You can’t win public opinion without fighting for it

IL GOP Chairman Andy McKenna is confused both by state Senator Kirk Dillard’s de facto endorsement of presidential candidate Barack Obama in a TV ad and state Representative Paul Froehlich’s decision to leave the GOP and become a Democrat. He’s quoted in July 1st’s Chicago Tribune saying,

Ideas are important, [and] it’s the ideas that bind people together,” McKenna said… “I’m not sure what the ideas were that drove those two decisions. I wonder about that.

Let’s try and clear up Andy’s confusion. It’s actually quite simple. In Kirk Dillard’s case, he thinks what the public desperately needs to know is that Republicans can be friends with Democrats.

In Paul Froelich’s case – well Andy – Paul’s last official act as a long time Republican was to show up in Lisle a couple weeks ago to witness your “reform tour.” Guess his response wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, eh?

This website has posted many articles citing the importance of public opinion. Click here to read some of our favorite quotes on the subject from a few guys who knew what they were talking about.

If you were to distill down the failures of Republicans with bully pulpit power in Illinois it’s not their failure to move public opinion – it’s their failure to even try.

The end-of-session noises coming from GOP legislators about “fiscal responsibility” would’ve been more credible if since January they had been working the hustings promoting their new found position.

Their lack of doing so isn’t new. Historically Republican officials here have made only paltry efforts to win support for anything. They have relied on the potential appeal of governors with nice haircuts (Jim Edgar), governors who looked like your grandfather (George Ryan), or on candidates who were indistinguishable from Democrats (Judy Baar Topinka).

That strategy has worked so poorly that today there isn’t an issue that Illinois voters attach to the Republican Party in this state. None. Zip. Nada.

Right now the most popular thing coming out of the mouths of elected Republicans is just how upset they are with Governor Rod Blagojevich and what a terrible person he really is. That’s great – but it also happens to be a popular rant by many elected Democrats, too.

Paul Froehlich’s point that there isn’t much difference between the parties is evidently true even when it comes to a dislike for the governor (who, need we say yet again, just got reelected by a wide margin last November).

It’s an obvious point that if you’re going to attempt to move public opinion you have to have something to move it with. To win it, you have to have something to win it with. And there’s the rub. There still aren’t any issues resonating across the Prairie State because of the efforts of elected Republicans.

For the sake of the exercise, let’s pretend that Illinois Republicans in the General Assembly were going to attempt to win public support for a very modest proposal like a Taxpayers Bill of Rights. With today’s enormous state government the goal of merely checking its growth rate is not radical – it’s quite humble.

The good news is that the effort to engage the public doesn’t require some new invention. There are plenty of avenues already available just waiting to be made use of by a thoughtful group of legislators.

After all, if they had the talent to get elected, there’s a good chance they have at least some of the skills needed to become the kind of sales force any worthy reform requires. Who knows, state house Speaker Mike Madigan and a few of his fellows might even be open to someday buying. (We’re not getting carried away; HB750 was supposed to be a slam dunk this past spring so stranger things have happened.)

A Prime Minister of Luxembourg was once caught saying something rather honest for a politician:

We know what to do – we just don’t know how to get reelected afterwards.

If Illinois legislators aren’t going to take any action to advance solutions based on the principles outlined in the GOP platform then they should follow Paul Froehlich out the exit door. If they think cutting a commercial for a Democrat shows they’re enlightened, then they’re magnificently confused about what their real job is.

Our state government right now is a mess – and believe it or not that’s an opportunity for the Party out of power. Reform is possible – and a winning coalition of interest groups and voters can be built to support it. All it takes is a lot of work.

The proverbial fork in the road exists for Republicans in our General Assembly. They can take the easy way or subject themselves to some discomfort. It’s easy to do the same old thing and hope for a different result. It’s uncomfortable to have to change your habits and aggressively make a case for change to a busy population.

For those wondering why we continually point out Republican failings – it’s very simple: they’re on the wrong road.