This vote is easy

In bicentennial election on greatest Illinois leader, debate starts after Lincoln

 Matthew Brady’s 1864 portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the clear choice as Illinois’s greatest leader. (National Archive)

Matthew Brady’s 1864 portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the clear choice as Illinois’s greatest leader. (National Archive)

By Ted Cox

In this election, the choice is clear.

The process of determining the Illinois Top 200 is winding down as the state prepares to celebrate its bicentennial next month. For those who’ve missed it so far — and, to be honest, it’s been sort of a stealth project for something that should be as ballyhooed as a state bicentennial — Illinoisans have been voting online all year for the top 10 people or things in 20 categories.

As One Illinois pointed out a month ago, some of the elections — conducted through the Lincoln Presidential Library, the State Journal-Regster, and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission — have resulted in ludicrous outcomes. (Not that that brings any other recent election to mind.)

REO Speedwagon as the state’s top musicians, over Alton native and East St. Louis product Miles Davis, Chicago native Benny Goodman, and Decatur native Alison Krauss, not to mention any of several top Chicago blues artists? Please.

More recently, Lydia Moss Bradley as the state’s groundbreaking woman ahead of Betty Friedan, Jane Addams, Michelle Obama, Ida B. Wells, “Mother” Jones, and even Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey?

Clearly, there’s been some ballot-box stuffing if not outright fraud at the polls.

The last previous category, of minority trailblazer, was more clear-cut, as Barack Obama prevailed over a couple of Sauk tribesmen, Black Hawk and his hated arch rival, Chief Keokuk, closely followed by Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

 President Barack Obama was named the state’s top minority trailblazer: no surprise there. (Obama White House Archives)

President Barack Obama was named the state’s top minority trailblazer: no surprise there. (Obama White House Archives)

Now comes another clear choice: top Illinois leader. And if the winner isn’t the 16th president, who guided the nation through the Civil War, Illinois doesn’t deserve to be called the Land of Lincoln.

After that, however, it’s a dogfight. Lincoln is joined by fellow Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, and, yes, Obama. Black Hawk too is back among the 20 nominees, along with Clinton, Washington, Addams, Wells, and “Mother” Jones (to be distinguished from John Jones). There are also some more than noteworthy other politicians, including Senators Stephen Douglas and Everett Dirksen, two-time presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson II, three-time nominee William Jennings Bryan, and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and civil-rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson.

That’s a decent group of representative leaders, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they wind up ranking against one another — as long as Lincoln comes in first.

But don’t take anything for granted, in this election as in Tuesday’s midterms. Get out there and vote. The polls close in this campaign at noon Nov. 9, a week from Friday, to be followed by the final category — unforgettable moments — as the state heads toward its formal Illinois bicentennial celebration Dec. 3 at the United Center in Chicago.

Here are the winners so far. Now get online and vote.

  • Movie: “The Blues Brothers”

  • Business: Archer Daniels Midland

  • Invention: steel plow

  • Building: Wrigley Field

  • Historic site: Lincoln’s New Salem

  • Scenic spot: Elsah

  • Museum: Lincoln Presidential Museum

  • Book: “The Wizard of Oz”

  • Author: Ernest Hemingway

  • Heartbreaking moment: Lincoln’s assassination

  • Musicians: you know already and we won’t mention it again

  • Artist: Frank Lloyd Wright, followed by Lorado Taft and Louis Sullivan

  • Actor: Dick Van Dyke

  • Entertainer: Walt Disney, followed by comedians Bob Newhart, Jack Benny, and Richard Pyror

  • Scientist: Enrico Fermi

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan, followed by Dick Butkus and Walter Payton

  • Woman: Lydia Moss Bradley

  • Trailblazer: Barack Obama

  • Leader?

  • Unforgettable Moment?