Tuesday, October 18, 2016
U.S. Senator Little Dick Durbin (IL-D) says he's concerned about the direction of the United States because of the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump
In Champaign-Urbana for a series of events Monday, the 19-year Democratic senator from Springfield said the 2016 campaign has "broken down all of the basic guideposts for what's allowable in campaigns, what's permissible.
"What Trump has done recently, perhaps worse than anything else he said, is the suggestion that he would put (Hillary Clinton) in jail and that it's a rigged election. Those two things, in the view of the rest of the world, are such a dramatic departure from what America has stood for. Putting your opponent in jail is commonplace in dictatorships."
He noted that Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, is considered the last dictator in Europe.
"After he was elected with 98 percent of the vote, he had all 12 of his opponents arrested and placed in jail," Durbin said. "I spent years raising hell with him and he ended up releasing them. But that's what a dictator does.
"And this notion of rigged elections, that comes through in every fledging democracy that tries an election and then the loser says that it was stolen. That's what he is doing.
"I don't think we can put this back in the bottle when it's over," Durbin said of the presidential campaign. "What it's done is not only given license to these people who support him and have extreme views, but it is also in their heart of hearts what they always knew."
The campaign has created a political atmosphere that he said he has not seen in his 40 years in electoral politics.
"I drive a beat-up old Ford pickup truck around Springfield. It has my bumper sticker on it and (President) Obama's bumper sticker," Durbin recounted. "I'm driving around the other day and I'm looking back in the mirror and I'm thinking, 'This guy is going to get in a wreck. He's driving like crazy.' Then he gets close enough to me where he rolls down his window and gives me the finger and shouts.
"I'm thinking that I've been doing this a long time and I've never had that before. I just sense that there is a coarseness and an anger that is invading politics. I don't know we get beyond it. I don't know how the Republicans get beyond it or the country gets beyond it. I believe Hillary will win, but she has to figure out a way to govern. They haven't left much ground to be called common."
Durbin said he believes Democrats have a better than 50-50 chance of regaining control of the Senate after the election, but that the polling isn't convincing.
"Even if Hillary is pulling away in a state we don't see in some of these (Senate) races. The obvious question is who will vote?" Durbin said.
In some ways, he said, this is like the landslide Goldwater election of 1964. In that race, the Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, Charles Percy, declined to say if he would vote for Barry Goldwater. The current governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, hasn't said whether he would vote for Trump.
"So now we're going through a similar thing this year," Durbin said. "What happened that year was the bottom dropped out on the Republican vote. We started electing Democrats everywhere. It didn't last long. So the question is: Will the Republicans, if they don't want to vote for Trump, vote? Nobody knows the answer."
Durbin also said he is not interested in challenging Rauner in 2018.
"I'm where I want to be. In the Senate is where I want to be. I have no ambitions to run for any other office," he said.