We Have a Scale Problem in Illinois Republican Politics (Part 1)

In this and the next article I am going to address one of the most costly mistakes Illinois Republicans and conservatives continue to make election cycle after election cycle. Unfortunately, 2022 is shaping up to be much like all the previous elections for the past three decades.

One of the common traits of GOP and conservative action here is that the important players always believe that this time! it is going to be different. The Republican whose name is on the ballot believes it because “I’m not like all those other failed candidates.” And maybe they’re not, but no one personality can overcome the structural deficit of political action at the ground level in Illinois Republican politics.

Other common beliefs heading into election day include the view that “the polls show nationally this is going to be a good year for Republicans, so we will do better in Illinois as well.” The only problem is that good Republican years nationally rarely impact Illinois Republicans.

Another one is that “the state of Illinois is in such bad shape right now, surely Illinois voters will throw the Dems out. Policy disasters—from taxes to shutdowns to companies fleeing the state—will finally make voters wake up and change their mind about voting for Democrats.”

Illinois has been in bad shape for a very long time. Yes, it’s worse today, but what has to change is not the worsening of Dem policy consequences. What has to change is that Republicans and conservatives must realize they have not been getting the work done that wins elections.

For one, they have not been manning the precincts and overseeing early voting, voting day voting, and the after-election day vote counting. They haven’t been doing so in anywhere near sufficient numbers needed to insure fair elections.

There are pockets of good activity in different areas of the state where a good local party organization or individual campaign takes the ground level work seriously. But statewide there is not nearly the amount of work getting done that is required to win.

Try telling that to the statewide campaigns. You’ll either get a blank stare or a retort that their operation is the best ever seen in Illinois. It may be the best ever seen, but to be that is clearing a very low bar.

In their defense, to be a statewide candidate or campaign manager is an overwhelming task. GOP nominee Darren Bailey has a lot of people in his ear—the RNC in D.C., the Republican Governor’s Association, the Illinois state party, legislative caucus leaders, other statewide candidates, and, of course, numerous “experts” who consult for all of the above and believe they’ve got it all figured out.

Others are sure that their app or their new data toy or their brilliant TV or radio ad or internet marketing effort will win the day. Having watched countless variations on that belief over that past 30 years in Illinois, it’s easy to guess that the believers will be as wrong this time as they were previously.

I can see some pick-ups in the state house or senate if the Democrats allow it in districts they don’t care about. But not enough to overthrow the super majorities enjoyed by the Democrats. (Those pick-ups will fool Republicans and conservatives into believing again that Illinois elections are secure.)

Governor J.B. Pritzker wants to run for president. Republicans are far from being on the kind of war footing that is needed to oversee and ensure real elections. So, the Dems will be able to see that he wins at least by a little more this time than he did last time.

As my friends know, I am happy to be wrong about all of this. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am.

Up next: Part 2.

The Ground War ongoing series of articles can be found here.