Column: Let’s stay blue

By Matt Simmons

The state of Illinois has two democratic senators, ten democratic representatives and a state legislature that is controlled by Democrats and consistently goes for Democrats in presidential elections. Yet, the most important Democrat in the state is in danger of being replaced by a Republican in 2006.

Recent polls show that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s approval ratings have plummeted to 35 percent. A rating so low can only mean that state Democrats have turned against him. But I am clueless as to why Democrats are not behind Blagojevich, especially after considering what he has been able to accomplish in his first term.

Since Blagojevich has been in office, Illinois increased spending on education by $2.3 billion and has sent more than 25,000 children to pre-school. Under Blagojevich, an additional 313,000 parents and children have health coverage and minimum wage is up while taxes are still virtually the same as they were under GOP leadership. These accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider that he inherited huge deficits, a recession and was hit by the President’s tax cuts that stripped Illinois of billions of dollars.

Blagojevich’s record on social issues is just as solid. He has been a consistent supporter of common sense gun control. His agenda for protecting the citizens of Illinois includes requiring child safety locks on all handguns, background checks at gun shows and protecting laws that allow the state police to track firearm purchases.

Blagojevich has been damaged most by his attempts to remedy a budget deficit his Republican predecessor ignored. Upon entering office, Blagojevich was forced to either cut spending or raise taxes. The governor sided with the moderates and decided that Illinoisans were being taxed enough and chose to solve this problem by controlling spending.

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Many of the funds cut were from higher education and forced the University to make substantial budget cuts. But when you look at the alternatives, it appears he made the right decision. Would you have rather him cut spending on poor rural and urban schools that are already strapped for cash? Would you have rather him cut programs that provide poor children with school lunches? Would you rather him save money by taking away the health insurance of those on Medicaid? The fact is most people that attend this university can shell out a few more bucks for tuition. I, for one, am willing to pay a little more if it means making life easier for those less fortunate than myself.

Even if you do not agree with everything Blagojevich has done, as a Democrat you should beware of not supporting him. His huge war chest makes it unlikely for any other Democrat to challenge him for the nomination. In the general election, he could face off against popular State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka or former Governor Jim Edgar. A fractured Democratic Party cannot withstand a challenge from either of those candidates.

Even though the Democrats control both houses of the legislature, a Republican governor could hurt the progress Illinois has made in recent years. A Republican governor will most likely bring irresponsible tax cuts that will increase the state’s deficit. A Republican governor would side with the extremist in the National Rifle Association and vote against the safety of the families and neighborhoods of Illinois. A Republican governor could bring the state-sanctioned homophobia that plagues most of America to Illinois. A Republican governor will attack affirmative action and hate crime laws that have protected minorities for so long.

The stakes are simply too high for democrats not to support Governor Blagojevich. Republicans are playing for keeps and will not hesitate to impose their right-wing agenda on the people of Illinois. Republicans rallied around the President to keep control of the country. Democrats need to do the same if they want Illinois to stay blue.

Matt Simmons is a senior in LAS. His columns appear every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected].