Saturday, December 31, 2005

Master and Commander

Once again, the Illinois delegation's "commander" (in more ways than one) is spreading insight from coast to coast.Hat tip to Bill Barr on this Weekly Standard column. Fred Barnes discusses Illinois congressman Mark Kirk's "suburban strategy" for expanding GOP influence there. Once Republican bastions, suburbs of Chicago and other midwestern cities have trended left in recent years. Kirk thinks that this effect has transformed the "inurbs," but sees more conservative voters in the exurbs, settled he says, much by small business owners, in contrast with lawyers, teachers, and other professionals who grew up in inurbs and are now raising families there. Says he, "The Republican party is doing very well in the exurbs, but not so well in the inurbs." The area within a one hour radius west of Chicago has seen exponential growth in recent years, taking Joliet and Naperville into mini-metropolis status.

The exurbs are home to entrepreneurs and managers who run family--owned companies or are in sales. They deal constantly with government-IRS, regulatory agencies, bureaucrats of all types-and find the experience frustrating. They vote for Republicans who would trim government. Professionals-lawyers, architects, professors-tend to live in the inner suburbs and they have few conflicts with government. They vote for Democrats on lifestyle issues such as abortion and gun control.

The four congressional districts immediately west of Chicago(11, 14, 13, and 6) are currently represented by Republicans, all of whom are considered socially conservative. Kirk himself and the two Democrats who round out the north suburban congressional delegation are social moderates. It comes as no surprise that the northwest suburbs are the site of one of the 2006's most hotly contested races-between an as yet unknown Republican candidate and incumbent Melissa Bean, To the west, many observers are certain that Peter Roskam will ride to victory this fall in his bid to succeed retiring cong. Henry Hyde. These partisan disparities are evident on the state level as well. Of the seventeen north suburban state House districts, five are represented by Democrats. Of the sixteen in the west suburbs, only one is.

To Kirk's surprise, one major issue in the exurbs-reducing traffic congestion-didn't register favorably in the suburbs. Asked if they wanted privately built toll roads, "voters said they'd rather the highways not be there."

This is one issue on which geographic differences would be expected. Inurban voters, for the most part, aren't forced to use tollways, unlike those commuting from farther away. Though exurban voters now have the IPASS-but still have to pay tolls.

EDIT: Blogger Marathon Pundit assesses his unhappy New Year's eve in one of Illinois's most notorious inurbs-Evanston.

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