Monroe County Democrats focus on redefining patriotism

SCOT LUCHTEFELD, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Central Committee, (SW Illinois Council president) speaks at the committee’s annual dinner, reminding Democrats of the importance of the upcoming election. – Labor Tribune photo

Illinois Correspondent

Key for the Democrats in the upcoming election will be reclaiming and redefining patriotism, according to Jesse Rojo.

Rojo, cofounder of Illinois Veterans for Change, spoke to the Monroe County Democrats at their annual dinner about growing up as the child of immigrants and the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties when it comes to loving America.

“Loving your country is serving your country, whether in the military or as a first responder or just as a voter,” Rojo said. But he charged that the modern GOP says they love America while discriminating against women and people of color.

“We don’t say ‘freedom’ as we strip freedoms from Americans,” Rojo said. “The Democratic party is the party of patriots. We are the party that defines patriotism.”

Rojo told the Monroe County Democrats that they need to get the word out, to make sure people understand that the choices ahead in this election year are for “division and hatred, or for the Democratic Party, standing for patriotism.”

“We as the Democratic Party have shown we are willing to do the work,” Rojo said. “Patriotism is loving your country, and loving your country is working to improve it.”

Tyler Bontemps, the downstate regional director for the Democratic Party, said he returned to work in southern Illinois to spread a similar message advocation for the Democrats. He thanked Monroe County Democratic Central Committee chair Scot Luchtefeld for “inviting me to speak to a county that is not attempting to secede from the state of Illinois” – a jab at neighboring Madison County, which recently voted to put an advisory question about secession on the November ballot.

Bontemps said that 2016 was “the worst year ever” as the Cubs won the World Series and a month later, Donald Trump was elected president. So he wanted to do what he could in a place where there was work to be done. He quoted musician Bob Marley in saying, “The people who are trying to make the world a worse place aren’t taking the day off. Why should I?”

Brian Roberts, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Bost for the 12th Congressional seat, said Trump only cares about the “MAGA agenda.”

“I believe democracy is truly at stake in this election,” he said. “I’m gonna make sure there is one less congressman who supports Donald Trump.”

Mark Guethle, president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association, said that Trump has the worst record for creating jobs of any president since the Great Depression while President Biden has created more than 14 million jobs.

“Think about how good unions are for the working people, and then think what it would be like without unions,” Guethle said. “It would put us back 250 years.”

All the speakers exhorted the Democrats to get people registered, to talk with them about issues and candidates, to help out with fundraising and take the election seriously. “If you want an inkling of how to get started in politics, just show up,” Luchtefeld said.

Following that advice, committee vice president Patrick Kelly announced that he will be running for Monroe County commissioner and received the Leroy Reitz Award from the organization.

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