Illinois Republicans on the rise?
If the Democrats introduced a bill to burn down the U.S. Capitol, the Republicans would compromise and agree to phase it in over three years.
That was the lament of former Republican U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop before he chose not to seek re-election in 1994.
That was the same year that the national GOP saw several of its old warhorses retire, clearing the way for Newt Gingrich and his band of conservative backbenchers.
While Sen. Wallop's frustrated observation certainly befits the rumored existence of today's Illinois Republican Party, the retirements of Congressmen Hastert, LaHood, and Weller and more than a half-dozen GOP state legislators provide an opportunity for a new generation to emerge.
Might we be on the cusp of a Republican Renaissance in Illinois?
The difference and therefore the problem is that the Illinois GOP has no cohesive group of individuals a la the Gingrich team that has been biding their time waiting for the opportune moment to breach the gap and provide the party what it has been lacking--namely, ideas and party discipline.
Instead, the Illinois GOP remains a warlord-ocracy.
It is a party at war with itself to no particular ends. The hope of governance has been forlorn so it's every man for himself.
Those candidates who seek to replace Hastert, LaHood, and Weller and their brothers-in-arms marching into battle under the Republican banner this cycle would do well to work in concert to accomplish a single yet elusive objective: re-establish the Republican Party brand in Illinois.
Renew the promise that the Republican Party label evoked in voters' minds once upon a time by consistently articulating the first principles of the GOP--freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility--and making those principles the moral construct that defines the party. Rather than chasing the issue du jour, drive the debate around the advancement of these big ideas.
Convey the message and the money and manpower will follow. Do not, and the Illinois GOP will continue to be the Mogadishu of American politics.