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Illinois GOP is out of step with changing electorate

It was different erwhen Pate Phillip reigned over DuPage County GOP. Sun-Times file photo.

It was a different era when Pate Phillip reigned over the DuPage County GOP. Sun-Times file photo.

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Updated: April 26, 2013 12:24PM

Not all that long ago, DuPage County was about as reliably Republican and rock-ribbed conservative as they came.

Things are changing

For one, it’s not nearly as Republican. Back in the 1998 governor’s race, Republican George Ryan defeated Democrat Glenn Poshard by 104,000 votes in DuPage.

But in 2010, during the greatest Republican landslide since 1946, Republican Bill Brady managed to beat Gov. Pat Quinn by less than half Ryan’s total: 45,000 votes. Barack Obama carried the county in both of his presidential bids.

DuPage used to be dominated by Pate Philip, the no-nonsense conservative former state Senate president. Pate wasn’t much for women’s rights, or civil rights, or gay rights or whatever. Back in those days, whenever you thought of DuPage County, you automatically thought of Pate Philip. He seemed to embody an area built on white and corporate flight out of Chicago.

I tried reaching Pate on Thursday because I wanted to ask him about some new polling I’d seen of his beloved county. No luck. That’s too bad, because I genuinely enjoy talking to him. You always know where you stand with that man, and he always tells you what he thinks.

The We Ask America poll I wanted to talk to Pate about found that a plurality of DuPage County’s likely voters support gay marriage.

According to the poll, 49 percent of DuPagers say lawmakers should pass legislation to allow gay marriage while 45 percent oppose it. The poll of 1,052 likely voters taken April 22nd had a margin of error of plus/minus 3 percent.

The poll found that 62 percent of people aged 18-24 support gay marriage. In fact, every age group backed gay marriage except for senior citizens, who opposed it 55-40.

If you had told me a year ago that a poll could turn up these sorts of results in DuPage, I would’ve thought you were dipping into your medical marijuana stash.

But here we are.

There are those in the Republican Party who say that their setbacks in Illinois are just temporary. The party, they say, needs to stick to its core principles, including its very clear party platform plank opposing gay marriage.

To compromise, they say, is to just become “Democrat Lite.” So, only one Republican state senator voted for gay marriage in February. Just three of 47 Republican state representatives say they’re in favor ahead of a House vote.

Famed political prognosticator Nate Silver projects that national support for gay marriage will continue increasing by 1.5 percentage points per year. If he’s right, it’ll just be a few more months before there’s actual majority support for the issue in DuPage.

Conservatives are, by nature, slow to change. That’s totally understandable. It’s who and what they are. But there’s slow and then there’s political suicide. Eventually, they’re going to have to come to grips with this issue. Their all too often harsh rhetoric is alienating the people they need to get their party members elected.

Pate Philip has been out of power for 10 years, now. I truly miss his straight talk, but his brand of politics was on the way out here even before he retired. These days, it seems as though he lived in another world. The trouble is, too many Republican politicians still live in that world.

But now that more people in Pate’s DuPage County favor gay marriage than oppose it, if the GOP still can’t see the writing on the wall, then they probably deserve whatever’s coming to them

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