One traditional ritual of the media is the journey to the heartland to take the temperature of the decent hardworking folks there. I’ve done it myself, and it’s always enjoyable. Open roads, endless fields of grain, hot coffee, homemade pie.
I’d walk into the bank and the police station, unannounced, and talk to the bank president and the police chief. If I strode into a bank in downtown Chicago and tried to see the president, I’d probably be wrestled to the floor.
Yes, there was a certain irony. Having driven 275 miles to learn what people think, I’d invariably be informed that Chicagoans don’t care what downstaters think. I managed to restrain myself from spreading my arms, running my gaze over my body, and announcing, “And yet I’m here.”
I’ve done that kind of thing: You get a blank stare.
That memory came back, along with a pang of envy, reading Tina Sfondeles’ excellent report Wednesday from Centralia, “Southern Discomfort.” It explains where the Trumpian campaign to undermine free elections comes from. If you live in a community of 12,000 people and are baffled and angry that the Chicago metro area, with a population of 10 million, can somehow drive policy choices and election results, you are by nature also yearning toward a system where the electorate doesn’t influence decisions.
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