Illinois Republicans were expecting more wins last month to say the least. Rumor has it that state house minority leader Tom Cross was even bragging about winning a majority and becoming Speaker. While picking up a majority in the state senate was deemed less likely, in such a big Republican year it wasn’t impossible. Certainly, few people expected Pat Quinn to edge out Bill Brady for governor.
The civil unions bill that passed the General Assembly last week could’ve been over-turned by a Republican-run state government. Unfortunately, not enough Republicans here have shown evidence that they understand a simple fact: without public support you can’t win, nor can your principles – so there is nothing as important as reaching more people and moving public opinion.
I realize that our Republican caucuses in the G.A. are riddled with RINOs, but looking at the roll call votes on the civil unions bill few “R’s” left the Party Platform reservation. And while a dangerously high number of anti-platform Republicans hold seats, there’s little doubt the next two years would’ve been a lot more pleasant for those who support traditional values, fiscal responsibility and limited government had the GOP taken power.
But they didn’t take power. And it wasn’t because they didn’t have enough time to reach the voting public. Eight years is plenty of time. Right now we’re facing an enormous expansion of gambling and a hefty tax increase.
The GOP Platform points the way to innumerable solutions that think thanks and other state legislatures around the country have shown to be workable. Their failure was because, to paraphrase Thomas Sowell’s words, “they couldn’t talk.”
Sowell had a two-part column last week with the title “Can Republicans Talk?” Readers of this column will recognize a familiar theme in Sowell’s words. In part 1 he writes about the national debate over whether to extend the Bush era tax cuts set to expire in January.
“How the tax-rate battle in Congress turns out may depend,” Sowell writes, “on how well the Republicans answer [the Democrats’] arguments.” The arguments are not new, Sowell says (emphasis added):
They go back more than 80 years. Over that long span of time, there have been many sharp cuts in tax rates under Presidents Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. So we don’t need to argue in a vacuum. There is a track record.
What does that record say? It says, loud and clear, that cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues. In all four of these administrations, of both parties, so-called “tax cuts for the rich” led to increased tax revenues– with people earning high incomes paying not only a larger sum total of tax revenues, but even a higher proportion of all tax revenues. Most important of all, these tax rate reductions spurred economic activity, which we definitely need today.
These are the facts. But facts do not ‘speak for themselves.’ In terms of facts, the Republicans have the stronger case. But that doesn’t matter, unless they make the case, which they show little sign of doing.
Democrats already understand the need for articulation. Robert Reich is only one of many articulate Democratic spokesmen. But where are the articulate Republicans? Do they even understand how crucial articulation is? The outcome of this lame duck session of Congress may answer that question.
In part 2 Sowell ads this:
But economic success is not the same as political success. As former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it, ‘Demagoguery beats data.’
As long as the voters keep buying the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ demagoguery, politicians will keep selling it. And it will keep selling as long as it goes unanswered. The question is whether today’s Republicans understand that…
My friends, it’s the same dynamic on every single issue we face, both at the state level and the federal level. If voters aren’t effectively presented with a good choice, they’ll make the wrong one as they have here in Illinois by reelecting Democrats.