to white nationalism haven’t helped his campaign in some way.

Under Fire, Trump Seeks Breakthrough In Republican Primaries

By Steve Holland

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) – Donald Trump could take a giant step on Tuesday toward securing the Republican presidential nomination if he wins the Florida and Ohio primaries, despite criticism that the billionaire businessman’s rowdy campaign is dividing America.

Trump has the potential to sweep five big states holding party primary contests for the November election: Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri.

The Republican front-runner could knock out his two mainstream rivals, Ohio Governor John Kasich and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, if he wins their states. His closest challenger nationally is U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Tea Party favorite.

Trump, 69, has a significant lead over Rubio in opinion polls in Florida, but is neck and neck with Kasich in Ohio. Any win by either Rubio, Kasich or Cruz, 45, would give at least a small degree of hope to Republicans battling to deny the New Yorker the nomination.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 68, could put some distance between herself and rival Bernie Sanders, 74, a U.S. senator from Vermont, in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries.

An outbreak of clashes between Trump supporters and protesters that forced him to cancel a rally in Chicago on Friday, and scattered protests at some of his campaign events this week have prompted mainstream Republican Party figures to speak out against the former reality TV star.

Democratic President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was dismayed by what was happening on the presidential campaign trail and, in a reference to Trump, said he rejected any measures to encourage violence.

“I reject any effort to spread fear or encourage violence … or to turn Americans against one another,” Obama said during an event on Capitol Hill.

Victories in the five states could put Trump – who has vowed to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, impose protectionist trade policies and temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country – on a glide path to being his party’s presidential candidate in November. That seemed inconceivable only last year.

TRUMP IN DEMAND

Trump said on Tuesday that his momentum was already drawing in establishment Republicans who had previously balked at his candidacy but now see him as the likely nominee.

“They’re already calling,” he told NBC’s “Today” show, without naming names. “The biggest people in the party are calling.”

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, said all presidential candidates must bear responsibility for helping curb violence at campaign events and creating a less hostile atmosphere.

“All candidates have an obligation to do what they can do … provide an atmosphere of harmony, to reduce violence, to not incite violence,” Ryan told reporters.

For the Democrats, opinion polls gave Clinton a big lead in Florida and North Carolina, but showed Sanders gaining ground in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, a possibly worrisome sign for Clinton after his surprise victory in Michigan a week ago.

Speaking to reporters at a polling place in Raleigh, North Carolina, Clinton had Trump on her mind.

    “I think it is important that we really do focus on the very dangerous path that Donald Trump has laid out here,” she said. “The kind of bluster and bigotry and bullying that he is exemplifying on the campaign trail is disturbing to, I think, the majority of Americans.” 

Trump won an early round on Tuesday, taking the Northern Mariana Islands caucuses with almost 73 percent of the vote. The win in the U.S. Pacific commonwealth gave him nine delegates.

The Republican establishment’s only real hope for stopping Trump might be to deny him the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination, even though he may win a majority of them. That would extend the battle to the party’s nominating convention in July in Cleveland.

“If he’s the nominee, he is not going to be able to unite the party. In fact, I think he’ll bitterly divide it,” Rubio, 44, told Fox News.

Trump argues that his candidacy has brought a breath of fresh air to U.S. politics and says his campaign rallies are peaceful events except for a few incidents.

If Kasich and Rubio do drop out of the race after Tuesday, that would leave Cruz as the only Republican in the field against Trump. The Texan senator has struggled during the primary season to build support beyond his base of evangelical Christians and Republican Southerners.

At a voting site in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Elaine Handy, 74, said she voted for Cruz.

“He’s a man of principle,” she said. “I believe we really need men of principle in the government.” She said she did not consider voting for Trump. “He’s rash.”

(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker in Ohio, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Peter Cooney, W Simon and Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Savannah Center in Cincinnati, Ohio March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Senate GOP Campaign Deletes Tweet Accusing Disabled Democrat Of ‘Not Standing Up’ For Veterans

Senate Republicans’ campaign arm looks like it needs to watch its language when discussing a top Democratic candidate.

Tuesday afternoon, the National Republican Senatorial Committee tweeted — and, soon after, deleted — the accusation: “Tammy Duckworth has a sad record of not standing up for our veterans.” Duckworth, a congresswoman from Illinois, is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Mark Kirk.

The problem: Tammy Duckworth is not only a veteran herself, but accusing her of “not standing up for our veterans” is a particularly poor choice of words. Duckworth lost both her legs in Iraq, when the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by an insurgent’s rocket-propelled grenade. As she has written of the experience: “My right leg was vaporized; my left leg was crushed and shredded against the instrument panel.” Her right arm was also severely injured, though doctors were indeed able to save it.

Jonathan Chait preserved it in this screen grab:

One possible reply to Chait: Hey, this staffer might actually have a bright future working on Donald Trump’s media team.

Photo: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) at the Hyde Park Independence Day Parade, July 4, 2015, via Facebook.

Republican Senator Says Obama Should Nominate Scalia’s Replacement

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk broke ranks with his fellow Senate Republican threats to block any Supreme Court nominee that President Barack Obama puts forward. The senator’s announcement was the latest in backtracking by Republicans since they demanded that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement be chosen by the next president — who they assume will be more acceptably conservative.

In an opinion piece published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Kirk said, “I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider.”

The senator’s remarks came a week and a half after the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial demanding that he do his job and hold hearings when Obama nominates his Supreme Court pick: “The simple answer is yes. Of course the Senate should,” it read, “That is their job: To ‘advise and consent.’ Nowhere in the Constitution does it say ‘hold your breath and hope to die.'”

But that hasn’t stopped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from vowing to block any nominee Obama puts forth.  “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said in a statement shortly after Scalia’s death was announced. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Numerous Republicans, including all presidential candidates still in the race, lined up behind him and made the same demand. Ronald Reagan — his ghost haunts this election season, and has many others — nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court in November 1987. The Senate vote confirming him took place in February 1988, during Reagan’s last year in office.

As a Republican senator from a Democratic state up for reelection this year, Kirk is walking a political tight rope. As a moderate Republican, he has often taken a center ground in polarizing political debates. He’s voted alongside Republicans on issues like building a border wall with Mexico, Bush-era tax cuts, and invading Iraq. But he as also voted in favor of gay marriage rights, funding public housing, and abortion rights.

If Kirk is seen as too conservative, he risks losing his reelection bid to a Democrat. Should he be seen as too moderate, he might not even make it on the Republican ticket. He’s gotten the “RINO” charge before.

Whether or not more Republicans step back from the untenable position McConnell and the Republican leadership has taken remains to be seen. But the cracks in their defiant front are getting harder to paper over.

Republican Kirk Breaks With U.S. Senate Leaders On High Court Seat

By Susan Cornwell and Eric Beech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, facing a tough re-election fight in Illinois, said on Monday the Senate should vote on whomever President Barack Obama nominates to the U.S. Supreme Court, breaking with his party’s leadership.

In another defection among Republicans, Senator Susan Collins of Maine called for hearings on the eventual nominee.

A political fight has erupted over filling the court’s vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, with many top Republicans threatening to block any nominee put forth by the Democratic president.

Obama’s nominee could shift the court to the left for the first time in decades.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the seat should remain vacant until Obama’s successor takes office in January so voters can have a say on the selection when they cast ballots in the November presidential election.

Kirk wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times opinion piece that he recognized the right of any president to choose a Supreme Court nominee and he looked forward to Obama picking one for the Senate to consider for confirmation.

“I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information,” Kirk added.

Kirk, who holds Obama’s old Senate seat, said he hoped the president would pick a nominee “who can bridge differences, a nominee who finds common ground and a nominee who does not speak or act in the extreme.”

Kirk’s stance illustrates that McConnell may have trouble keeping Senate Republicans fully united over filling Scalia’s seat. Some senators like Kirk are seeking re-election this year in states where Democrats are competitive.

Collins, who is not facing re-election until 2020, said on Monday the Senate had an obligation to hold public hearings on Obama’s nominee.

“The kind of thorough process that a hearing allows is the best way to evaluate a nominee,” Collins told reporters, according to the Hill newspaper.

But it appeared unlikely that enough Republicans would peel away from McConnell to allow a vote on the Senate floor.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said on Monday it was up to McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to decide whether to hold confirmation hearings.

“I feel like we ought to put it off and get it out of this harsh atmosphere,” Hatch told reporters.

(Reporting by Eric Beech, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)

Photo: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois speaks to supporters after beating Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias for the Senate seat formally held by U.S. President Barack Obama, at an election night rally in Wheeling, Illinois November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes