A special duty for suburban voters

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It's all but official now. You can see it in the sudden explosion of campaign signs on suburban lawns, the steady increase in political commercials on television, the growing ubiquity of candidate appearances at debates, luncheons and town meetings. The November election campaign is under way.

And, as Daily Herald politics and projects writer Kerry Lester pointed out this weekend, the suburbs have a special role to play.

With it, interestingly, comes a special duty.

Voting, of course, is always a serious responsibility and one many of us sometimes take too much for granted. But when you know your specific vote can make a material difference in an election outcome, the activity takes on an even higher level of significance.

That, in short, is where the suburbs find themselves today. In the three distinct divisions that define Illinois politics, voting statistics have long shown the city of Chicago to be solidly Democrat, downstate to be solidly Republican and the suburbs to be largely Republican but with a growing trend toward Democrats.

It's that state of flux that gives the suburbs their peculiar role in state politics this campaign season. Our collective mind remains open. It is not made up. We can go either way. As a result, we can expect candidates to do more to get our attention and to sway our thinking. And we have a duty to do more ourselves to sift through all that and make sure we choose as well as the quality of candidates allows.

To be sure, that will not be easy. Some candidates will do plenty to obfuscate their controversial views and pretend to side with every person and every group. Their increasingly pointless campaigns of fear and smear may turn many voters away altogether.

But the fact is that at every level, one of them will win. One of them will represent Illinois' interests in the U.S. Senate. One of them will attempt to lead the state out of perhaps its most oppressive budget deficit in history. One of them will invest and manage state money as treasurer, protect access to government as attorney general and represent you in the legislature. And most of them, it bears observing, truly do want to do a good job.

So now you, the suburban voter, have a key role to play in determining which of them it will be. Take that opportunity seriously. Look beyond the sound bites and the slick TV commercials. Study the endorsements of newspapers and special interests, and make your own, thoroughly reasoned judgment about whom you elect.

Plenty of recent elections have emphasized the importance of every single vote, even in the largest of elections. This election season you can leverage that vote into an even more powerful force for the suburbs, your community and your family. Don't let the chance pass you by.