Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A blast from the political past, does that spell L-o-s-e-r on Election Day?

The Republican Party’s field of candidates for Illinois governor is a mass of candidates of varying ideological thought processes, including a pair of candidates who are going to try to pass themselves off as The Man who can bring back the glory days of 1995 and ’96.

Those were the two years that the GOP’s candidates held all of the statewide constitutional offices, and controlled the entire General Assembly. If not for the state Supreme Court, all of Illinois would be Republican-dominated.

BACK THEN, KIRK Dillard was the chief of staff to Gov. Jim Edgar who went on to become a state senator from Hinsdale, while Jim Ryan was the Illinois attorney general.

Dillard has remained in that legislative post all these years, while Ryan has been in political retirement ever since he lost the 2002 gubernatorial campaign to Rod Blagojevich.

Now, he wants to come back by making another bid for governor – almost as though he thinks that if he wins, the history books will somehow be rewritten to where there was NEVER a Democrat as governor for the past eight years (Blagojevich and Pat Quinn).

That Ryan campaign in ’02 literally gave off an air of believing that people ought to vote for Jim because it was his turn. Thompson (as in Jim), followed by Edgar (as in Jim), followed by Ryan (as in George), followed by another Ryan.

OF COURSE, THAT campaign got bogged down in the partisan rhetoric from Democratic Party officials who were so desperate to win their first gubernatorial election in 26 years that they resorted to cheap shots against Jim Ryan.

Certain polls taken recently show that some people still can’t truly tell the difference between the one-time attorney general and Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate number 16627-424.

So Ryan may very well be too much of damaged goods to be taken seriously in this primary.

Yet Dillard may come off as too much of a staffer (rather than elected official) to be taken seriously as a candidate for statewide office. I’m also sure there are those people who are among the Republican hard-core who will hold it against him that he was friendly with Barack Obama back when the two were in the Illinois Senate.

THERE ARE SOME people who seriously will blame Dillard for the fact that he was an Obama poker-buddy in those after legislative hours.

Now in this political fight for a resurrection of the ‘90s, Dillard gained a plus – Edgar gave him his endorsement. I’d like to think that the Edgar endorsement would help advance his campaign to make him a front-runner.

But this is one of the most unpredictable election cycles I have ever seen.

The partisan rhetoric coming from the rest of the gubernatorial candidates to downplay the Edgar endorsement’s significance all centers around the theme that nobody cares much about what somebody from the ‘90s thinks.

THESE PEOPLE WANT to move forward, and they want to define what constitutes “forward” – even though one could argue that it was the “old school” way of doing things actually gave the Republican Party domination of Illinois government as strong as any that the Democrats have these days.

One could also argue that it was the move in the direction that these other candidates want to go that caused the Republicans to lose relevance in this state.

How else to explain the attitude of conservative pundit and candidate Dan Proft, who told the Chicago Tribune that Dillard was of a “failed go-along-to-get-along approach” to state government?

Only a true hard-core conservative believer could seriously believe that the 1990s were a “failed” era for the Republican Party.

HAVING ACTUAL POLITICAL power and influence (and domination for a couple of years) sounds like success, particularly compared to the modern era where Republicans are even more irrelevant than the Democrats were back in the spring of 1995.

I know there are political pundits who believe that Edgar has the ability to move polling numbers to the point where his endorsement will be the major factor in helping Dillard break out from the GOP gubernatorial pack to actually win the nomination.

But a part of me wonders if it is the kiss of death, in the same way that Jim Ryan will always be the one political person of Irish ethnic background who won’t be able to use his surname on the ballot as a plus.

Considering the mindset of the modern-day electorate, those who are devoted to the Republican Party in Illinois are most likely looking for an ideologue, which means their attention will center around all the candidates not named either “Dillard” or “Ryan.”

STATE SEN. BILL Brady, R-Bloomington, who is billing himself as the most politically experienced of the ideologues, may have expressed it best in his statement Monday when he said, “my campaign is about tomorrow, not yesterday.”

Yet it was “yesterday” that the GOP was relevant, which makes me wonder if the party faithful have lost sight of the fact that the key to achieving partisan goals is to actually win on Election Day.

Come Feb. 2, the groundhog may or may not see its shadow, but we will gain a strong sense of whether the Illinois Republican Party has any sense of wanting to win on the Election Day come November.


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