The Labor Day parade in Bloomington had some unusual elements this year.
During election years, it has always served as a way for candidates and office holders to go among the people, show the party flag, and ask for votes in an efficient way. Often in past election years, the number of prominent Republican candidates walking in the Bloomington parade and shaking hands with watchers dwarfed the number of Democrats. Not this year.
And Democrats received a warm welcome with sustained applause along the route from downtown Bloomington to Miller Park. Some Democrats even remarked the crowd chanted the words “blue wave" as they went by.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin also made a rare parade appearance in Bloomington.
“I really think a lot of people are excited about this election. The Democrats are united. And we have a good slate of candidates top to bottom. I’m just here rootin’ em on, cheerin’ em on,” said Durbin.
Republicans such as state Rep. Dan Brady also received loud applause, presaging voter engagement this fall for both parties.
Top Democrats have appeared early and often this campaign season, including a top-of-the-ticket rally several weeks ago. And 13th Congressional District candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan marched in Bloomington on Labor Day as well.
For Democrats to do well in central Illinois, they will have to gather votes from traditionally rock-ribbed Republican farming constituencies in rural areas. Londrigan said she believes that is happening.
“Smaller family farmers are scared. They are worried the markets are not going to come back. They want markets to sell to. They don’t want bailouts,” said Londrigan.
Londrigan is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville.
But polls and anecdotes from agricultural discussion sessions across the state in the last month indicate many farmers are taking a wait-and-see attitude about President Donald Trump’s trade policy and may be willing to accept the President’s aid package for soybeans and a lesser amount for corn and give the President time for his approach to play out at the bargaining table.
Durbin acknowledged making inroads in the farming bloc will be difficult for Democrats, but said Trump is making the case for the other party.
“This Trump trade war has cost them 20 to 25 percent of their crop value. But, more importantly, it has damaged their reputation for reliability. And that is something that has been built up over generations. So, I have said to them, you all, farmers, most of you are Republican, I get it. You’ve got to decide what’s going to happen Nov. 6,” said Durbin.
Durbin said immigration is another issue that Democrats can point to in efforts to attract ag sector votes as well as the rest of the business community.
“Just ask any dairy farmer in Illinois. Ask many of our farmers with specialty crops. Ask people who are in the hospitality business, hotel and restaurants. And they will just tell you that we need orderly immigration. But, this idea of cutting it all off is really hurting us,” said Durbin.
Republicans have noted Democrats have, at several points in the last 30 years, obstructed immigration reform legislation. The GOP has also argued border security is a prerequisite for orderly immigration and that mass amnesty is a no-go for resolving the deadlock over immigration legislation.
There are two months left until Election Day.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.