The Illinois Republican Party faces a dismal immediate future with no money, few volunteers and devastated morale.
As if the November 2018 loss of the governorship, all statewide offices, two key Congressional seats and a Democrat super majority in both Illinois legislative chambers weren’t enough, the picture grows bleaker browsing further down the ballot. Once-Republican strongholds at the county board level were devastated in the Blue Tsunami. Democrats now either dominate or have gained substantial political power in the collar counties – even in longtime GOP safeplace DuPage County.
South suburban Bremen Township GOP held their annual Christmas Party Thursday night, and the mood was somber one month after the party’s November disaster. The rank-and-file freely discussed their disgust with the party’s leadership, the incumbent governor and the sad future of the state in which they’ve raised their children. Party member after member discussed exit plans from a state they had at one time intended to enjoy their golden years.
And all of that was before the evening’s keynote speaker Dan Proft shared his views of the party’s performance in November. For months, Proft’s disgust with the Illinois Republican Party leadership has been a topic of conversation often on his WIND 560 AM morning talk show. There was no public challenge to the despair he voiced Thursday night – even with a member of the IL GOP State Central Committee and a GOP statewide candidate in the room.
Proft opened by referring to an op-ed title after Republicans to Illinois’ east won major races at the same time Illinois Republicans experienced defeat statewide. The Indianapolis Star op-ed asked, “Will there be an Indiana Democrat Party?” Proft then asked the same about the Illinois Republican Party – and pointed directly to the party’s leadership for the failure.
“In my lifetime, since I have been on this planet, there has been nobody in any leadership position in this party – at the caucus level, statewide nominees, much less elected officials who advanced conservative culture change the way Mitch Daniels did in Indiana, the way Scott Walker did in Wisconsin. And it turns out those choices have consequences,” Proft told the crowd.
“And so we find ourselves with more Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly than we had since the 1830s, before the Republican Party existed,” Proft said. “The reaction from those who would like to excommunicate me – specifically – and people who believe the things I believe and support the candidates I supported – are interested in making sure we have a party that’s fits a narrow description.
“Their reaction has been ‘It’s not our fault,'” Proft said. “This is a party at the leadership level that is pathologically incapable of accepting responsibility. And until that changes, the answer to the Indianapolis Star’s question about Democrats – applying to Illinois Republicans – is ‘No.'”
Silence fell over the room. Standing on the sidelines, listening intently to Proft’s words, was Republican 3rd CD State Central Committeeman Sean Morrison, who had just confirmed earlier to Illinois Review that the IL GOP State Chairman Tim Schneider had no intention of stepping down from his position.
Morrison, who won re-election as a member of the Cook County Board, voiced deep concern about the future of the Illinois Republican Party in light of losses up and down the mid-term election ballot. With the loss of Rauner’s re-election bid, the IL GOP’s funds would be deplete, the organization’s rank and file were discouraged and the State Central Committee saw the looming prospect of beginning a reconstruction process, he said.
“Chairman Schneider will not be stepping down,” Morrison said. His comment lined up with two other ILGOP State Central Committee members Illinois Review spoke with after last Saturday’s meeting in Bolingbrook.
John McGlasson, the 16th CD State Central Committeeman, said that he did not anticipate any party leadership changes in the near future.
“I can say that Chairman Schneider has every intention of staying on. He did not offer any apologies. Did not offer anything new. They blamed the usual suspects – but the chairman did look me in the eye several times,” McGlasson said.
“In my opinion, they think there should be a unified message and that message should not be pro-President Trump, should not be pro-life, should not be pro-Second Amendment,” McGlasson said. “They want a unified message – a message that is theirs.”
There was some disappointment voiced about the governor not coming through with funding for get out the vote and early voting programs, but other than that, no blame was placed on the top of the ticket – exactly where many rank and file voters cast blame.
McGlasson’s comments lined up with 14th CD State Central Committeeman Stan Bond’s. Bond, who has been temporarily sidelined by health issues, expressed hope that the IL GOP will stick to its party platform – meaning a conservative slant. Bond’s hope clashes with others who expect the current leadership to abandon if their proposed “unified” message is embraced. Bond says that conservative IL GOP platform is crucial to the party’s future.
“Conceptually I will say our party must remain loyal to its platform – a document which seemed largely ignored by losing candidates in this last cycle,” Bond told Illinois Review.
All of the three IL GOP State Central Committeeman Illinois Review spoke with agreed that Proft’s call for a change in IL GOP leadership would be ignored, barring any organized effort from the party’s rank and file – something not evident on the horizon.
There was, however, one voice that publicly called for the party leadership to resign – the small, but growing, Illinois Conservative Union.
Those Republicans that have been around for a while will remember another once-weak voice that grew and multiplied when it called for conservative reform within the Illinois Republican Party ranks. Decades ago, the conservative United Republican Fund pulled to the right as much as possible – speaking up for the conservatives with no voice within the Jim Thompson/Jim Edgar Republican Party eras.
Jim Edgar at one time begrudgingly dubbed the United Republican Fund “the conscience of the Illinois Republican Party,” and was forced to deal with the group’s conservative power houses, including at the time substantial check writers over the years such as Turtlewax CEO Denis Healy, Peacock Engineering founder Jerry Hayden, Ozinga Concrete’s Marty Ozinga III, conservative activist Steve Baer, Oberweis Dairy’s Jim Oberweis and Jay Potato Chips’ John Cox – among many others.
The URF backed conservative Republican candidates over the years – and had an impact on the party as a whole. The Illinois Conservative Union appears to be following the URF’s template. One of their most publicized public statements was earlier this week calling for the Republican Party chairman to step down.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives – who almost unseated GOP incumbent governor Bruce Rauner in the 2018 GOP primary – has signed on as a “fellow” with the Illinois Conservative Union, spoke with Illinois Review about the state party chairman’s refusal to step down. Ives has become a key spokesperson for the state’s conservative movement. She pointed directly to the party leadership for failing to organize to take advantage of the Democrats’ obvious weaknesses and strategic failures.
“Republican leadership failed to capitalize on the Democrat Party’s mismanagement of the state for decades, a Democrat platform of higher taxes even after the largest permanent tax increase was enacted only a year ago, and their Democrat Governor candidate whose family members should be under indictment for property tax fraud,” Ives said. “Schneider has no plan to win in the future.”
But Ives holds onto hope for the state’s future – albeit cautious hope – despite the party leadership’s refusal to hand over reins to a base she believes can be energized. Their basis for motivation would be the IL GOP conservative platform.
“There are motivated Republicans still willing to fight in this state so we can save our homes and afford to stay in Illinois,” Ives said. “We will work together outside of official leadership to advance policy solutions at the local level and block bad policy at the state level. We will support and work only for candidates that support the party platform.”
However, Ives added this warning about whether there will be an Illinois Republican Party in the future:
“The wins Republicans had in certain areas had nothing to do with the official party’s actions. Many of us will not waste our time and resources working with the same leadership that failed miserably and won’t accept responsibility for that failure.”
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December 7, 2018 at 11:23AM