The final weekend of a fast-track 2022 election campaign in Illinois began amid intense partisan polarization, as voters continued to be fueled by an ever-escalating level of anger-stirring political invective .
Disagreement over the issues has given way to accusations that the division is intentionally fomented. Partisan ideologies have become more rigid as voters reward candidates for showing unwavering loyalty and rejecting pragmatism. Truth and institutions like the electoral process are under siege. Intimidation, threats and physical violence are increasingly common against those seen as the enemy. It is a national model that has reached Illinois.
“We are facing a watershed moment, an inflection point,” President Joe Biden said in a national address just days before heading to Illinois on Friday to boost suburban congressional Democrats in races. tighter.
“There has already been anger in America. There was a division before in America. But we never gave up on the American experience and we can’t do that now,” he said.
Biden’s speech on Wednesday came after a violent assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was also delivered the same day a Chicago man was arrested for uttering a death threat against State Senator Darren Bailey of Xenia, the Republican gubernatorial candidate.
“The violent rhetoric and division we see across our country is unacceptable,” Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker tweeted. “Hate in any form has no home in Illinois.”
In response, Bailey blamed the threat on the governor, who also received threats. The Republican called him “exactly the product of JB Pritzker, you know, his divisiveness and his rhetoric.”
The gubernatorial campaign has seen many high-flying epithets, most notably during the final televised debate between Pritzker and Bailey, in which each called the other an “extremist.”
“Darren Bailey has surrounded himself with racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic people and organizations, including pursuing the leader of them, Donald Trump,” Pritzker said.
The governor called Bailey a “threat to democracy” who “should not be allowed anywhere near the governor’s office.”
Bailey, in turn, said the problem was Pritzker, who “in his four years in office created so much division and hatred in this state with racial ideas and ideologies.”
“That’s all Governor Pritzker can do, he ate Donald Trump and (former GOP Governor) Bruce Rauner and the Republicans. The man wants to divide us as a nation,” Bailey said. Divide, divide, divide, that’s all you can do.
Bailey, who was endorsed by Trump, continued that theme Friday by drawing attention to Biden’s trip to the suburbs, saying “the Pritzker-Biden agenda is all about dividing Americans and polarizing issues.” national and political extremes”.
While perhaps reaching new heights, the polarization laid bare in campaigns, including the governor’s, predates the tumultuous days of Trump, as the country’s political parties in recent decades lost their internal diversity and that politicians adhered to a stricter party ideology – partly to survive potential primary challenges.
“The Democratic Party had both the most conservative and the most liberal people up until 1980. And to a lesser extent, you had variety in the Republican Party” with moderates from the Northeast and conservatives from the Midwest in the fold, said political scientist Christopher Mooney. at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Under this structure, there were overlapping interests between members of each party, making compromises more workable, Mooney said. But now, under strong party dictates, compromise is seen as the equivalent of political surrender, leading politicians to take intractable positions, he said.
Added to this are the huge injections of cash into campaigns that followed the US Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision equating political contributions with free speech.
Reliance on the ultra-rich has been particularly pronounced in Illinois, where Rauner, an equity investor, bankrolled Republican Party and GOP legislative candidates during his brief tenure, and was replaced by Pritzker. , an entrepreneur and billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune who similarly funded Democrats.
Bailey, a wealthy farmer, has benefited from an allied political action committee that is almost entirely funded by ultraconservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, the billionaire founder of office supplies and packaging company Uline.
The reliance on a few wealthy individuals has disrupted traditional political fundraising.
“Both sides have really been decimated in terms of structure and underlying fundraising ability,” Mooney said.
Then came Trump, who thrived on a belligerent attitude towards any opposition by stoking fears about their motives among voters, who had a controversial view of government institutions and who presented himself as a political victim to appeal to those who felt neglected by the government.
“Trump is not the cause of this. He took advantage of it. He weaponized the division and exacerbated it,” Mooney said of the current state of politics. “He’s basically a showman and he knows how to pull the strings.”