Some people in Chicago are dismissive toward folks in the outer burbs, writing them off as a bunch of squares in the boonies.
But from my perspective, people in the traditionally Republican collar counties of DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Lake, and Will are among the luckiest voters alive—’cause they get to take a meaningful stand against Trump in the coming November elections.
Oh, yes, Chicagoans may fume and fret and take to the street over the antics of the orange man in the White House. But folks outside of Cook County actually have the opportunity to be part of a “blue wave” that ousts enough congressional opportunists and rubber-stampers to take Congress back from the Republicans.
And let me tell you, the way Republican congressmen like Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren, and (to a far lesser extent) Adam Kinzinger bow and scrape before Trump, man, it makes our mayor-worshiping aldermen look like profiles in courage.
I’m so fired up over these suburban races that I’d consider heading off to Kane County and renting a two-flat in Elburn (population 5,602) just for the chance to vote for 14th District Democrat Lauren Underwood, a nurse who’s running a spirited campaign against Hultgren, one of the biggest Trump brownnosers in the land.
Well, Chicagoans, good news—there’s no need to stand on the sidelines any longer. Itching to take a meaningful stand against Trump? You can hook up with Blue Beginning, a Chicago-based division of the Indivisible movement.
Mike Lenehan, my old Reader editor, and Marj Halperin, a political strategist and former executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres, organized Blue Beginning soon after that depressing night in 2016 when Trump seized power.
As Lenehan puts it, they wanted to “do more than complain.”
For the last year or so they’ve been meeting on a regular basis at the Hideout. And now they’re planning to dispatch dozens of volunteers to help get out the vote for congressional Democratic candidates in crucial suburban and downstate swing districts.
“Our goal is to have 1,000 people canvassing all over the state in October,” says Halperin.
Perhaps their best chance is with Sean Casten against Roskam in the Sixth, which snakes through parts of DuPage, Lake, and Cook County, including towns like Barrington, Algonquin, and Naperville.
Coming out of 2016, Roskam looked invincible. A six-term incumbent running in a district that was gerrymandered to benefit Republicans, he racked up 59 percent of the vote in his last election.
But the Sixth’s been changing demographically over the years, getting more and more Democratic. It went for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
For Casten the key is to register and turn out as many new Democrats as possible.
It’s the same strategy now being followed by Underwood, Hultgren’s challenger in the 14th, and Sara Dady, who’s running against Kinzinger in the 16th.
For that matter, it’s the key to success for Betsy Dirksen Londrigan and Brendan Kelly, who are running against Republican incumbents in, respectively, the 13th and 12th congressional districts downstate.
And that’s where Blue Beginning comes in.
Some basics. The point of most canvassing is to identify the so-called plus voters—that is, voters who intend to vote Democratic. Then, as gently and noncombatively as you can, you come back to make sure they vote.
As for the Republican voters? Don’t even waste your time. You probably won’t change their minds anyway.
“You should be brief and polite at the door,” says Lenehan. “You shouldn’t be there for more than three or four minutes.”
Allow me to offer some advice, as a guy who’s done his fair share of canvassing down through the years. (Someday, kiddies, I’ll have to tell you my stirring tales of canvassing for George McGovern in suburban Northbrook back in ’72.)
Don’t make the mistakes I made. For instance, never, ever engage a voter in a sports conversation—as I did with one less-than-enlightened Packers fan when I was canvassing for Barack Obama in Iowa City back in 2008.
I may have lost his vote to John McCain when I told him the Packers sucked.
And whatever you do, don’t be like Frick & Frack, the two knuckleheads Mayor Emanuel’s reelection team sent to my door four years ago to try to talk me into voting for Rahm. Speaking of hopeless causes.
Obviously, they got their charming personalities from Rahm himself, because they committed one of the most definite don’ts of canvassing—telling me to fuck off.
Clearly, Rahm’s boys could have used a crash course on the etiquette of canvassing from Halperin and Lenehan.
And of course there’s the First congressional district in southern Wisconsin, where Democratic ironworker Randy Bryce, a Bernie Sanders supporter, is trying to win the seat of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’s stepping down.
Tell you what, Cheeseheads—if you elect Bryce, I’ll buy an Aaron Rodgers jersey and root for the Packers. (For one season, anyway—I don’t think I can take much more than that.)
If you want more information about becoming a Blue Beginning canvasser, check out indivisiblechicago.com.
It’s your government, people—time to get out the vote and take it back.
Correction: The day of the week of Blue Beginning’s next event has been emended to correctly reflect reality.