Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Charting a Republican Revival

Midweek next week each day will get a little longer than the one before it. Yet despite the extra sunlight each day, the temperature will keep getting colder for almost a month and a half.

Ten years ago, when Republicans seemed nearly as dominant in state politics as Democrats do now, I argued that the Republican Party was actually very weak, hollowed out by too many years of top-down leadership that had sapped it of its vitality while the grass roots withered from neglect and indifference. It was just a matter of time before it all came tumbling down. It was our Republican October, each day already dwindling down to nothing, while some of us were beguiled by the warmth that was the inertial residue of the sun's labors in May and June.

Our December came in 2002. Despite the progressively worse cycles of 2004 and 2006, already the days are getting longer for Republicans.

Regardless of what anyone thought about the Alan Keyes selection, what was notable was that the Republican State Central Committee made it; it was not dictated to them from above. Whether their decision was right or wrong, they were no longer merely the governor's supper club. This year the County Chairman's Assn. has shown signs of renewed life and vigor. Across the state Republicans are talking again about what must be done to win elections, rather than arguing over which crony will get the spoils. Having no spoils to divvy up does tend to focus the mind.

People can criticize Republican Chairman Andy McKenna, but he has improved relations and communications with the grass roots. The State Central Committee is becoming a real working body on his watch. John Tsarpalis is the finest Executive Director in memory.

Yes, serious problems abound. Two years ago Alan Keyes led the ticket. He tanked badly and moderates pointed to conservatives and said, "Loser!" This year Judy Topinka led the ticket. She tanked badly and conservatives point to moderates and say, "Loser!" For a long time some conservative factions have busied themselves seeking Republicans to purge rather than Democrats to defeat. Though they have not been quite as publicly prickly about it, the old moderate establishment spent as many years relentlessly trying to deny any conservative any seat at the table. A conservative cannot win this state without moderate support. A moderate cannot win this state without conservative support.

National Committeeman Bob Kjellander has become a cancer on the party. (Full disclosure here - I sat on the committee two years ago that recommended his retention. I voted in favor of it. I was wrong). He needs to find a graceful way to move on. If he doesn't, he will force State Central Committeemen to either repudiate him and refuse to deal with him or see their own heads on the chopping block. Karl Rove is genuinely his old school chum, but for many reasons, that does not carry as much weight as it once did. But when the need comes for such changes, it would be useful if discussion about them was rational and civil, rather than at the top of our lungs. Two years ago, every credible alternative that was approached declined, voicing no interest in a volunteer job that might find them with an angry mob demanding their head on a pike a few years down the line. The sole alternative we were offered started his presentation by explaining he didn't really want the job.

There are moderates and conservatives who understand all this. Republicans do not win issueless elections. Neither do they win elections when their standard-bearer spends his time with his face contorted in rage condemning fellow Republicans to outer darkness. In 2008 Sen. Dick Durbin is up for re-election. It will be a tough race. But if the Republican nominee is either a cheery conservative who emphasizes his positive agenda or a moderate who does not embrace the far-left agenda on abortion and gay marriage, Republicans will have a fighting chance - and that will bring out Republican voters that will bring gains in down-ballot races regardless of the ultimate outcome at the top of the ticket. If not, we Republicans will be doomed to spend another cycle pointing fingers at each other and accurately crying, "Loser!"

We don't have to have a Republican June to be successful next cycle. But it would be nice to get to March or April. It's been January long enough.


Robbie C. 8:30 AM  

CJ - I very much enjoyed reading this post. It seems like your analysis fits the situation pretty accurately. I think its safe to say because of the cyclical nature of things, that you will rebound. I also in my area see a lot of what you talk about happening to R's in the past. We may be winning elections, but we have no young up and coming leaders of the party. Its become a very elitist group of people that cant let go of the past.


Levois 10:32 AM  

The Cook County GOP is showing some life. It just needs some more life. LOL!!!

Anonymous,  9:30 PM  

Skoien was mediocre
McKenna and Tsarpalas sucked

Kjellander is a distraction at best

Young Republican,  2:10 AM  

It's bad enough when the "mainstream" media keeps using the term "moderate," in reference to liberals (in both the Republican and Democrat parties).

Conservatives like yourself shouldn't be doing the same thing. Let's call a spade a spade, and a liberal a liberal.

Anonymous,  4:31 PM  

Give it up Charlie. I think everyone is quite sick of your double-talk. You're becoming a parody of yourself.

Your absurd statement that ...

"The State Central Committee is becoming a real working body on his watch. John Tsarpalis is the finest Executive Director in memory"

...reminds me of how you defended the indefensible Kjellander until "the powers that be" told you it was not the thing to do anymore (some bulletin will no doubt go out soon telling all stooges who is the more effective replacement that is desired).

I just feel sad for the next hapless candidate who is told to hire you so you can keep defending the indefensible. I pray that Zinga has woken up.

Talking about beating Durbin is pollyanish. The State GOP is still getting WEAKER, and will continue to do so until we get the dishonest stooges off the field.

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