President Trump is the Last Hope for Illinois

By DOUG IBENDAHL • February 12, 2018


We’re likely approaching a tipping point where it will eventually be too late to save Illinois. To paraphrase the band Aerosmith, many with any get up and go already got up and went.


Seriously people, what is it going to take?


Illinois has been losing significant population for four straight years. In 2017 alone exits exceeded arrivals by 115,000. That works out to an average of one person fleeing the state every 4.6 minutes, around the clock, each and every day of the year.


For years Illinois was the fifth most populous state, but not anymore. We slipped to 6th place behind Pennsylvania a few months ago.


The entire state is hurting and continues to lag behind the rest of the country. The Chicago area remains an engine for tech and other white collar job creation, but many residents are unprepared to share in that opportunity after serving forced sentences in rotten public schools.


Downstate meanwhile is increasingly becoming something on the order of a feudal economy where large landowners do well in farming, while others compete for a dwindling number of manufacturing jobs. If you live south of Interstate 80 and aren’t a member of the landed gentry, the closest you’ll likely come to job security is to be employed by a university, school, prison, or other government outfit.


The only state to rival Illinois’ unpopularity is West Virginia which has experienced five straight years of net population loss.


Illinois is on a track where at some point the remaining population consists of such a high proportion of elderly retirees and government employees that the government employees will be sitting around wondering how they will pay each other’s generous government pensions.


And by that I mean more than they already do.


So that’s the bad news.


The good news is America hired a builder in November 2016, and after one year in office he’s outperformed even the highest expectations.


The progress America has already made under President Trump is remarkable. You’ve likely heard the statistics, black and Hispanic unemployment at record lows, and overall jobless claims are at a 45 year low. Families are seeing real improvements in their take home pay and 401(k)s. Capital investment and jobs are coming home from other countries. America is respected around the world again.


Yes, Trump’s success on historic tax reform and elimination of job-killing, overly burdensome regulations have been key. But there’s much more going on.


Americans are overwhelmingly confident and optimistic about the future again.


In Trump we have strength of vision and commitment to big themes, but we also have a man who is literally working night-and-day on the details. We have a President today who is willing to sacrifice essentially everything in his personal life to do two big things: keep America safe, and create jobs and opportunity for all citizens regardless of their gender, race, creed, or national origin.


All of this terrifies the Democrats of course. As hope is restored and as people keep escaping the Liberal Plantation, the Democratic Party will keep losing the voters that it’s taken for granted. Keeping the borders open and converting illegal immigrants to active voters is the Democratic Party’s only hope of long-term survival, at least on a national level.


So the Democrats are always going to hate on Trump. That’s a given. But I’m not a Democrat so frankly I don’t care what that party does. It’s not my job to make the Democratic Party something other than a shrinking regional club where dishonest people cling to power by cynically ginning-up racial division.


What I do find inexcusable – and inexplicable – is the abandonment of President Trump by essentially every GOP official in Illinois. There are some exceptions, but by and large there are no Republican elected officials at the state level seriously standing-up for this President in Illinois.


The stupidity starts at the top with Governor Bruce Rauner (who refuses to even say the President’s name) and filters down from there.


It would be one thing if the GOP in Illinois knew what it was doing and was making progress, but clearly it doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. Sitting around whining about the 75-year-old Democratic Party Leader Mike Madigan isn’t work and it certainly isn’t leadership.


Meanwhile we actually have a President out there who is showing Republicans how to fight and work productively, and he’s been doing it every single day for over two years now. Trump has been battling bad people on multiple fronts, and he keeps winning. But the more he advances the ball and the more vicious the entrenched opposition gets, the deeper Illinois GOP officials head into the tall grass. It’s repulsive to witness.


President Trump is the only real do-er out there. His energy and can-do attitude are infectious and we can see the result on the national level every day. Trump has taken the sleepy Grand Old Party he found and has put it to work. Not only is the party better, but Trump brings out the best in the individuals he works with. Even Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are looking like effective leaders – an absolute miracle, and it’s all owing to Donald Trump.


Then-candidate Trump repeatedly warned us during the campaign that we would get tired of all the winning. The people who scoffed at that suggestion have been left behind, lying exhausted in Trump’s dust.


Again, what is it going to take?


Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is a lost cause. He’s made his bed with his proven record of dishonesty, incompetence and betrayal. And he certainly can’t expect President Trump’s help at this point. Rauner isn’t savvy enough to seek it in any case.


Republican Primary challenger Jeanne Ives could easily defeat Rauner. Ives’ problem is she hasn’t really earned President Trump’s support or that of his supporters. It’s still not too late but she would have to make significant changes. Right now she doesn’t seem to be truly behind the President or his winning agenda. She’s not a Never-Trumper like Rauner, but her support is lukewarm at best, as evidenced by the way she’s blown her most obvious path to victory thus far.


History says that mid-term elections are usually bad for an incoming President’s party. But I don’t think that will be the case this year for Republicans nationally. Trump has saved the GOP from itself. However, Illinois is likely to buck the trend. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.


President Trump should be a huge asset for any Illinois Republican running this year. However, laziness and horrible judgment by the local yokels are squandering the potential. Failure to stand with the President against the Left and its media toadies, coupled with refusal to help educate voters about the winning Trump agenda are turning an asset into a liability.


Clearly we’re saddled with a lot of cowards in Illinois politics. That’s not seriously debatable. But one would think even cowards would be smart enough to act in their own self-interest.


The Trump agenda represents the only serious plan out there for rebuilding America and the work is well underway. Smart politicians in other states across the country get it. Their states are already reaping positive results from the Trump economy. And they’ll continue to welcome some of the best and brightest from Illinois who decide they can no longer tolerate this state’s incompetence and dysfunction.


Illinois Republicans have only one card left to play and that’s the Trump Card. Played well the GOP could restore hope to all Illinoisans from Cairo to Chicago and beyond.


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


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