Step One: admit you have a problem

One of the failed gubernatorial candidates from last March’s Republican primary rejected some good advice about a year ago. The simple suggestion was to admit that Republicans have been a part of the problem in Illinois. It was ignored – but none of the other candidates had the courage to courage to admit it either.

With Topinka facing Blagojevich – there literally is no two-party system at the gubernatorial level. It’s the same batch of people running both campaigns, and it’s the same batch of people who will benefit no matter who wins.

Sure, the names of a few players are different, but they’re all on the pro-government growth team. They’re all looking to cash in at taxpayers’ expense. From a lobbying contract, a consulting contract, a state job, a nice fat line item in an appropriations bill, or a nice big increase in an existing one.

Others look for approval of their little deal. It’s been theorized on these pages that former Governor Jim Edgar’s enthusiasm for Topinka stems from his wanting to see Illinoisans everywhere have the ability to gamble on horse racing via the Internet.

Policy reforms based on Republican Party principles won’t see the light of day no matter what.

Of course, Republicans in this state do have the option of closing up shop and then reopening under a more truthful name: “The Other Democratic Party of Illinois.”

If “Republicans” decide they’d rather pursue Republican Party principles after all, the first step will be to repent of their ways.

Illinois voters aren’t stupid – and credibility has to be earned. The proof that the Illinois GOP completely lacks credibility is that even as poorly as this state is being governed, voters still don’t look to Republicans as a viable alternative.

To earn that credibility, Republicans must separate themselves from their tainted past – both regarding corruption and foolhardy policies.

A few Republicans at the national level are showing signs that they get it. The other day one candidate for Congress admitted that “We Republicans screwed up on spending and immigration,” and he added, “but the Democrats are so dysfunctional they can’t take advantage of it.”

Illinois Democrats might be as left-wing as their national brothers and sisters, but they’re not dysfunctional chiefly because of intelligent leaders like Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. Speaker Madigan has been so successful, in fact, that many Republicans in the state house and senate want to be like Mike when it comes to policy.

There are several other steps necessary if Illinois Republicans will ever amount to anything – but the first is simple: repent!