Trump movement for “change” awakens Reagan Democrats
Published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group April 27, 2017
By Ray Hanania
The major news media all seemed to focus on one election story on April 4, a story they spun to falsely suggest that President Donald Trump made Republicans vulnerable.
But if you look past the news media’s bias, the truth might be a little more complex.
It’s true. Republican Roger Claar faced his toughest challenge in his 31 years as Bolingbrook’s mayor. Anti-Trump activists angry that he hosted Trump fundraiser last September galvanized around Democrat Jackie Traynere, a member of the Will County Board.
Claar survived with a razor-thin margin.
That wasn’t the case for 17 suburban Chicagoland mayors. Some lost because of controversies they created. Others lost because of bad campaigning. But many lost overwhelmed by new voters energized by Trump’s call for “change.”
Although Trump wasn’t an issue in Orland Park, the voter turnout set a new record. Consistently for six elections, Democrat Dan McLaughlin easily won with voter turnout under 9,000 votes.
Nearly 13,000 people voted this time, an increase of almost 4,000 more votes. McLaughlin faced an unknown challenger with no political experience, Keith Pekau. McLaughlin’s trustees did not face challengers because Pekau ran on his own.
What’s fascinating and significant is the unchallenged trustees fell almost 5,000 votes short of the 12,839 total votes cast. It seems that most of the new voters didn’t waste their time on uncontested races. Had their been trustee challengers, I bet all the incumbents would have been ousted along with McLaughlin.
The race turned on two political factors. Liberty Principles PAC, headed by conservative radio talk show host Dan Proft, spent $183,000 on TV ads attacking McLaughlin. And, the Republican leadership including GOP County Commissioner Sean Morrison, his predecessor GOP Committeeman Liz Gorman, and Illinois GOP chairman Tim Schneider openly endorsed Pekau in the weeks before the election.
McLaughlin blasted Proft’s PAC attack ads. He blamed his loss on the PAC money and argued they should be banned. But that’s sour grapes. Proft’s money leveled the financial playing field. McLaughlin and his team spent almost $200,000 in campaign donations while Pekau relied on $75,000, mostly his own.
McLaughlin’s mistake is obvious. Like many of his 16 other colleagues, McLaughlin was just too arrogant and very unaccountable. McLaughlin’s greedy last-minute push to give himself a massive $110,000 hike to his salary, raising it to $150,000, and spiking his pension to an unbelievable $110,000 a year was just too much for voters to take.
I did a detailed analysis of the Orland race at my personal website TheDailyHookah.com.
Voters wanted “Change.” It’s not about being Republican of Democrat, either. Although Trump is a “Republican,” he really is a new kind of Republican, a centrist who appeals to Democratic conservatives. There are many “Reagan Democrats” living in suburban Cook County and Will County who identify with Trump’s message of change.
Those Reagan Democrats are often vilified by the news media as lower-income “Whites,” a racist stereotype their flawed ethics ignores. These marginalized voters have found new life in Trump, who faces opposition not just from hardline Liberal Democrats, but from Republican insiders like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who very definitely don’t want change.
In neighboring Tinley Park, voters demanded change there, too. Jacob Vandenberg of the longtime Republican family dynasty, easily pushed out Mayor David Seaman who succeeded the wildly popular and longtime Mayor Ed Zabrocki. Vandenberg won 62 percent of the vote.
Midlothian Village President Sharon Rybak lost by a landslide winning only 26 percent of votes, as did Posen Mayor Donald Schupek. Incumbent mayors lost in Lake in the Hills, Carpentersville, Ford Heights, Lisle, Olympia Fields, Schiller Park, Stickney, Waukegan, Wheeling, and Willow Springs.
Trump’s appeal to many voters isn’t his rhetoric. There is lot he says that I don’t always agree with. But, I didn’t always agree with the overly pleasing but often do-nothing rhetoric of President Barack Obama.
Three races involved mayors who were the center of personal controversies.
In Cook County, Dixmoor Mayor Dorothy Armstrong was under the shadow of controversy caught on camera in 2015 assaulting a trustee at a board meeting she thought was ridiculing her.
In McHenry County, Hebron Village President John Jacobson finished third out of four candidates after being charged with felony cocaine possession and illegal possession of a firearm. In Will County Monee Mayor Jay Farquhar lost after allegedly breaking an umpire’s jaw at a little league game for 2nd and 3rd graders last year.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at TheDailyHookah.com.)