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Di Leo: Like a Seinfeld episode, Illinois Republicans do the Opposite

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By John F Di Leo - 

It is said that "there is a Seinfeld for everything."

Who would’ve expected an Illinois primary election to give support to that, of all theories? But, so it has.

First, the fundamentals: Despite Illinois having been a reliable swing state for generations, due to the powerful Chicago Democrat machine countered by the reliably conservative Republican suburbs and rural downstate, a change began in the 1980s, when a new state constitution tipped the balance of power to the Democrats.

As Chicago and Illinois' other large cities grew more dangerous and more corrupt, the lifelong Democrat voters of the cities moved into the suburbs (without changing their voting patterns), overturning that old balance, and making it easier and easier for Democrats to win the state.

No longer called a swing state, Mike Madigan’s record-setting two-generation hold on the Speaker’s chair, combined with incredibly bad luck (and unforced errors) in numerous US Senate races, have resulted in an almost unshakably defeatist attitude in the minds of Republican activists, party officials, media, and worst of all, donors.

Republicans won a Senate seat in 1998,but the incumbent declined to run again. Then the Republicans won one again in 2010, but that Senator had a debilitating stroke, just one year into service, and instead of stepping down when a Republican governor could have appointed a winnable replacement, he not only hung onto his seat like a hawk with a mouse in its beak, he insisted on running for reelection, despite a physical inability to campaign the way such a state requires, so the seat was lost again.

This has been the story of Illinois Republicans for decades. Good luck meets with bad luck; gains, however impressive, are soon lost.

It is in this spirit that we confront the 1994 Seinfeld episode, "The Opposite," reportedly the most popular episode in the series' history.

In "The Opposite," a particularly discouraged George Costanza bemoans his long stretch of bad luck and determines that the reason for his many failures in life is that whenever he is presented with a choice, he always goes in the wrong direction. Call it his mind, his conscience, his judgment, whatever, he has always been driven to make the wrong choice, and this must stop.

In this one episode, George Costanza decides to do the opposite of the advice that he always hears whispered in his ear. No matter how wild, no matter how daring, he does the opposite of what his usual inner governor calls upon him to do, and to everyone's amazement, it works!

All of a sudden, George Costanza becomes a success. He gets a cute girlfriend; he gets a great job, he moves out of his parents' house… everything works for him at last… because he has finally stopped listening to that bad influence on his shoulder.

A clever episode, a creative idea.  But perhaps it’s more than that.

Darren Bailey and Stephanie Trussell

Darren Bailey & Stephanie Trussell

Back to Illinois.

As Illinois has seen the Democrats grow in strength and numbers, the conventional wisdom has told Illinois Republicans that they need to be more like Democrats if they want to win. That inner voice has always whispered "Be moderate, be non-threatening, be non-judgmental. Go along, and you'll get along."

People vote for big-spending Democrats; so run big-spending Republicans. People vote for pro-abortion candidates; so run pro-abortion Republicans. People vote for politicians who promise big building programs to create taxpayer-funded jobs for road construction companies; so run pro-highway Republicans who will do the same.

By the 2000s, Republican candidates for governor looked and sounded more and more like Democrat candidates for governor; only they understood finance a bit more; they looked a bit more businesslike, they were a bit more boring.

The GOP won the Governor's mansion again, in 2014, with a liberal who campaigned as a conservative. His true self became clear by the end, however, and he waged a vicious primary campaign against his conservative challenger in 2018, burning every bridge, ensuring that conservatives could not possibly forgive him by November. Without the base, he naturally lost, so the Republicans lost the Governor's mansion, yet again.

This brings us to the present. After four years of Democrat Governor JB Pritzker at the helm, Illinois is worse than bankrupt.

Under JB "Second Helping" Pritzker, the state has spent generous federal grants on foolish government expansion instead of on paying bills. The state has enjoyed record tax revenues and wasted every penny, without so much as an effort to attack Illinois' fundamental, systemic fiscal problems.

Illinois has become a sanctuary state, welcoming hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens whom the state's welfare system cannot afford. Illinois has thrown open the prison gates, releasing convicts back into the streets, exacerbating a national crime wave. And Illinois has refused to make the slightest effort in reining in a mathematically unsustainable pension system that simply gets worse and worse with every hire and with every year.

Republicans are told that 2022 will be a good year; Republicans have a chance, even in rough districts, this year. We hear predictions of red waves, perhaps of minority realignment, even. All Republicans need to do, the theory goes, is to run another boring liberal, and there is a chance for a moderate one-term bore again.

Well, on June 28, the Republican primary voters of Illinois decided to do The Opposite.

What if the reason Republicans have been doing so badly for decades is that all this advice – moderation above all, go along to get along – has been wrong all the time?

What if real voters really want a real choice every November, and would rather elect a liberal Democrat who’s proud of his leftism than a so-called Republican who is such a milquetoast he's afraid to enunciate and fight for, his own party’s platform?

What if Republican reticence to campaign as solid platform Republicans is really the reason that Illinois Republicans lose so often?

These are the questions that Republican primary voters have been considering for years – especially during the Kirk years and the Rauner years.

The Republican primary for Governor in Illinois had a wide field to choose from. The mayor of one of Illinois’s largest cities, Aurora, represented the establishment. Conservatives included two downstate state senators, one of whom had prosecuted Saddam Hussein during the Iraq war, and the other of whom actually sued Governor Pritzker for constitutional overreach in his vaccine mandates. The conservative field also included two previously unknown businessmen making their first runs for elective office, and an inspirational attorney new to the country as well as to the party.

In such a field, one could win the nomination with just 30 or 35 percent, indicating a likely sacrificial lamb race in the fall.

Imagine the pundits’ surprise on Tuesday night, when State Senator Darren Bailey, of Effingham, Illinois, won the nomination with a whopping 57%, beating all of his worthy opponents put together.

Senator Bailey is as “downstate” as an Illinoisan can be. His district is in the far southern city of Effingham, an area where the southern accent is stronger than any you are likely to encounter in Georgia or Alabama.

He has a 1950s haircut; he’s usually seen in a farmer's vest and blue jeans, and he couldn’t be mistaken for a Chicago politician if you put him in a Bears jersey and stuck a deep-dish pizza in his hand.

It's as if Illinois Republican voters walked into the polling place and ordered the opposite of everyone they’ve ever run before.

This is a man who served on his local school board for seventeen years, then used that experience to found a private Christian school himself. This is a man who sued a fat-cat governor for issuing illegal executive orders and won that case in court. This is a man who could run in a field with four other capable candidates who all agree on most of the issues, and still manage to be the one who inspired practically all the grassroots conservative activists in this very large, very diverse state… enough to clobber the entire field.

State Senator Darren Bailey, along with his running mate former radio talk show host Stephanie Trussell, is nothing like any gubernatorial candidacy Illinois has ever seen.

For a state that has for generations been run by an informal group long known as the Combine – the Democrats of the Chicago machine and the bipartisan old boys' network of Springfield – this 2022 primary choice represents a true sea change in behavior and political desires.

Effingham is 200 miles away from the corruption of Chicago, Illinois; you could hardly find a point in Illinois that’s geographically farther away.

But more importantly, you could hardly find a place that’s philosophically further away, either. This isn’t just a geographic difference.

Finally, the common sense politics of rural downstate Illinois – where people pay their bills, lock up criminals, plan for the future, respect the Founding Fathers, and honor their oaths of office to preserve the Limited Government promised by our constitutions – are being given a chance to stand up against the tax-and-spend, profligate corruption of the Illinois Left in the upcoming election.

It’s a daring choice, but the voters clearly believed it was necessary.

Perhaps the voters of Illinois decided it’s just not enough to win a seat, get complacent, and then lose it after a single term.

Perhaps they decided it’s time to elect candidates who are sure to be successful enough in office that they will deserve re-election, again and again.

We are in for an interesting ride.

Copyright 2022 John F Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009.

 A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with most of the article. However, in 2014, I don’t think Rauner campaigned as a conservative. I think he campaigned as moderate or liberal. He probably hoped that, in the primary, the conservative vote would split, helping him with the primary, and that’s what happened.

  2. Bruce rauner essentially acknowledged that he was not a social conservative. But he ran as a fiscal conservative, and promised that he would not be activist in his socially liberal inclinations. He even specifically tried to draw a line between his abortion views and his wife’s… Since it had got out that his wife was an abortion absolutist activist.

  3. Sounds a lot like the triumph of hope over experience. You elect Bailey and then what? You gotta know when to fold em and when to run. We did about 11 years ago and couldn’t be happier here in Williamson County TN.

  4. I had voted for Paul Schimpf (based on my heart) but my head told me to vote for Richard Irvin simply because Ken Griffin would be giving him the necessary money to compete with Pritzker. I was never able to meet Bailey and maybe that is why I felt that his southern twang would cost him the required support in Chicago and the collar-counties. John’s article is excellent as usual. It is “on target”. I will back Bailey and hope that “this time it will be different”. Maybe George Costanza had the right idea!