Every time state spending increases and taxes are raised, instead of improving their messaging, Republicans and conservatives issue statements expressing disappointment and disgust with those who played a part in making it happen. For many of us watching this Illinois tax and spend train wreck year after year, these statements are tiresome.
Bad things happen. Our side reacts to those bad things with statements. Bad things happen. Our side reacts to those bad things with statements.
These pages have outlined and linked to other articles explaining that Illinois’ problem is a simple math problem. Just as in other states, the goal is to develop a balanced budget and have tax rates that don’t motivate businesses and people to exit the state.
Another simple matter of math: there are more business and individual taxpayers than there are tax-eaters. Bureaucrats, crony capitalists, and government pensioners do not outnumber us; we outnumber them.
That simple matter of math should then lead thinking Republicans and conservatives to an astounding revelation: We can win.
Yes, even in Illinois.
So, why don’t we?
No one can say our side doesn’t have the money to compete in the public square. When Bruce Rauner and Ken Griffin write massive and unprecedented checks to fund political campaigns, the days of crying poor are over.
So, we have the numbers both in bodies and in dollars — and we still lose.
This reveals that our side clearly is not spending the dollars effectively to win hearts and minds.
There has been some understandable frustration with how Illinois Republicans — both the governor and in the General Assembly — failed to communicate just how damaging another tax increase is for this state. Polling data shows most Illinoisans opposed the tax increase, so the public was already on their side.
The governor and lawmakers could have ramped-up opposition to tax increases by educating and activating the grassroots with media interviews, townhall meetings, robo-calls, newspaper ads, and radio and cable buys. But there was no coordinated effort by Republican leaders to fight Democrats. They just seemed to capitulate.
Was this communication failure due to Rauner’s and conservatives’ (e.g., Bill Brady) willingness to support a tax increase as long as certain reforms were also passed? Maybe it was seen as too much of a challenge to inspire and rally people into action in support of a different tax increase.
Last year we watched how farm and industrial Midwest states can be won. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa all went red. Blue Illinois is surrounded by red states. That fact is typically met with, “well, they don’t have Chicago and Cook County.” Pennsylvania’s population is basically the same as Illinois’, and you’ll find some big cities with large Democratic Party strongholds there as well. You may even have heard of a couple of them: Pittsburg and Philadelphia.
Ohio, just a million people smaller, has been a swing state for a very long time. This time it went Republican by a healthy margin. Michigan, another million people smaller, also has a liberal-dominated city you may have also heard of — Detroit. Wisconsin has Milwaukee and Madison.
Here is more math for you. There are two ingredients needed for winning those middle and working-class communities. Have an effective economic (i.e., job-creating) message, and do not offend social conservatives who constitute most of the GOP base. (Illinois Republicans would do well to study Jeffrey Bell’s book The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism.)
Ronald Reagan ran that playbook and took Illinois twice. Those voters came to be known as Reagan Democrats.
Donald J. Trump flipped hundreds of counties around the country that had voted twice for Barack Obama. In Ohio alone, 31 of its 99 counties went from Obama to Trump.
The only difference between voters like that and millions of voters here in the Illinois metro areas is that the voters in other states respond to an economic and social message that is being embraced and sold by Republicans in those states.
Trump talked jobs more convincingly than any Republican since Reagan — and in case you missed it, Trump is strongly pro-life.
It is possible for Illinois to be “purple” in a cycle and red by 2020. Republican State Senator Bill Brady of downstate Bloomington almost won for governor in 2010 and Rauner did in 2014. The GOP picked up six legislative seats in 2016 even while getting slaughtered in statewide vote counts.
Illinois’ economic growth rate is dismal. People are being taxed out of their homes to pay for government employee pensions that are far above what most non-government employees enjoy.
A common theme in much of what I write is that the situation may be dire but solutions are simple. It’s simple math. Simple numbers. And President Trump ran a free seminar last year on how simple it is to turn blue states red.
The only remaining issue is whether the GOP here will finally listen and learn.
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