Editorial: Daiber, Marshall and the downstate discontent

Robert Marshall lives in suburban Burr Ridge while Bob Daiber lives 255 miles away in downstate Marine.

But each of them senses the same thing: that the regional divisions in Illinois run extremely wide.

In fact, both Marshall and Daiber have built their campaigns for the Democratic nomination for governor largely around that premise.

Marshall would respond to that division by more or less living with it. His campaign platform is centered on the quixotic idea of slicing Illinois into three or maybe even four states. Chicago would be one. The Chicago suburbs would be another. And downstate would be one or two more.

We're not going to beat around the bush. As likable as Marshall seems to be, we think his idea of subdividing Illinois into smaller states is goofy and impractical.

But some people do not dismiss it so reflexively. In fact, Marshall claims that once he gets outside the Chicago metropolitan area, his proposal meets with considerable positive response.

Daiber doesn't just see these same divisions. As a downstater himself, he has grown up with an understanding of how disregarded and disenchanted those in rural Illinois feel.

"They feel forgotten," he says.

He says he's running for governor to bring Illinois together and he says only a downstate governor who's open to compromise and working across the aisle can do so.

This is, in many respects, a convenient argument for Daiber to make. Out of six Democrats and two Republicans running, he is, after all, the only downstater.

But there's a ring of at least some truth in it too.

To some degree, the relationship between urban and rural America is like the relationship between Cubs and White Sox fans. We speak in generalities here, of course, but White Sox fans see their team as always playing second fiddle to the Cubs, and because of that, they tend to have a chip on their shoulders. Whereas, with the Cubs being in the dominant market position, their fans don't think about the White Sox much at all.

Likewise, rural America feels its views, needs and values are subordinated and disrespected by urban America while, truth be told, urban America doesn't think much about rural America and when it does, it's often with a sense of superiority.

How do we heal these divisions? That's no easy task.

They won't be healed by drawing lines on a map. And the election of rural candidates would probably go only so far.

Ultimately, we can only heal them if we all try to listen. Why does that seem to be so hard?

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