CHICAGO (SCS) — From the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol to the state of politics in America, Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former Chicago city councilman, tackles it all in his new book, The Renaissance of Democracy: The View from Chicago.
Simpson told CBS 2’s Jim Williams what he thinks needs to be strengthened in national democracy in this time of great division. Simpson says national democracy must be reborn, because it is in trouble.
WILLIAMS: “To what extent is democracy in danger?
SIMPSONS: “I think democracy is in grave danger. We have issues that are visible here in Chicago and visible across the country,” Simpson said.
The UIC professor and former Chicago city councilman, in his book “Renaissance of Democracy”, writes that the potent symbol of the danger facing democracy was the insurgency in the US Capitol last year. But there are other troubling signs, he says: too much money in politics, low levels of participation among voters, income inequality and systemic racism.
WILLIAMS: “In the municipal elections, in the Chicago elections, voter turnout is pretty low. How to involve more people?
SIMPSONS: “I was surprised in 2019, and in this critical election for a new mayor and a new city council, the turnout was only 30%. In our presidential election, it went up, to 67% in 2020, but we still have a problem, not only in voting, we have a problem because our voices are not heard in government.
WILLIAMS: “How could we have this stagnant turnout at a time when people have email, people have social media. They have so many ways to communicate their frustrations and their desires?”
SIMPSONS: “Well, but they have no way of grouping them effectively. Yes, they can certainly post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter, but that just falls into the void. If they’re going to be effective, they have to communicate with their elected officials, and it’s just not easy to do, and the elected officials have a hard time coping. What if they get 20 emails about something? They represent, an alderman represents 50,000 people. don’t pay attention to four or five emails alone.”
Included in Simpson’s book title: “The View from Chicago.” He writes that what is happening here can be seen in many other parts of the country.
WILLIAMS: “Now you write in the book that Chicago is the embodiment of American politics and society. Some people wonder what Chicago has in common with, say, a rural community in Alabama. And what would you say? ?
SIMPSONS: “Well, we’ve had the same racism over the decades. Racial segregation was the rule in Chicago until very recently, and we still have racial discrimination.”
“If you look at the middle class problem, the middle class is disappearing in rural areas, because farms, family farms are disappearing. In Chicago, our middle class was 42% of the census areas, and today it’s is only 16% We are losing the middle class across America We cannot allow this to continue.
One positive thing Simpson noticed: the recent law requiring students in Illinois public schools to have a civics education.
On Thursday evening, Simpson will have a conversation with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who wrote the foreword to the book. Thursdays from 6 p.m. at the Harold Washington Library downtown.