We had a primary election in Illinois this last Tuesday. It was the first of the 2010 season. There was an interesting race for governor and for the U. S. Senate seat once held, for only four years, by President Barack Obama. Illinois is a heavily Democratic state. This was not always the case but it is now. It has been blue for some years now and the Republican Party has again and again made huge mistakes in selecting candidates. Of 29 Illinois members of the Congress (House and Senate) only seven are Republicans. With the exception of a few congressional seats outside of Chicago these seven congressional members come from downstate as we call the rest of Illinois.
This state is in almost as bad of shape (economically and otherwise) as California. Yet we hear about tax increases, spending more money on social services, etc. almost every day. Our state government is a mess and people on both sides tend to agree. Chicago is noted for machine politics and corruption of power and has been for my whole entire life. The county in which I live is only a little better. Four governors have gone to prison and one former governor will be tried in June.
You would think an election would stir up the base, bring out the vote and open up some new avenues for reform minded people. Such was not the case this last week. We will have a choice in November, but it will be between more of the same or a little less than more of the same. Real reformers are simply not to be found, at least not from what I can see. Both parties talk about it a great deal. One Democrat, who won the nomination for president of the Cook County Board, said that the era of crony politics is over. I laughed out loud! So did the people on the radio who were the commentators last Tuesday evening. It is all a really sad joke in the end.
This is the closest I have ever come to not voting in a major election in my entire life. By the end the campaigns were so negative, the charges so rampant and disgusting, and the candidates so uninspiring and clueless, that I began to realize there really is a lack of earnest, competent, effective leadership in this nation, or at least Illinois. I am not a cynic about politics, at least not generally. But I am becoming one more every day if this trend continues. If ever I realized that the answers will not be found in electing new officials this primary race did it for me. And the turnout rate proves my point. All excuses aside it was one of the lowest turnouts for statewide elections in memory. What happened to the great protest movement about our government? I think most people simply do not care. So long as they are comfortable, and some are not that comfortable since they are out of work, they do not really care. Even those who are out of work generally get a lot of aid, at least in many instances. What would change all of this? I do not know.
What I do know is that culture is not changed through elections. It is still changed one person, one family, one community at a time. It is changed both in small groups and at the top of a social order where decisions are made that are not primarily about those elected to office. I think we will change elected officials when we actually change culture and I do not see culture rapidly changing anytime soon.
Am I a pessimist about our future? Not at all. We are not seeing a huge groundswell of revival in the churches but we are seeing a serious and thoughtful spiritual movement among young Christians like I have rarely seen in my sixty years. I will say much more about this encouraging development in another post.