For reference purposes, my long-time readers know that I’m a moderate Independent. I tend to vote Republican in local races and Democratic in state and federal contests. I’m also a fiscal hawk, but a social liberal. And those same readers understand I consistently hold both liberal and conservative feet to the fire.
As I’m about to embark upon providing a blueprint for how Illinois and Collar County Republicans can recover from Tuesday night’s almost bloodbath, please understand that no partisan bent is involved here. This is simply an analysis that I’d do for the Democratic Party after a hard day, too.
So, let’s get started:
1. Ditch the social issues
That battle is long over in Illinois and most of the country. Our sons and daughters don’t give a rat’s patootie about their peers’ sexuality. Roe v. Wade will never be overturned, especially in Illinois. Because of the vast revenue it provides, marijuana will become legal in Illinois and every state. It’s time to stop the utterly ineffective War on Drugs and embrace minorities.
The irony is, the GOP is supposed to be the party of less government, but trying to dictate morality is the worst of big government.
2. Stop the candidate purity tests
This is really an extension of the social issue point. Jeanne Ives may passed the “are you a RINO” test, but had she beaten Rauner in the primary, Pritzker would’ve trounced her by 30 points, and not just 15.
When Republican’s hang their hats on candidates who can’t win a general election, year in and year out, it does nothing more than weakens the party, especially in the eyes of young voters. The Illinois and Collar County GOP apparatus has got to start recruiting candidates based on their capacity to win, not their appeal to those true believers.
3. Stop governing by temper tantrum
I’ll say it again! It took 30 years for Speaker Madigan to accrue this kind of power and it’s going to take a lot more than one scant four-year gubernatorial term to loosen his grip. Holding the entire state hostage through an absurdly manufactured budget crisis sealed Governor Rauner’s 2018 fate.
Michael Madigan will be a Springfield reality until they wheel him out of the House on a gurney with that gavel still firmly clutched in his right hand. And even if he wasn’t the 500-pound gorilla in the room, Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day. The only way government ever moves forward is through a series of compromises that eventually lead to a specific goal.
Temper tantrums may elate that rabid base, but they damage the Party in the long run.
4. Stop bitching about him and build a Madigan-esque ground game
This is the most important point. While Democratic gerrymandering provides somewhat of an electoral advantage, it wouldn’t mean a thing without that incomparable Madigan ground game. I am officially retiring from campaign managing with an 85 percent track record, and the only thing that would’ve made me sweat would’ve been to go up against a Madigan backed opponent.
Illinois Republicans are certainly willing to pay lip service to Darth Madigan, but they aren’t willing to do the real work. Yes! Building a countywide candidate’s ground game was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, and it’s exponentially worse at the state level, but that’s the only way you beat the Speaker.
Madigan has approached the process like he’s running a baseball farm system. He brings campaign managers up through the ranks, starting with the easier races, and they’re expected to follow a very specific template. So, when he finally does leaves office, that ground game will still be knocking off Republicans.
5. Stop excoriating teachers
It certainly didn’t work out too well for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, now, did it?
For purposes of full disclosure, my wife is a teacher, but I’ve been baffled the consistent GOP/conservative attacks on educators long before my wife became one. Considering the amount of education required, most don’t make much money, Illinois teachers put more into their pension funds than any other union, and most of you wouldn’t last a week at that gig.
When discussing the Tuesday night debacle with a high-ranking Kane County Republican, he lamented that young voters, who showed up in droves, blindly followed in the footsteps of their liberal teachers.
My lightning fast response was, “Are you surprised?” If I had to face years of Republican animosity you better believe I’d convince my young charges to vote Democratic. It’s like what I say to my 40 lb. Australian cattle dog when she tries to take on a 110-pound German Shepherd, “You need to choose your battles a lot more wisely.”
It’s having a deleterious effect on the profession, too. When my wife was hired by the East Aurora School District in 2013, there was stiff competition for each job. Now D131 can’t hire enough teachers because there aren’t enough of them out there.
6. Stop worrying about old white men and start worrying about young voters
Considering those mid-term election results, I don’t think I need to make this point, but let’s cover it just to be safe.
I understand that being “primaried” is a real Republican concern right now, and primary voters tend to demand purity, but who’s fault is that? The GOP created that monster by embracing the Tea Party and now those chickens have come home to roost.
With their old white male base rapidly dying off, if Republicans don’t make some sort of shift towards younger voters, the Party will die off, too.
Some liberal ideas are worth embracing. Not all liberalism is bad. Not all Democrats are looking for a handout. Despite being a fiscal hawk, I’d gladly accept a tax increase to make junior college tuition free. It will pay off exponentially down the line. Again, drop the social issues. Jail doesn’t work. It’s nothing more than a ridiculously expensive means of creating better criminals. Embrace minorities. Legalizing marijuana is an inevitability, so why fight it?
7. Embrace Hispanic voters
That Republican icon, Ronald Reagan, said it back in 1980, “Latinos are really Republicans, they just don’t know it yet.” He received 37 percent of the Hispanic vote and George H. W. Bush got a record 44 percent. But today’s Republicans are all too willing to follow in President Trump’s “Mexicans are all rapists and murderers” footsteps.
Having run, or been a part of, six campaigns involving Aurora, I can tell you, without hesitation, that Hispanics are conservative. They go to church, they have two or three jobs, the legal ones don’t like the illegal ones, and they believe in family.
But if Republicans keep making brown-skinned folks their boogeyman, those voters will be lost forever. The fact that Hispanics will become the U.S. majority in 2044 should truly terrify the Party of Lincoln.
8. Reasonably repudiate Trumpism
Staying silent in the face of his raging bigotry, sexism and general bullying isn’t good enough. The proof in the Jello pudding is the number of millennials that turned out on Tuesday. And the only reason they voted was to send a message to the President.
Like I said on Wednesday, if Republicans don’t take back their party, and do it soon, Trump’s ridiculous rhetoric will continue to mortgage its future to the point where the GOP will go the way of the Whigs.
So, there you have it. My eight-point plan to restore the Republican Part to a reasonable facsimile of what it was when I was growing up. But before my liberal friends accuse me of being a traitor, please remember, they’ll never listen to the likes of me!