• Ben Szalinski
    APR 30, 2024


    Illinois Dems preparing to be example of Democratic successes, supporters of free speech at convention  

    The Democratic Party of Illinois 

    In a little more than 100 days, all eyes of American politics will be on Chicago as the city hosts the 2024 Democratic National Convention (DNC) to nominate President Joe Biden for a second term.  

    It’s not new for Illinois Democrats to be in the host seat given Chicago’s rich history of political conventions, but it comes at a time when support for Biden struggles to rise, and many Americans protest the president’s decisions in the Middle East.  

    The Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI) convened on Monday to round out the 178 delegates who will represent Illinois Democrats at the DNC on Aug. 19-22. The party chose statewide or other elected officials holding major offices to fill out the slate in addition to delegates selected by the Biden campaign. Gov. JB Pritzker and DPI Chair Lisa Hernandez will be co-chairs of Illinois’ delegation.   

    Related: How Illinois voters select delegates to nominate presidential candidates  

    Delegates selected under the title of party leader and elected official include: Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), Illinois AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Pat Devaney, House Majority Leader Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago), Michael Sacks, Rep. Edgar Gonzalez (D-Chicago), Cook County Comm. Monica Gordon (D-5) and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Comm. Mariyana Spyropoulos  

    Delegates selected by the Biden campaign include: Pritzker Chief of Staff Anne Caprara, Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates, Pritzker Deputy Chief of Staff Jordan Abudayyeh, LaToya Greenwood, Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago), Rep. Dagmara Avelar (D-Bolingbrook), Sen. Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines), Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago), Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago), Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Ameya Pawar  

    “This convention should be about diversity and those values that we stand for that [Democrats] can be proud of,” Hernandez told The Daily Line. “We had submitted our delegation plan that actually reflected those goals. The diversity piece, we’re very intentional about that, and I think we did extremely well.”   

    DPI’s delegation plan called for exceeding diversity goals set by the Democratic National Committee and to send 46 Black delegates, 36 Hispanic delegates, 12 LGBTQ+ delegates, 26 people with disabilities and 65 youths.    

    Hernandez wants Democrats from outside Illinois to see that Chicago and Illinois are places where diversity thrives in politics.  

    “This is a center stage, a global stage for that matter, to heighten [what] Chicago offers and we offer a lot from diversity to the values that we stand for,” Hernandez said.   

    It’s also time to show off what Democrats can accomplish when they’re in leadership, Hernandez said, pointing to Illinois’ improved financial status since Pritzker took office and passage and implementation of progressive policies.   

    “We’re doing the work, we’re doing what we should be doing and hopefully that’s a reflection to others,” Hernandez said.  

    But signs of turmoil that Democrats will need to navigate are springing up. Divisions have manifested in the party over the conflict between Hamas and Israel, as exemplified by protests in recent days on college campuses around the country, including at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, that have become violent in some instances and could offer a preview of protests outside the convention.   

    Pro-Palestine protesters also recently blocked traffic leading into O’Hare Airport, which could hinder convention logistics if it happens in August.   

    Chicago also has a history of convention protests turning violent. Riots and clashes with Chicago Police ensued during the 1968 DNC, including anti-war protests over the Vietnam War. Some have wondered if similar scenes could play out in 2024. USA Today published an article on Saturday titled “Democrats fear chaos of 1968 convention as they prepare to renominate Joe Biden in Chicago” while a columnist for The New York Times declared last week “The ghost of the 1968 anti-war movement has returned.”  

    Related: Law enforcement officials planning designated demonstration areas near DNC as organizers pledge to march ‘with or without’ permits 

    Some organizations, such as the left-wing Behind Enemy Lines, have encouraged protestors to be violent with Chicago Police officers.    

    Hernandez downplayed concerns protest activity could distract from Democrats’ messages at the convention.  

    “Chicago is known [for] other crowded events … there is opportunity, those moments that people can speak out, but again, it’s not something that I think Chicago is not exposed to in terms of … being secure,” Hernandez said.   

    “Let folks say what they have to say,” Hernandez said. “I think it’s a respect to their freedom of speech … All I think about right now is let folks say what they have to say. I’m feeling good” it can be done and encouraged in a safe way.  

    The message Democrats want to focus on at the committee is about what Biden has done to deserve a second term.   

    “I think people need to hear the accomplishments,” Hernandez said. “Feel it, see it. It’s taking a moment to understand the accomplishments [by Biden] have done a trickle effect in your lives. If people can just take a moment to see that … it’s getting that across. Take a moment and just reflect on what his accomplishments have done to your lives already.”   

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