Republicans on the March to Evolution or Extinction?
Survival of the fittest. Extinction of the weakest. That’s Darwin’s theory of evolution.
In Chicago politics, Republicans are the contemporary equivalent of the brontosaurus. In a city of 2,695,598, Mitt Romney (R) on Nov. 6 got 148,181 votes, or 14.4 percent of the1,028,870 turnout. That’s 1,074 fewer than John McCain’s (R) 149,255 votes (13.6 percent) in 2008, and 39,876 fewer than George Bush’s (R) 188.057 votes (18.2 percent) in 2004.
Numerically, Romney got 14.4 percent of the actual vote and 10.8 percent of the registered vote. Based on this trajectory, Republicans will soon be garnering fewer votes than the Green Party.
Democrats, however, should not be too sanguine. In 2008, Barack Obama got 930,666 votes in Chicago; in 2012, his vote dwindled to 853,102, a dropoff of 77,564. That means Obama got 82.9 percent of the actual vote and 62.5 percent of the registered vote.
Consider this: In 2012, 335,501 registered voters (24.5 percent) didn’t case a ballot, and in 2008, the number was about 290,000. In the 2011 mayoral election, only 590,357 registered voters cast a mayoral ballot, just 43.3 percent, so almost 57 percent stayed home. Republicans can take some solace, and boast that 37.5 percent of Chicago’s registered voters didn’t vote for Obama, and that 76 percent didn’t vote for Rahm Emanuel in 2011.
But Republicans have no beachhead in Chicago – only a single ward where they can garner over 40 percent, and three over 30 percent. There are no Republican aldermen, and only one Chicago Republican state representative – Mike McAuliffe (R-20). In the 2011 mayoral election, Emanuel won 40 of 50 wards; the South Side pro-Daley strongholds – the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th and 23rd wards – produced majorities for Gery Chico.
In the 2012 presidential race, the top Romney ward was the Northwest Side’s 41st, which gave the Republican 44.8 percent, up from McCain’s 43.4 percent in 2008. In the nearby 45th Ward, a working-class, overwhelmingly white bastion, with pockets of liberals in Portage Park, Romney’s 29.9 percent was less than McCain’s 31.4 percent. Three of Romney’s “best” wards were: The Rogers Park 50th Ward, with a large Orthodox Jewish population, gave Romney 30.8 percent, up from 29.7 percent in 2008. The upscale Gold Coast 42nd Ward, filled with rich white people, gave Romney 35.4 percent, up from 27.6 percent in 2008. And the far Southwest Side 19th Ward, which runneth over with Irish city workers, gave Romney 34.8 percent, up from 33.3 percent in 2008.
In every other ward, Romney got fewer votes than McCain. But in almost every ward, Obama, too, got fewer votes than he received in 2008. So has Chicago. So it can be concluded that Chicago has both a one-party and a no-party system.
In the past two presidential elections, a Democrat averaged 891,000 votes, and a Republican 148,500 votes. Any Democrat, dead or alive, indicted or convicted, will beat any Republican. Anti-Republican antipathy is pervasive, if not universal.
But in non-partisan municipal elections, Chicago has a no-party system. In the 2011 mayoral election, Chico got 141,228 votes – almost the same number as the Romney-McCain base. Emanuel got 328,331 votes (55.3 percent), over 550,000 fewer votes than the Obama base. “He’s been dictatorial,” said Alderman Nick Sposato (36th) of Emanuel, adding that the mayor has made other aldermen “afraid to stand up.” Sposato, whose ward was cannibalized and obliterated in the council’s 2011 remap, is part of the so-called “Progressive Caucus,” composed of ten aldermen who are, he said, “not under the thumb” of Emanuel.
Note this: Emanuel is not unbeatable in 2015. He’s alienated the Chicago Teachers’ Union and Service Employees International Union, who have money and manpower, and the Southwest Siders are still unhappy. He could be beat.
Fifty-two years ago, in 1960’s storied Kennedy-Nixon presidential election, the storied political machine of then-Mayor Richard J. Daley struggled mightily to corral Democratic votes. Kennedy won Illinois by 8,858 votes, primarily because Chicago machine precinct captains, especially on the West Side, brought lots of dead people to the polls. Kennedy carried Chicago by over 500,000 votes and Cook County by 318,736 votes.
Fifty-two years later, in 2012, Obama didn’t need precinct captains or voter fraud to win Chicago. All he needed was the opening of the polls. Like lemmings trudging over the cliff, the vast bulk of Chicagoans vote Democratic religiously and habitually. The Republican brand name is as toxic as anthrax. And, as has been the case since the 1930s, as goes Chicago, so goes Illinois.
Illinois’ population, under the 2010 census, is 12,830,630, Chicago’s 2,695,598, and Cook County’s 5,194,675 .The total registered voters are 7,506,073 statewide and 2,704,993 (36 percent) in Cook County. The arithmetic is simple: If a Democrat gets 80 percent of the Chicago vote, he or she wins Cook County by 600,000-plus votes, which is more than enough to overcome the dwindling Republican margins in the collar county counties and Downstate – and thereby win statewide. A victory in Cook County by any Republican is now a fantasy
In the 2012 countywide election, Republican candidates performed abysmally. In the race for state’s attorney, incumbent Anita Alvarez (D), despite the negative fallout from her bungling of the Koschman case prosecution, and the embarrassment of having a special prosecutor appointed to investigate whether her office and the Chicago police exhibited favoritism toward the Daley family, won by 1,235,493-408,561 over Lori Yokoyama (24.8 percent). In the Clerk of Circuit Court race, embattled black incumbent Dorothy Brown (D), despite a nasty primary, won by 1,114,808-475,853 over Diane Shapiro (29.8 percent). And in the Recorder’s race, black Maywood state representative Karen Yarbrough (D) won by 1,135,379-369,155 over Sherri Griffin (24.6 percent). Amazingly, the obscure Shapiro, the 46th Ward Republican committeeman, got 10,000 more votes than Romney. All the Democrats ran 175,000-300,000 behind Obama.
And, in what may be a harbinger of the future, the Green Party candidates for Metropolitan Reclamation District commissioner, arrayed against Democrats Debra Shore (711,095 votes), Kari Steele (614,911 votes), and Daley legacy Patrick Daley Thompson, the grandson and nephew of Mayors Daley (622,191 votes), got an average of 140,000 votes, while the Republicans averaged 358,000 votes. There was a time, as recently as 2006, when a white Republican (Tony Peraica) could get near 45 percent against a flawed black Democrat (Todd Stroger); those days are over.
Clearly, for dissidents, voting “Green” appears to be more palatable than voting Republican.
As recently as 1998, the tried-and-true electoral mathematics were this: A Republican wins statewide by losing Chicago by less than 500,000 votes, breaking even in the Cook County suburbs, winning the collar counties by 350,000-400,000 votes, and carrying Downstate by 100,000-150,000. In 1998, Republican gubernatorial candidate George Ryan won statewide by 119,903 votes because he slashed socially conservative Glenn Poshard’s (D) Chicago plurality to 238,237, and lost Cook County by 128,254 votes; Ryan won the collar counties by 248,167 votes, and lost Downstate by 3,589 votes. Peter Fitzgerald (R), challenging the controversial then-U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, a black Chicago Democrat, won by 98,545 votes, with a different calculus: He lost Chicago by 407,189 votes, Cook County by 394,161 votes (265,907 more than Ryan), won the collar counties by 164,442 (83,725 fewer than Ryan), but ran gangbusters Downstate, winning by 328,264 votes (324,675 better than Ryan).
There are some Republican exceptions. In 2010, when the statewide turnout was 3,792,770 (50.5 percent of registered voters), Republicans Dan Rutherford and Judy Baar Topinka won, respectively, for treasurer and comptroller. But, in 2012, as in 2008, turnout exploded to about 5.5 million (70 percent of registered voters), and Democrats, and Democrats swept.
In 2010, 1.8 million fewer people voted, and Rutherford and Topinka faced obscure black opponents. Rutherford held Robin Kelly’s (D) Cook County margin to 387,353, and won statewide by 161,049 votes. Topinka, who lost Cook County to Rod Blagojevich (D) in the 2006 governor’s race by 508,605 votes, held David Miller’s (D) Cook County margin to a mere 209,549 votes, and won statewide by 429,876 votes.
Overall, Rutherford got 1,811,293 votes, and Topinka 1,927,139 votes, which was in the realm of Romney’s 2,090,116 votes. In other words, when 1.6 million pro-Obama, pro-Democratic voters don’t vote, and when Democrats run marginally electable candidates, Republicans can win statewide.
In the 2010 U.S. Senate race, Mark Kirk (R) got 1,778,698 votes, lost Cook County by 456,722 votes, but won statewide by 59,220 votes. In the 2010 governor’s race, Bill Brady got 1,713,385 votes, lost Cook County by 500,533 votes, and lost to Pat Quinn statewide by 31,834 votes.
The bottom line: Republicans can win if they (1) keep statewide turnout under 3.8 million, (2) lose Cook County by 450,000 or less, (3) run against unknown and underfunded Democrats, and (4) run an unflawed, minimally acceptable candidate. Despite their Chicago collapse, Republicans still have a statewide window of opportunity. In Cook County, however, that window is nailed shut; in Chicago, it doesn’t exist..
Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer
E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.