Illinois GOP ignored every tsunami warning – again (Part 1)

By DOUG IBENDAHL • November 5, 2008


Well here we are again. No one has ever lost money betting on the Illinois Republican Party’s capacity to dig itself deeper under the barrel.


Right after the Illinois GOP’s election wipeout in November 2006, I wrote a piece called Illinois GOP ignored every tsunami warning. It’s a revealing walk down memory lane. I think it will really help you understand why Illinois keeps getting Bluer.


The editorial went through and documented a number of specific examples of incredibly destructive mismanagement that guaranteed disaster for Illinois Republicans in 2006.


After that awful election year, you probably remember a lot of people saying things like “we can’t go any lower” or “the Illinois GOP has finally hit rock bottom” or “there’s no place to go but up.”


Well guess again.


The worst disaster yet


On Tuesday we lost another U.S. Congressional seat in a historically Republican district (Jerry Weller’s seat). And Bill Foster solidified the Democrats hold over yet another historically Republican district with an even bigger win over Jim Oberweis in that 14th Congressional District rematch.


Republicans had a net loss of three more seats in the State House, including a lopsided loss for Brent Hassert, a top member of Tom Cross leadership team. State Senate Republicans were mercifully spared more loses – owing mostly to the fact that the Democrats had already plucked most every seat not located in a district gerrymandered “Hard R.” The Democrats already have a veto-proof majority in that upper chamber. Despite the fact that the Democrats had to defend a lot more territory, they lost no State Senate seats Tuesday.


The U.S. Senate race was such a non-event this year, it’s hardly worth mentioning. The most positive spin that can be put on is that GOP challenger Steve Sauerberg outperformed Alan Keyes’ 2004 finish by a few points (33% vs. 27%).


But of course the numbers on the presidential race are the most disturbing. Barack Obama carried Illinois by 25 points, or over 1.3 million votes (and we all considered 2004 a disaster when John Kerry carried the state by 11 points). Obama’s 62% here is exactly what he got in the ultra-liberal state of Massachusetts.


Sure, Obama was always favored in his home state. But a 25 point victory is a disgrace. Much blame has to go to all the GOP officials here who wouldn’t say a peep in defense of John McCain and Sarah Palin. Worse, most of the very officials who knew Obama the best, did the least to help educate the rest of America about Obama’s radical record. They were all too worried about their own behinds.


Some Republican candidates not only refused to help take Obama to task – they went out of their way to publicize the fact they had already gone through the line for Kool-Aid.


We’re all accustomed to the jellyfish in Illinois of course. But the problem this time was the damage wasn’t just confined to inside our borders. With not so much as a speedbump installed in Illinois, thousands of Democrat volunteers surged to the battleground states to get-out-the-Obama-vote. Obama even managed to win a narrow victory in Indiana on Tuesday, a state President Bush carried by 21 points just four years ago.


Handing Illinois to Obama


As bad as things were in 2006, they’ve only gotten worse since then in the Illinois GOP. Barack Obama is only the latest excuse for the latest trainwreck – he’s not the cause.


At a minimum, we’ll try to get the facts into the hands of every contributor to Andy McKenna‘s organization. They should all be asking for their money back.


For example, anyone who attended the State GOP Convention in Decatur this past June could predict with certainty that we were headed for another bloodbath when a bunch of burly off-duty state workers were ordered to cart out of the convention hall any Republican who had the nerve to ask that even the most basic tenants of Roberts’ Rules of Order be respected.


The point is, John McCain and Sarah Palin never had a prayer in Illinois – and every Republican who has been paying attention at all has known it for a long, long time.


McKenna’s been running an organization that’s not been concerned in the least with John McCain or Sarah Palin. It’s been concerned with only a few Republicans – and a few Democrats too.


You simply can’t work against the Republican base for 11 months of the year, and then in the last month before an election honestly expect people to now scramble to make you look marginally less incompetent when the election returns come in. Tuesday was just the latest proof.


We’ve all seen the consequences when bad management was allowed to go unchecked at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, and other financial institutions. It’s time for Republicans to get equally motivated about fixing the serious structural problems inherent in their Illinois GOP.


The good news is this bailout doesn’t need money – but it does need some spines.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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