We’re not there yet

Another election day passes and it’s easy to sum up.

In Illinois, Republicans are still not recruiting or electing enough good candidates to make a difference. With a handful of important exceptions, yesterday’s GOP primary winners at the state level don’t constitute a team able to fix Illinois’ enormous problems. Don’t expect a lot of progress between now and January 2015 when, God willing, we’ll have elected more people with the desire and ability to get the job done.

Folks, I’ve been a close observer of the current crop of Illinois GOP candidates and office holders – and their consultants – for about twenty years now. They are not getting better at their job. Yes, they know how to make a lot of money via campaigns and tax dollars. And yes, they know how to win most elections they can’t lose. But their skill level at advancing a reform agenda means perpetual minority status here at the state level. Barring divine intervention, expect the Democrats to be in complete charge of Springfield until January 2015.

At the national level it looks like the party of traditional values is about to nominate a serial liar. Good luck with that, Republicans. If Mitt Romney somehow manages to defeat Barack Obama in November, I guess the nation will have to learn the hard way (again) about the competence level of the person it just sent to the Oval Office.

God bless Newt Gingrich. I’ve been a big fan of his since the late 1980s. But he thinks he’s running a think tank – not a presidential campaign. By now everyone should know that think tanks don’t get attention. Well run campaigns do.

God bless Rick Santorum. For a number of reasons I can’t shake the sense that he’s not quite ready for prime time. I really want to be proved wrong. No one’s perfect, but like Newt, Rick has mostly been a champion for all three legs of the GOP Platform – the economic, social, and foreign policy issues. While he’s running a better campaign than Newt, he’s not as good as Newt when it comes to articulating what’s needed.

It seems to me that both Newt and Rick are still confused about why they are in the “final four,” albeit at this point hanging by a thread. It’s not that either makes such a wonderful candidate. It’s that they have been the best two non-Romney choices all along.

The last, most important question of this Republican presidential primary process is the same one that was there from the start: Will conservatives get their act together and prevent a Mitt Romney nomination? As of today, the answer still appears to be no, but it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.

Romney is in the lead because of GOP establishment support and the backing of a lot of politically stupid rich people. As I’ve noted often, the failure of that very same GOP establishment paved the way for Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama to win power. Many of those big financial donors funding Romney are insane – doing the same thing yet expecting a different result. Ditto regarding those who support the wrong people at the state level.

Today the Washington Times reports that it’s not just dingbat Republican primary voters who are getting into the act. Romney is now winning more support from tea partiers. I guess it’s just human to have to learn through failure.

Is all lost? Of course not. But like my sober assessments following the 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections (see links at end of article here), I’m expecting another less-than-wonderful post-mortem this fall.

We will not get to policy fixes until conservatives learn how to recruit candidates and run effective, well-funded campaigns. Will they summon the will to shape up? Some of us are committed to continuing the work of convincing inactive GOP platform supporters to engage in the political process. Likewise, the big money people need to wake up and stop wasting millions of dollars supporting candidates, consultants, and organizations that have proven over and over again that they can’t get it done.

It is that simple. Better people supported by smarter money. “Let us go forward together,” Winston Churchill said. He also said, “When you’re going through hell…keep going.”