(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the veteran Democratic leader who mentored a young Barack Obama and remains one of the president’s closest allies, was not planning to be at Obama’s side for today’s final round of debate preparation.
Rather, Durban was headed back home to Illinois for a meeting with workers at the Sensata Technologies plant in Freeport, where 170 employees are slated to lose their jobs to outsourcing before the end of the year.
Sensata, which for decades has produced state-of-the-art sensors and controls for Ford and General Motors, is precisely the sort of high-tech operation that a country looking to compete in the global economy of the twenty-first century would want to maintain as a domestic manufacturer. So why are the jobs moving to China?
Because Bain Capital owns the company, and Bain is committed to the industrial development of Chinese provinces—not to states like Illinois. That’s not what most Americans would identify as a smart choice for the nation’s future—let alone “economic patriotism.”
But that is how Bain, which got its operating ethos from former CEO Mitt Romney, operates. Romney still profits mightily from his Bain connection—as The New York Times and numerous business journals have well documented—and he remains closely tied to current Bain executives. So if anyone could get Bain to rethink the outsourcing of the Sensata jobs, it’s Mitt Romney.
At least, that’s what Illinoisans think.
In July, the Freeport City Council voted unanimously to ask Romney to come to Freeport, meet the workers and intervene with Bain on their behalf. Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp even offered to host a debate between Romney and President Obama at the local historic site where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas once debated.
In September, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn visited Freeport and issued a similar call.
Now, on the day of the critical second debate between the presidential candidates (in Hempostead, New York, rather than Freeport), Durbin is headed to the community workers have dubbed “Bainport.”