Only the Ignorant Blame President Trump for Latest Illinois GOP Disaster

By DOUG E. IBENDAHL • November 25, 2018


It would be an understatement to say the 2018 election was a bloodbath for the Illinois GOP. Republicans lost two more U.S. House seats, and all six statewide constitutional offices were won by Democrats by huge margins.


And with seven pick-ups in the state House, Democrats will have the most power there since far back in the 1800s, in the days before there was even a Republican Party. Democrats already had a supermajority in the state Senate, and they expanded on that by three seats.


Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly are now so pointless we would be better off if they all focused on real jobs and returned their bloated state salaries to the taxpayers. Better that than have them sitting around, whining and moaning about 76-year-old Mike Madigan for another two years, only to have Madigan make them his bitch again at yet another election.


The engineers of this latest train wreck assume you are stupid. They want to stay around and keep their impressive sounding titles. They apparently don’t care how much more ground they cede to the Democrats.


So instead of looking in the mirror, many are already blaming Donald Trump. Just forget about the fact the GOP was dying and getting nothing done before President Trump came along.


You are also supposed to ignore the fact that 2018 is far from some outlier. The Illinois GOP suffered bloodbaths in multiple recent elections, back when Donald Trump was just a successful builder and network television star.


For example, there was the 2006 bloodbath: Illinois GOP ignored every tsunami warning.


The 2008 bloodbath: Illinois GOP ignored every tsunami warning – again.


The 2012 bloodbath: State GOP Chair Pat Brady and crew must resign.


You would actually have to go back to the last century to name a year the Illinois GOP could truly brag about. Yes, Bruce Rauner prevailed in 2014 but that had a lot to do with the unions deciding to stick it to incumbent Pat Quinn that year for his work on pension reform. Rauner also made a lot of promises about getting Illinois back on its feet. When he failed to follow-through, he paid the price and took a lot of Republicans down with him this year.


We’re in that post-bloodbath period now where the same failures repeat the same platitudes they repeated after all the other bloodbaths. “The Illinois GOP must do a better job of communicating.” “Republicans must be more welcoming to women and young voters.” And of course, that old stand-by: “The Party must reach out more to minority communities.”


If history has taught us anything, it’s that this period of repeating platitudes is followed by doing exactly the same thing until the next bloodbath when the process starts all over again.


Instead of allowing the same failed misfits to blame President Trump, we should be asking, why are we allowing people to stay around who haven’t lifted a finger to support President Trump, the one actual doer we have?


We finally have a national leader on the Republican side who is actually doing all the things the Illinois GOP pretends to want to address.


Communication? Trump keeps up a direct personal conversation with the American people via Twitter and his many public appearances. He’s the most transparent President in history, hands down. Trump communicates like the executive he’s been for decades, and he doesn’t insult the listener by adopting a phony, pompous style like Barack Obama quickly did.


Minority outreach? Trump is growing the GOP base like no one before. People who never previously considered voting for any Republican now support this President. In Trump they see a fighter who is genuinely on their side, unlike so many empty suits of the past.


Combine Trump’s star power with his bona fides as a builder, and we finally have a Republican who can offer legitimate hope to black and Hispanic families trapped under Democratic rule in neglected neighborhoods in Chicago and other Illinois towns.


Trump is the best champion we’ve ever had on issues like school choice, infrastructure rebuilding, inner city development, and safe communities.


Republicans in other states get it, but the Illinois GOP remains clueless – and cowardly. Rather than stand with the one Republican who actually knows how to get things done, GOP officials here abandoned the President and his winning agenda. And it wasn’t just Bruce Rauner and all of the candidates who blindly followed his losing strategy because they relied on his money. As I recently explained, even the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party hasn’t lifted a finger for President Trump because he thought it would hurt his chances to keep his seat on the Cook County Board this year. He lost miserably anyway.


The Trump Administration has a great story to tell. It’s a winning story. What we lack in Illinois are the salesmen with the courage and smarts to take that message to the people. Yes, a place like Chicago is a tough market, but the fact is the Illinois GOP hasn’t even seriously tried to help our President communicate his message.


And yes, it’s true Trump lost Illinois badly in 2016 (actually only slightly worse than Mitt Romney did four years prior). But Trump also had to contend with an Illinois Republican Party which was openly hostile to him. Even more shameful, few have made any effort since then to move the needle by educating voters with truthful news about the Trump agenda.


As far as I can tell, there was really only one Republican candidate in Illinois who truly embraced President Trump this year. That was downstate congressman Mike Bost who won by better than 6 points in a race Republicans thought would be razor close, at best.


Meanwhile, the same old GOP officials who preach the same old platitudes about growing the party and being more inclusive, have in truth been almost singularly focused on keeping their own titles at the expense of the party’s success. Every four years we watch as Republican energy is quashed at a horribly rigged State GOP Convention, and Illinois Republican voters still have much less of a voice in their state party than Illinois Democrats have in theirs.


And this year we witnessed a new and unbelievable level of self-dealing corruption when black Trump supporters were denied entry to at least two GOP events – events which in the past had been open to all.


A blind man could see this is simply not a party that is even attempting to practice what it preaches. The Illinois GOP abandons Trump because it has nothing in common with President Trump.


I truly believe some of our Illinois GOP officials ankle bite and run away from our President because the concept of a successful Republican leader who works his butt off is just so alien to them.


The 18 members of the Illinois Republican Party’s state central committee have their next quarterly meeting this Saturday, December 1st. If history is any guide, there will be no thought about anyone accepting personal responsibility. It will be more stale platitudes, with no concern for the serious innovation the Illinois GOP desperately needs.


The Republican rank-and-file are just supposed to sit around and wait for the next bloodbath.


Supporters of President Trump need to step-up and take the lead. Let your local & state GOP officials know that the status-quo just isn’t going to cut it anymore. And even more importantly, start thinking about running for public or party office yourself.


The Illinois GOP has enough platitude spouters. We need Trump-like doers.


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



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