BLOOMINGTON — Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin didn't mince words asking Americans to vote against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"That is a new low in American politics," Durbin said of Trump's Sunday remark that his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would be jailed if Trump were president. "This is a sad moment for our country, and a sadder moment for the Republican party."

He compared Trump to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has prosecuted political rivals and perpetrated sham elections. Durbin criticized Trump for encouraging Americans to distrust this presidential election, recalling times Durbin's candidate lost but he still said, "That's my president."

"In this election, I sense something very different," he said. "I worry about what it's going to mean."

Durbin, who is not on the Nov. 8 ballot, spoke Tuesday at Illinois Wesleyan University about getting out the vote during what he called one of the most important presidential elections of his lifetime.

"We want to encourage everyone to vote early ... I voted yesterday," he told a crowd of about 40, including IWU President Eric Jensen and McLean County Board members Erik Rankin and Carlo Robustelli. "You don't have to worry about election day... 'I have to take off work, the babysitter, I don't feel well.'"

Durbin criticized voter ID laws, which he referred to as "a political answer by a party that is taking positions that are alienating more and more voters," including blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans.

He said "we have to have a new justice on the Supreme Court" to address that issue and criticized Senate Republicans for refusing to consider President Barack Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

When asked if Republicans might push through Garland, a moderate, before January if Clinton wins the presidency, Durbin said he would be surprised. Pundits have speculated Clinton will nominate a more liberal candidate.

"I do not know if Hillary Clinton will re-nominate him," he said of Garland. "I recommend it."

Durbin also spoke about two issues affecting higher education: the effect of Illinois' budget crisis on universities and the cost of college.

He said falling enrollment numbers at colleges like Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and Western Illinois University in Macomb represent "a mini-recession in each of those downstate cities brought on by the budget impasse."

Durbin said he hopes to help pass a measure sponsored by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts allowing student loan debt holders to refinance, and to encourage students to avoid for-profit colleges including Kaplan University and University of Phoenix.

"This is a scam, and thank goodness some of these schools are closing," he said. "Find a good school like Wesleyan. You know what that degree is worth."

Durbin also stopped Tuesday in Gibson City to discuss agricultural issues.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh


Staff Writer

Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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