Illinois Democrats strengthened, not weakened, by Blago’s arrest

Many members of the Illinois Republican Party are in danger of falling into a new delusion now that we enter the post-Blago era. reports that FBI Special Agent In Charge Robert Grant woke Governor Rod Blagojevich up at his home at 6 a.m. today and told him –

– “that two agents were outside waiting to take him into custody. He was asked to open the door and was arrested without incident.

‘Is this a joke?’ Blagojevich told Grant.”

The governor and his chief of staff John Harris were –

– “arrested on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity.”

In light of Rod’s rude awakening this morning, let me attempt once again to wake up Illinois Republicans. I wrote back in September a piece called “Big Irony: An indicted or impeached Blagojevich doesn’t help a visionless IL GOP.” This isn’t a joke, either.

I wrote then, and gladly repost:

The unpopular Democratic governor that Republicans haven’t been able to use to gain political ground might well be removed from office. The man who will replace him, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, would take over and it remains to be seen how he’d perform in the top spot. Clearly, though, Quinn is no Blagojevich.

Regardless of whether Quinn experiences a honeymoon with Illinois voters and rises to the occasion, there are several strong Democrats ready to run for governor in 2010. The same can’t be said of the Republican field.

Even if a strong Republican contender did step forward, he or she would be running in a state where people haven’t heard a Republican principle espoused for some time. Our General Assembly GOP caucuses have failed to avail themselves of the opportunities that are always present for the minority party.

Quick, answer me this: What would Illinois Republicans do differently in Illinois if they took over power tomorrow? Few Illinoisans can probably answer that with any specificity. I’m not sure that the average GOP legislator could.

If the Trib is right and Governor Blagojevich’s days are numbered, one of the most historic chances for Republicans to gain ground will have been lost. Rod has been endlessly ridiculed in the press, yet Frank Watson, Tom Cross, and Andy McKenna haven’t been able to capitalize on it.

One of the biggest myths in Illinois politics is that the George Ryan scandal did-in the Republicans. That myth should be destroyed when a Blagojevich scandal doesn’t do-in the Democrats.

Republicans weren’t building during the Jim Edgar/Pate Philip years, so when Democrats took over in 2002 voters didn’t miss the GOP after they were gone from power. Instead of a steady effort to win public support for solutions based on Republican principles, GOP leaders charted a mushy middle course that left voters unclear about why Republicans should win.

FBI Agent Grant said this about Illinois at the U.S. Attorney’s press conference this morning:

“I can tell you one thing, if it isn’t the most corrupt state, it certainly is one hell of a competitor.”

A Republican Party that couldn’t gain ground while Blagojevich was safely in office still doesn’t have the caliber of talent it needs to do so now that he’s been criminally charged.

Republicans who think our party will be just fine sticking with the failed leadership of Andy McKenna, the lifeless 19 members of the State Central Committee, and the leadership team of Cross and Christine Radogno need to wake up.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said this morning that Gov. Rod Blagojevich went on “a political corruption crime spree” and “has taken us to a truly new low.”

On this day when Illinois is once again in the national spotlight, Illinois Republicans had better fight the temptation to think the need for our own house cleaning has passed.

The IL GOP keeps reaching new lows – and now with the Democrats about to be free of the albatross that Rod has long represented – our opponents just got stronger.