Contrasting Sarah Palin with the Illinois GOP leadership

The Republican National Convention nominated a ticket this week that contrasts strikingly with the Democratic Party’s ticket. The GOP team supports smaller government, lower taxes, consumer driven health care, school choice, and a strong national defense. The Democratic team supports bigger government, higher taxes, government controlled health care, teacher union controlled education, and a retreat-when-things-get-tough foreign policy.

Another stark contrast developed this week as well: Sarah Palin type leadership versus the kind of GOP leadership we’ve seen here in Illinois. Regular readers of this website already know the score. Today, however, came the news of a new low.

First, more information is coming out about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. An article by the Wall Street Journal’s excellent writer Kimberley Strassel outlined “How Palin Beat Alaska’s Establishment.”

A few highlights from the piece:

“Every state has its share of crony capitalism, but Big Oil and the GOP political machine have taken that term to new heights in Alaska. The oil industry, which provides 85% of state revenues, has strived to own the government. Alaska’s politicians-in particular ruling Republicans-roll in oil campaign money, lavish oil revenue on pet projects, then retire to lucrative oil jobs where they lobby for sweetheart oil deals. You can love the free market and not love this.

Alaskans have long resented this dysfunction, which has led to embarrassing corruption scandals. It has also led to a uniform belief that the political class, in hock to the oil class, fails to competently oversee Alaska’s vast oil and gas wealth, the majority of which belongs to the state-or rather, Alaskan citizens.”

Substitute oil interests with that of the teachers unions, bond houses, road construction companies, and the gaming industry and there are plenty of parallels to be found right here in Illinois.

The article states that Palin passed an ethics law, tightened up oil oversight, and forced the legislature to rewrite the oil tax law. “The GOP machine has crumbled,” high ranking officials resigned, pleaded guilty to crimes, paid fines, and others, including U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, are under indictment. Alaska’s lone U.S. Representative Don Young is also under investigation.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Stevens and Young are Republicans.

“Throughout it all,” Strassel writes, “Mrs. Palin has stood for reform…”

In order to transition to the sad tale of our Illinois GOP leadership, I’ve rewritten Strassel’s concluding paragraph:

Today’s Illinois Republicans could learn from this. The party has been plagued by incompetence, corruption, and a lack of vision. Most members have embraced the machine. That has diminished voters’ trust, and in the process diminished good, conservative ideas. It is no wonder 37 million people tuned in to Mrs. Palin’s convention speech. They are looking for something fresh.

It’s easy to be succinct. The news is that former U.S. House Minority Leader Bob Michael (R-Illinois) scolded the Illinois GOP delegation at this week’s convention. It’s hard to imagine a worse indictment. Michael seemed quite happy leading the minority party in Washington, D.C. in the years before the Newt Gingrich revolution. Now even he’s disgusted with our state’s Republican leadership.

[Michael] told his fellow delegates that he has never seen the state’s Republicans in such bad shape.

“I’ve always been a party man,” he said on a lunchtime cruise. “A strong organizational man. And I’ll tell ya, let’s face it folks, the party as an organization in Illinois is wanting. That’s why we don’t have a constitutional office in the state of Illinois.”

Evidently some members responded favorably to Michael’s admonition, while others clung to their comfortable denial. That’s the case, of course, with many conservative activists as well. Between friendships, delusion, and a tendency to suffer from the Stockholm Syndrome, many people here in Illinois have forfeited reform to play the role of enabler.

We’ll only see change we can believe in here in Illinois when the rank and file rise up and throw the IL GOP old guard bums out and spark a Sarah Palin type revolution here in the Land of Lincoln.

©2008 John Francis Biver