There was an important sentence in a Sun-Times news story the other day regarding the Democrat presidential candidate debate at Soldier Field in Chicago on August 7th:
“The crowd of more than 10,000 union members at steamy Soldier Field cheered [Barack] Obama.”
Those union guys and gals who showed up at that Dem debate are the tip of the iceberg that this rudderless Illinois Republican Party will collide with again next year.
Each of those 10,000 union members who cheered every big government/nanny state comment they heard can easily influence several of their friends and family members to volunteer or donate to campaigns and even more people to vote their way on Election Day.
They’re energized – they see their livelihoods directly connected to what takes place on November 4, 2008. They’re up on their feet and ready to act.
Many are wondering what secret plan Illinois GOP Chairman Andy McKenna, and Republican legislative leaders Rep. Tom Cross and Sen. Frank Watson have in the works to inspire rank and file Republicans in this state next year or for that matter in any year following.
Look at Republican campaign disclosure reports. Our Republican leaders receive contributions from public sector unions whose primary interest is in more tax dollars flowing into their membership’s pockets. AFSCME, the IFT, and IEA prefer an income tax increase, but would be just as happy if it comes in the form of gambling revenues.
When Republican legislators are looking to satisfy the tax-eaters, it’s easy to understand why the taxpayers aren’t all that enthused.
Years ago, before the taxeaters were so well organized, Illinois Republicans could run their engines on the fuel of certain high profile national Republicans. In the 1980s, they could rely on the presence of Ronald Reagan to give voters a clue as to why they should vote their way. In the 1990s, they could rely on Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America.” Of course during that decade they also had a favorably drawn legislative district map working in their favor.
In the first elections of this new century the emptiness of the IL GOP began to be revealed and things began to come apart. When it came time for our leadership to draw a distinction for voters between our party and the Democrats, they didn’t know how. They still don’t.
George Ryan’s misdeeds made it worse, certainly, but even before the U.S. Attorney raised the temperature on Ryan and his friends in the Republican old guard most Illinois voters were already having a hard time figuring out the difference between the two political parties.
Governor Ryan’s major proposals during the 1999 spring session were the things big labor and the supporters of big government dreamed of. Most Republicans in the General Assembly had no problem with Ryan’s big spending and big deal making approach to governing.
Which brings us back to the reality facing Andy, Frank, and Tom. It would seem their only hope to ever gain ground is for the Democrats to make an even worse mess of things. As long as there is an adult Democrat in power like Speaker Madigan, odds makers tend to bet against this happening.
Not only that, the fiscal state of this state has been precarious for many years now. Unfortunately, Republicans were complicit in creating that mess. And when they had a chance to make a clean break and offer a reform agenda last year, Andy, Frank and Tom got behind the laughable candidacy of Judy Baar Topinka.
The quality of the decision making on their part hasn’t improved this year, as Andy’s embarrassing tenure at the party continues true to form while Frank and Tom have just missed the historic opportunity of this extended General Assembly session to show Illinois voters how they’d do things differently.
There is a solution – and it’s as simple as finding the Party’s rudder (direction) and the Party’s propeller (motivation).
If the Republican message coming from our legislative leaders is that they can manage the growth of big state government better, forget motivating anyone who would work against those 10,000 angry union members and their friends.
There is no sign our current Republican leaders are willing to even take the first step. And any words spoken by Andy, Frank, or Tom that don’t include repentance for past Republican sins will be dismissed as not credible.
Newt Gingrich may not hold office right now but he’s still showing Republicans what’s needed. Recently the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Gingrich talking about Republican fortunes:
“I believe we need to find leaders who are prepared to tell the truth … about the failures of the performance of Republicans … failed bureaucracies …”
“We were in charge for six years,” he said, referring to the period between 2001 and early 2007, when the GOP controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. “I don’t think you can look and say that was a great success.”
Gingrich wrote in the Washington Post last month that,
“The country is at a crossroads, a different kind of place from where we’ve been before. The special interests seem more reactionary and entrenched than ever, the bureaucracies much larger. We need to marshal the courage to change, and we need to understand what needs changing…
Start with the will to change. Most American politicians have lost that. Or, if they have it, they are hostage to advisers who don’t have the will to change.”
That’s the case right here in Illinois.
Gingrich’s summation of what happened last year nationally is that –
“Republicans were punished in 2006 for their own failure to run the system effectively. They were also punished for failing to develop a new system… They didn’t really even know what was wrong.
Citizens had to choose between a left enthusiastically raising taxes to run failing bureaucracies and a right passively attempting to avoid tax increases while bureaucracies decay and policies fail around it.”
Again, it sure sounds like Illinois.
Until we see a change of leadership, don’t bet against those 10,000.