Illinois 9th District
“Make no little plans,” architect Daniel Burnham once said, and he made no small plans for the Chicago lakefront. The glorious parks he designed are among America’s urban jewels, and the row of high-rise apartment buildings—some austere works of masters of the International style, some in traditional styles evocative of some other place and time, some sleek Art Deco works of the 1920s and 1930s—is a splendid accompaniment. Beyond the lakefront is all the diversity of Chicago. In sturdy brick houses, with scarcely a shoehorn’s space between them, or in stubby apartment buildings, are ethnic and racial groups of every sort, from Argentineans to Slavs, from Poles to Plains Indians. In the 1970s, the neighborhoods behind the lakefront seemed to be getting seedier and tipping downhill. But since the late 1980s, they have been gentrifying, as young couples and gays, professionals and entrepreneurs renovate old houses and open new businesses. Today, this part of Chicago has as much urban energy and lively diversity as any place in America.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The lakefront has long been the most heavily Jewish part of Chicago. The local Jewish community, prominent for more than a century, has never been as much a force as it is in New York, or connected to a glamorous industry as in Los Angeles. Yet these Jewish voters’ liberal impulses have been strong: the 19th-century impulse to resist state authority and the imposition of cultural uniformity, and the 20th-century impulse to increase state responsibility for individuals’ lives. Chicago’s North Side Jews have been a solidly Democratic voting bloc, involved with—but always keeping at arm’s length—the old Democratic machine. In city politics since the 1980s, Jewish voters and lakefront liberals of all backgrounds have been a key swing group.
The 9th Congressional District of Illinois covers most of Chicago’s lakefront, from just north of Diversey Harbor past the thriving Asian and orthodox Jewish communities in West Rogers Park and on to Evanston, founded by Methodists to promote temperance (a cause that never prospered in Chicago). The home of Northwestern University, Evanston has moved gracefully from historic Yankee Republicanism to trendy, postgraduate Democratness. From Evanston and nearby Wilmette (which is shared with the 10th), the 9th presses inland through heavily Jewish Skokie to Morton Grove and Niles and includes most of Des Plaines. These bustling inner-ring suburbs have become the center of Chicagoland’s job base. With its financial markets and the professionals that support them, the city once known as the hog butcher of the world has evolved into the hog belly trader of the world. The district extends west to once-rock-solid Republican territory—Park Ridge, with its characteristic Chicago brick houses in orderly rows, where Hillary Rodham Clinton grew up at 235 Wisner, and the cluster of office buildings and interchanges in Rosemont, next to O’Hare International Airport. This is an overwhelmingly Democratic district.