Changing Demographics: The ILGOP Excuse Du Jour

Editor’s note about this article from our archives regarding the Illinois GOP’s excuse du jour: It posted 15 years ago — and the situation in Illinois has only gotten worse since then. I’ve bolded a few sections in this re-post to highlight a few points. Oh, and everywhere you see the year 2004 referenced, just make a mental note to update it to 2019.

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Those of us who agree with the founding principles of Constitutional and limited government understand that this nation was set up as the result of a successful public argument. What took place between 1787 and 1788 is exactly what needs to take place in 2004. We need to be educating citizens and winning hearts and minds to support policies that work.

Regrettably, our current Illinois Republican leadership thinks the electorate is like the weather. Instead of facing up to their failures to win elections, they say the voters are like the wind and rain and temperature — something completely out of their control. They are bewildered over what to do about shifting demographics. This is just one more bit of evidence that we’ve got the wrong people in charge.

The current GOP doesn’t understand the modern media or how to reach the consciousness of the modern citizenry. They think it’s enough to echo platitudes, delegate the care of details to young staff, and construct a top-down political party apparatus. They are not up to the task of communicating serious content to a sophisticated and busy population.

The Illinois GOP is incorrect about a lot of things. They think former governor George Ryan was and is the source of all GOP evil. Wrong. He was and is merely a poster-boy for the kind of wheeling and dealing that still goes on every day in Illinois government. George and his crew were merely more brazen, for example, in their use of public employees for political work. They accepted bribes the old-fashioned way. And if you think graft isn’t still figured into the cost of government contracts, I’ve got a bond deal I’d like you to help negotiate.

My column last week, “What is a Moderate Republican?,” brought an excellent response from that Illinois state rep I mentioned. He referenced demographic information that was also cited a few days later in column by Don Rose in the Chicago Sun-Times. There’s no question that population changes are real. His resulting conclusions, and those of many Republicans concur. I beg to differ. Demographics change, principles that guide policies that work don’t.

We expect guys like Don Rose to be confused. He’s a Democrat. Unfortunately, the demographic studies he cites are a godsend for our GOP leaders. “See,” they say, “it’s not our fault. Our voters are moving to Arizona or dying off.”

Those of us who believe in the principles of the Republican Party have a lot of disagreements with those who don’t. Chief among them might be that they think neither Hispanics, African Americans, young people nor retired people will ever be able to grasp free markets or the limited effectiveness of government action.

Part-time Republicans, as I call them, (others use the label “moderates,”) have never figured out that if certain groups tend to vote against us, there are at least two possible interpretations. One says we’ve tried and it’s hopeless. The other says that we haven’t tried hard enough to reach and convince them.

There is always a rising generation-and just as it is our job to educate every child, we must also reach every demographic group with a convincing argument as to why our principles lead to good government (and why the other party’s don’t).

My state rep friend understands that the reality of shifting populations requires a redoubling of our efforts. He’s not looking for excuses like so many he serves with. He’s not an office holder who confuses the electorate with the weather.

Simply stated, our task is to never stop working to persuade voters in this nation of ever shifting demographics to support our very reasonable solutions. Republicans haven’t been doing a very good job of this for many years. It’s time we start.

The biggest difference between 1787 and 2004 is the caliber of the leaders that were on the stage back then. The leadership in 1787 didn’t shrink from intellectual heavy lifting. They made their case and got their message across instead of seeking to “moderate” the cause of liberty. They met the challenge, persuaded a continent, and it’s our responsibility to do the same.

Image credit: Illinois News Network.