May 26, 2004
Paul Simon was the most respected political figure in the state for decades. He was a liberal Democrat who came from a conservative downstate region where his name remains political gold. The universal explanation for Simons near-universal popularity is integrity, and this spring I heard the word a lot from people discussing Obama. It refers to consistency and incorruptibility, but also to a refusal to resort to smear politics. The cultural and political distance between Chicagos South Side and southern Illinois is vastCairo is closer to Little Rock than it is to Chicago, and not just geographically, as Obama likes to say. Voters in such disparate places will never agree on affirmative action, gun control, or many other issues that Obama has taken clear positions on. And yet, in a state with a population that is only fifteen per cent African-American, he needs to campaign hard downstate, far from his base, making his pitch on economic issues and personal appeal.
Well, I think it's fair to say that he has the personal appeal thing down pat. As for striking the right chord on economic issues, that's up to down-staters to realize that Ryan and the rest of the far right don't have their interest in mind.