IL G.A. Republicans had better learn quickly how to use their minority status

What do you do if you lose an election and are relegated to minority status in a legislative body?

We’ve been answering that question on this website for many years. As I noted yesterday, our General Assembly caucuses during the next two years will complete a full decade in the minority. However, while they’ve wasted the first eight years, that doesn’t mean they can’t change course and make use of 2011 and 2012.

In case you missed the national story, here it is summed up:

Republicans Make Historic Gains in State Legislatures, Pick Up Hundreds of Seats

The Republican midterm wave swept through state capitals across the nation Tuesday, with historic gains in state legislative races that will give the GOP a major advantage in influencing congressional races over the next 10 years through redistricting…

Democrats lost control of both chambers in six states – Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin…

Republicans did not lose a single chamber and picked up lower houses in states where the party already controlled the Senate in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

Except, of course, here in Illinois. We gained seats, yes. But in a year when we lose the race for governor and the GOP scores big around the country, it’s a big disappointment. With our state’s perilous fiscal situation – it’s devastating.

We picked up a few seats in the state senate and a half dozen in the state house. Our General Assembly caucuses need to wake the heck up and realize they hold a valuable bully pulpit despite being in the minority.

Their only hope of halting the absolutely lunatic Democrats from driving the state over a fiscal cliff is to rally the public in opposition to the higher-spending/higher-taxing future that looms ahead of us now.

Newt Gingrich was asked this week about the Democrats winning the California governor’s mansion despite that state’s fiscal mess. His answer:

California and New York remain bastions of liberalism despite the economic decay brought about by bad government and high taxes. Learning to win in those two states is one of the greatest challenges facing Republicans.

Newt is right about the need to learn how to win – but I would add Illinois to that challenge. I’d argue that he has shown us how to use the bully pulpit of office in the 1980s and 90s and then how to win in 1994. Conservative U.S. House candidates also showed us how to win here in Illinois in 2010.

It’s not brain surgery. It’s communication with the public through all available means on a sustained basis. Our state legislators need to use the combined power of every member’s office in the Republican caucuses – to reach the citizens of the state with a credible agenda.

Newt addressed the topic back in December of 2007:

On the really big things it is repetition that matters. I think our leadership has to get back in the habit of understanding that if you truly want to have a dialog with America, with over 300 million Americans, you have to pick a handful of big ideas, you have to talk about them endlessly, and gradually, over time, you’ll build an echo effect and a resonance and the country will learn and you’ll have a genuine dialog.

I’ve written on the topic of modern political communication a lot – many of the articles can be found on this page.

This week Newt also said:

This election proves there is a potential to repudiate the left, but now we have to think through how to replace it with a center-right governing majority. The challenge of thinking through, explaining and implementing a replacement strategy as national policy is very intriguing.

Folks, the same principle applies at the state level. It’s past time for our Republican members of the General Assembly to leave their horse and buggy days behind.