A word (again) about the state legislative Republican leadership

Republicans in the state senate are about to choose a new leader. They might want to think twice about whether they’ll muster enough rank and file party support should they elect Christine Radogno, a pro-abort legislator who is confused about human behavior and thinks that how a person likes to have sex is the equivalent of race and gender.

And Kirk Dillard’s commercial for Barack Obama surely doesn’t inspire the kind of confidence Republicans need to have if they’re going to pitch in and help advance a GOP agenda.

It might also be time for a generational change at the top. I’m sure state Senator Matt Murphy has learned some of the wrong lessons in his short tenure in Springfield, but odds are he’s young enough to unlearn them. Matt might also be able to figure out that the old days are dead and gone, and that legislators can’t continue to do their jobs as they did in decades past.

Six years ago we saw the election of Tom Cross in the house as a mistake but weren’t surprised that a bunch of beat-up house members made the choice they did. Six years ago this month I wrote the following in a column for the now-defunct Illinois Leader:

“To get good government means to get consent to good governors, and this is the political problem.” So said political scholar Walter Berns in 1965.

Media reports say today is the day for the big Tom Cross / Art Tenhouse vote to see who will become the new minority leader in the Illinois House of Representatives. If Cross prevails as expected, it will then be his turn to prove himself. Just like his “friend” Rod Blagojevich, Representative Cross will have to deliver…

Almost twenty years ago George Will wrote that “Statesmen who are unaware of the ideas that shaped the institutions currently in their custody, and uninterested in the ideas that shape the expectations and tolerances of the citizenry, are statesmen governed by forces they cannot comprehend.”

For many of those Illinois House members voting for a new leader, the very notion of “ideas” is a foreign concept. All is personality and “leadership” style. Like the electorate, Illinois House members want to feel good about themselves. We shouldn’t forget the fact that most of them have spent many years subjected to leadership that was less enlightened than that of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (who at least knew when to get out of the way).

Ideas have consequences. That’s not something new to politics or to the world. The ideas that Mr. Cross and Mr. Tenhouse claim to represent matter.

If Mr. Cross ascends the throne, he’ll face his first test during the upcoming session. If the goal is making House members feel better about themselves by allowing them a voice in the caucus process, my guess is he’ll succeed. If the goal is to offer the public an alternate vision to the Democratic Party’s vision, I won’t place a bet.

The truth is, Illinois House Republicans are a stunted group. Having allowed themselves to be subjected to two decades of brain-dead leadership, it’ll take some time before they are really able to think for themselves and exercise good judgment.

This is not to say that I think Tom Cross can’t be an excellent leader. If his “leadership style” allows for the airing and intramural debate of a real reform agenda, and the case is made by those who understand there is no “moderate” reform agenda, we might still see life in the Illinois House.

Currently, there is talk of Tom Cross running for governor. Personally, I like the idea, since it makes him give up his leadership post. Maybe then his lieutenant Skip Saviano will be told to do the right thing and switch parties. It’s an indictment of every GOP state house member that Skip has been in the leadership for all these years.

Is it any wonder why we’re so critical of the General Assembly GOP leadership? We’ve been calling for the same actions for six years. And since the rank and file members choose their leaders, it’s awfully difficult to take them seriously as well.

There will be a day of reckoning for all the years of governmental malpractice committed by our state’s political officials. Now is the time for elected Republicans to decide if they’re going to do anything about it. A new year and a new General Assembly session is the perfect time to start.

Up next: Will Illinois Republican state legislators finally begin to lead?