With less than three weeks until Election Day, two conclusions are taking hold. First, early estimates of low turnout suggest that voter apathy is alive and well. Secondly, the polarized state of American politics, especially as President Obama enters his last two years in office, is more shrill and viable than ever. As with any election, the well-financed men and women that are jockeying for position are a melange of dolts and schemers, liars and dreamers. Even the most idealistic candidate can be worn down by the meat grinder of our legislative branch.
If you're an Illinoisan, you have plenty to be exasperated about. In fact, for as long as I've been a registered voter I don't think our state has had a major party candidate for governor that was worth voting for. The license-for-bribes scandal that ended George Ryan's political career gave way to six ignoble years of Rod Blagojevich, which begat six years of incumbent Pat Quinn. Of this sorry bunch Quinn was probably the least embarrassing. Accusations of corruption have been unfounded --right-wing conspiracy theorists have tried to connect Blago to his reluctant second in command and vice versa, with limited success-- but Quinn's doddering, in-over-his-head performance as governor should offer limited hope for a second full term. The Republican's answer, multimillionaire Bruce Rauner, would have a commanding lead over Quinn if not for several character flaws: he's been perceived as alternately out-of-touch, bullying, and coasting. Rauner is a pro-choice, pragmatic Republican in a state where moderate "collar county" conservatives have more sway than any other right-wing faction. (I thank my lucky stars that the Tea Party has never found a foothold in Illinois, Joe Walsh notwithstanding.) Just being "the other guy" is not enough, so it seems.
Where the governor's race is saturated with schadenfreude, the Illinois U.S. Senate race almost plays like satire. The incumbent is the prominent (read: powerful) Democrat Dick Durbin, and his challenger is ice cream magnate and perennial candidate Jim Oberweis. It's essentially a battle between a candidate who's out of touch with voters versus a candidate who's out of touch with reality. Nevertheless, Durbin is the #2 Democrat in the higher chamber, and CPACs will keep pumping money into the Oberweis campaign to oust a Washington top dog, no matter how lousy or delusional a candidate like Oberweis might be.
The problems that face my home state will not be fixed overnight. The Land of Lincoln has made social progress in recent years (yay, marriage equality!) but seems stagnant in every other aspect. In a way, Illinois is a microcosm of what ails the United States as a whole: partisan bickering, extreme ideologies, shortsighted ideas. What happens in the last two years of Obama's administration likely won't change much; the GOP is expected to reinforce their control of Congress, and though they will gain seats in the U.S. Senate they won't seize the majority. Basically, another two years of gridlock.
In summation, I'm writing this year's election rundown slightly earlier than usual to implore anyone reading this to register to vote and express your voice on November 4th. A voter turnout of 3.5% percent means 96.5% of the population will lose their right to complain about the next two years. If you have a problem with what's going on this country, then put pen to hand and speak your mind.