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Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Local Pulse – Happy New Year


With every new year comes fresh opportunities to become better versions of ourselves.

Whether we decide to eat less, exercise more, spend less, or volunteer more, the new year provides a clean slate, on which we can frame our actions.

This clean slate can also frame our interactions with others. The current political landscape is more divided than ever. This new year offers us all an opportunity to do better; to decide we will disagree agreeably, and stop vilifying those whose views differ from our own.

If you are familiar with William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, he coined a saying that comes up from time to time during political discourse. “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” was used in the play when a shipwrecked man sought shelter beside a sleeping monster. Today, we adapt the phrase to “Politics makes strange bedfellows,” whenever political alliances toward a common cause are formed between individuals who traditionally hold differing political views.

This type of alliance was seen in 2021 when the House and Senate Republican Leaders teamed up with the NAACP of East St. Louis and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) to challenge gerrymandered legislative maps drawn, passed, and signed into law by Illinois Democrats. The maps, which delineate legislative district boundaries for the next decade, are supposed to ensure each district includes roughly the same number of people, and that the maps are reflective of the racial and socio-economic demographics of the state. This means, when the U.S. Census determines Illinois has a population that is 17.5% Hispanic, 14.6% black or African American, and 5.9% Asian (www.census.gov/quickfacts/IL), the maps should include those percentage of districts where the population includes a majority of people from that racial demographic.

When challenged by this unlikely alliance, the first set of maps were tossed out by federal judges, who ruled they violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On December 30, the federal judges issued their new judgement, and accepted the Democrats’ second set of maps. While the outcome didn’t go the way of the alliance between the GOP, NAACP and MALDEF, their efforts showed us that it is possible for people who traditionally hold diverging views to come together and work collaboratively and respectfully toward a common goal. Just think how much less political strife there would be if all political discussions could center around doing what is right rather than on doing what benefits a select group of people. 

Happy New Year, and I hope 2022 brings you prosperity and happiness.

Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville Resident and former Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives and Naperville City Councilman.