ST. LOUIS — A Chicago Magazine essay is proposing a trade between Missouri and Illinois. The Land of Lincoln would get St. Louis in exchange for sending southern Illinois to Missouri.
The Route 66 rivalry between the Cardinals and the Cubs is nearly 150 years old. The competition between the two cities goes even farther back. In 1850, the city of St. Louis was much larger than its northern neighbor. That all changed after St. Louis divorced Missouri and the railroads picked Chicago. The Gateway City wasn’t able to expand, and the Great Chicago Fire actually helped that city to grow.
Now, both urban areas are connected by interstates, politics, language, and much more. Soon, they will also be connected by a high-speed rail line. People in St. Louis and Chicago sound alike. That’s why St. Louis native John Goodman can play loveable Dan Conner from the show Roseanne. People from St. Louis sound more like others from the Inland North like Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Indianapolis.
The cities are also blue dots in red states. People in both places voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in 2020. The rest of Illinois and Missouri did not. For several years, some counties in southern Illinois have been calling to remove Chicago from the rest of the state. There are now 27 counties that have passed referendums to explore seceding from the state.
“Given those grievances, maybe it’s time to take the “Illinois” out of Southern Illinois. We can’t let them form a 51st state, though, because that new state would elect two conservative Republican senators, changing the balance of power in Washington. Here’s a better idea: let’s trade Southern Illinois to Missouri — for St. Louis. That would make folks on both sides of the Mississippi River happier. Southern Illinoisans would go from a Blue state where it’s easy to get an abortion but hard to get a gun, to a Red state where it’s hard to get an abortion but easy to get a gun,” writes Edward Robert Mcclelland in Chicago Magazine.
The idea is interesting and not entirely new. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan proposed something similar in 2011. The idea also appeared in Slate Magazine in 2015. They said St. Louis doesn’t belong in Missouri anymore.
Be careful what you wish for. The economics don’t look good for people living in southern Illinois if they remove Chicago. Southern Illinois gets $2.81 back for every dollar sent to Springfield. Central Illinois gets $1.87 back.