By Shannon Adcock, Awake Illinois
Published Originally in Awake Illinois
Unless you’ve been stuck in an underground bunker the last two years, you know there is a massive grassroots groundswell across the country burgeoning to protect family values, children’s innocence, and liberty. It’s an ironic reality given conservatives are not traditionally perceived as “activists” – they’re used to being insulated with their conservative values. However, the walls of those values have been breached leaving but one answer: to activate.
Quite swiftly, regular people have been forced to meet at the ideological barricade via school board meetings, reopen school rallies, and tavern meet-ups akin to the American Revolution. This orphaning, however, wasn’t committed by a limited, random political party. No, I am talking about the Republican Party. The abandonment by leadership, the church, and the mainstream media is not an exclusive experience among conservative American parents.
In 2020, Republicans were largely focused on the national election and had less interest in the plight of students and families amid school closures and lockdowns. While “flatten the curve” and Black Lives Matter became the newest gateway drugs of the left’s neo-marxist power grab, Republicans were largely silent. When forced masking and medical covid apartheid evolved into the worst public health policymaking in modern history, the silence continued. In the present day, as drag queen events are promoted at public libraries for minors and public schools discuss puberty blockers with children, the party prefers to turn a blind eye while the media and left-wing activist groups turn against parents.
After Moms for Liberty chapters exploded in Florida in 2021, Governor DeSantis eventually adopted the cause and he is now synonymous with “parental rights” across the country. But which came first—DeSantis or grassroots? It was Moms for Liberty, no question. The entire GOP would do well to follow suit and partner with the grassroots movement that has further catapulted the already values-driven Florida Governor into clear 2024 Presidential contention.
How is it that a party that once stood against the monarchy and became the first abolitionists has lost what Gordon Wood called the “noblest ideals and most persistent values”? I’ve been asking fellow IL conservatives over the last several weeks, “What is a Republican?” Too often, they cannot give an answer. It appears the Republican Party has focused on what it does versus why it does it.
Leadership expert Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk from 2009 concludes people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. A portion of his remarks include:
“Dr. [Martin Luther] King believed that there are two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by man. And not until all the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws that are made by the higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happened that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed, not for him, but for ourselves. And, by the way, he gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.
Listen to politicians now, with their comprehensive 12-point plans. They’re not inspiring anybody. Because there are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”
The why is the nucleus for grassroots state organization Awake Illinois, the national organization Moms for Liberty, and resource organization Courage is a Habit. We are proud to instill fear in the very forces that aim to harm children and destroy our country. This successful effort by accidental activists is transforming the political and social landscape of America by inspiring regular people into advocacy. Take note: the grassroots movement isn’t limited to the mainstream media cliche of white, suburban Christians. It is also getting the attention of Asian and Muslim communities who see the assault on their children’s education and economic opportunities. As Wirepoints highlights, the declining academic outcomes are affecting children throughout IL, even students enrolled in “top rated” school districts.
One may ask “What is the why of grassroots activists?” Our answer: We believe there is a war on liberty and we believe in family values and opportunity for all. We believe in smaller government and greater personal/parental responsibility. We are advancing the cause by educating others and giving them a platform to advocate on the issues. We are earning the trust of our communities, state, and country.
Meanwhile, the entire Republican Party has been devoid of inspiring much of a movement because it cannot define why it exists and for whom (though one can argue many have purely been for themselves instead of the people). In IL especially, the party has been relegated to virtual irrelevancy. What sort of mistakes has it made? Look no further than the latest midterm elections.
With Republican Party support and big money in the coffers, a young, all-American-looking suburban father named Greg Hart ran for DuPage county chair. He was very active on the campaign trail but abruptly switched to a pro-choice platform barely three weeks before the midterm election. It was a desperate attempt to win votes but because the “why” was never there, both sides of the abortion issue saw right through it. Pro-choice voters knew this man (with a pregnant wife) wasn’t sincere and pro-life voters saw the hypocrisy of someone violating his values just to get elected. This was always a doomed strategy and so obvious to the voting community from the moment they heard of the embarrassing pivot. (Ironically, there is very little evidence that Mr. Hart would have ever been involved in abortion policy as DuPage county chair, if elected.)
GOP candidate for Governor, Senator Darren Bailey, undeniably embodied the values of the Republican Party but after winning the primary, the IL GOP and bureaucrats focused on the 1% of his platform that quite simply, just annoyed them:
“He was endorsed by Trump.”
“He has that thick southern accent.”
“He talks about the Bible a lot.”
“He’s too downstate”.
The party never acknowledged how Sen. Bailey would Govern better than Pritzker or how he would indeed help the people of the state. It didn’t embrace how during these turbulent times in education, Bailey had the wisdom of a 17-year school board member and founder of an alternative private school in his community. While Bailey fully embraced the grassroots and parental rights movements, it wasn’t enough as he also needed the full support of the state party. Sadly, the IL GOP preferred to have a tantrum over his primary win and opted to put energy into candidates such as Greg Hart. Brilliant.
Mayor of Orland Park Keith Pekau made national news for successfully maintaining local control against Governor Pritzker’s mandates and ran against far-left incumbent Sean Casten for IL Congressional District 6. Mere days before the Nov. 6th election, the Republican Party spent $2 million on media for Pekau. Too little, too late for the strongest GOP congressional candidate facing a radical, well-funded leftist in Illinois.
Yes, I intentionally omitted the now infamous Richard Irvin debacle because it’s become a near-satirical joke. He was an “equity” candidate for the GOP and as anyone paying attention to D.I.E. can attest, equity never works. He should have run as a Democrat, because he is one. There were so many losses and while the leadership and infrastructure were certainly contributing factors, Simon Sinek would likely argue that the Republican party was devoid of the why.
Conversely, the left has been highly successful at winning elections all while waging war on truth, life, and liberty – because the left has its why. It has said precisely why it is for gender ideology being taught in schools, why it supports cross dressing shows for minors, and why it wants “abortion always” as an option for inconvenient pregnancies.
So what is the “why” of the leftist ideology and the Democratic Party? It is the desire to control the world as they see fit via big government, Marxism, and the continued restrictions on the unalienable rights endowed by your Creator.
They never stop talking about their beliefs—and have fantastically and swiftly weaponized the English language via campaigns titled “diversity, inclusion, and tolerance (DIE)“, “women’s rights”, and “gender ideology”. This movement of near-religious beliefs has consistently paved a warpath against the very constitutional principles that founded our Republic.
They believe in socialism via student debt forgiveness. They believe in minors getting abortions without parental notification They believe in the forced masking of minors (restricting liberty) against their parents wishes, and they believe in vaccine mandates via government edict. They believe gender ideology should be taught in Kindergarten. They believe in the sexualization of children. They believe men deserve to compete in women’s sports. They openly profess their beliefs and find others to join them so that when elections come, they know precisely who shares their beliefs. The leftists know the Democrat Party is ALL IN on every single belief. Therefore, they will support the party and its candidates even if there is that 1% that annoys them. Thanks to their well-defined “why”, they are now well organized and have successfully completed the law of “Diffusion of Innovation”.
What does the Republican Party believe? Hmmm.
It is said:
Hard times make hard men,
hard men make soft times,
soft times make soft men,
soft men make hard times.
We are at the transition point of soft men and hard times. China, Russia, and our own increasingly totalitarian government prove it. In IL, we continue to struggle under 2+ years of executive orders by Pritzker, a War on Children via government overreach, and increasing cost of living. A pessimist would say our state is beyond reproach.
To that I say “nay”. Rather, I absolutely see strong men and women leading in this time. These courageous people can define the “why” of their advocacy and/or political endeavors. They are working tirelessly across the country to serve others, not just themselves. I’m proud to know many such warriors in Illinois.
Steve Lucie, a 5th generation cattle rancher and father of three, served on the Warsaw school board for 17 years. In early 2021, he sat with other ranchers and farmers at his kitchen table to discuss why the children needed strong parents to lead the way. He knew kids could and should be in school, sports, and activities. We Stand For Our Students was formed and via FOIA, we see it mentioned in Governor emails during the ensuing battle for the students. Clearly state agencies were concerned with parents awakening to the overreach. Mr. Lucie now serves on the Awake Illinois Board as Director.
Unfortunately, the state continued with its tyranny into 2022 and it took an attorney named Thomas DeVore to fight the government overreach in court. He wasn’t the only man with a Juris Doctorate in the state to take these cases but he had the “why” defined when he said he believed the state was wrong for violating the due process rights of IL citizens. The subsequent court case was the most public defeat of Governor Pritzker to date as he was (politically) forced to lift the mandates.
The DeVore court cases with hundreds of parent plaintiffs are why I personally believe Governor Pritzker will never bring back school-based Covid mandates. It would hurt his suspected Presidential bid when he campaigns to other states that either rejected or successfully fought Covid mandates. He is presently synonymous with Covid mandates and government overreach. It’s an affiliation he likely hopes will fade in America’s short-term memory. However, if he does attempt to further harm parental rights and due process, Awake IL is ready for court.
Jessica Hockett, an IL mother and Ph.D amassed over 30,000 twitter followers during two years of sharing Covid data and posing excellent questions. She was actively involved in supporting the reopen schools effort and has become a respected figure in parental rights and anti-mandate advocacy. She was permanently suspended from Twitter on July 6, 2022 for directly quoting Allysia Finley of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.
Jessica wrote on her substack the day she was suspended:
“Two Wall Street Journal accounts posted [the same] article yesterday too, without being censored. My quote is different from theirs, but the message is equally damning of Biden Administration agencies, professional organizations, experts, and practitioners who have pushed for a speedy EUA [of the Covid vaccine].”
Her twitter account has yet to be reinstated but the post-Elon takeover is giving people hope. Her censorship in the time of Covid is one of too many examples of the war being waged on the First Amendment.
Helen Levinson, a Jordanian first-generation American mother, started a parent group in Skokie in 2019 and filed a suit against a District 65 teacher for misconduct. The complaint went to the principal, school board, and teachers union. No one responded. Ten days later, Mrs. Levinson received a frivolous lawsuit from the teacher, claiming defamation of character. The suit was recently dismissed under the Anti-Slapp law. Helen now serves on the Awake Illinois Board as Vice President and is chair of Moms for Liberty Cook County.
Stephanie Trussell, as candidate for Lt. Governor with Bailey, was very vocal talking about how her mother became pregnant with her at 16 years old. Although her mother was “driven to an abortion clinic,” she chose not go through with an abortion. Stephanie is a walking testimony of pro-life values and yet, the Republican Party largely ignored her story during this election cycle. Not to mention, when she arrived at GOP events, there was hardly any signage or public support of their campaign.
Jesse Sullivan is a husband, father, and former candidate for Republican Governor. He and his wife Monique are an unapologetic and bold Christian couple who walk their pro-life family values as biological parents to five children and as foster parents to two girls. Considered to be an “outsider” to politics, Jesse was dismissed as unworthy of Republican support. The Sullivan family clearly defined their “why” and continues to be largely ignored by the Republican Party.
These outliers I reference are all parents who place their belief in the “why” before their own comfort. Their work is genuinely for the greater good of other parents and families. As stated earlier: Grassroots activists believe there is a war on children and we believe in families and liberty.
Family values, specifically, are the exact opposite of the leftist beliefs supported by the Democratic party. Leftists and the Democratic party believe the government knows better than you, the parents. So much so, they agree your 12-year-old daughter should get an abortion without you ever being informed and with zero consideration for the rights of the unborn life.
Republicans ought to agree that parenthood is the greatest common denominator and that family is the top of the value system from which all else flows. The family unit is sovereign and is not subservient to the state. Families should be free to express and teach their values to their children. Families are fighting for this Republic. If only the Republican Party would fight too.
Our family recently attended the “Sound of Music”. When the Von Trapp household is told to raise the Nazi flag, the daughter asks “Is Father going to be in trouble?” A friend of the family states, “He doesn’t have to be. The thing to do these days is to get along with everybody.” The scene is a powerful historical reminder and eerily reminiscent of today’s slow drip to “get along with everybody” while liberty is gradually erased before our eyes. As Courage As A Habit states, “‘Silent majority’ means you’re a coward. Harsh but true. You have to take offensive action.”
As founder of a statewide grassroots organization with over 30 chapters and 20,000+ followers, here is my unsolicited advice to all IL conservatives: Lead with unwavering defense of the family unit, of life, and of liberty. If GOP leadership doesn’t agree with that statement, it should leave the Republican Party, join the Democrat party, and call it a day in Illinois.
This state has largely lost its soul. Grassroots conservatives have their work cut out to help this state recover lost faith in elections and policy. It will take years but Awake Illinois combined with Moms for Liberty has been preparing the barricade for over a year and a half. From empowering school board candidates for April ’23 elections, training advocates, and supporting education freedom, we are only getting started and we cannot be canceled. IL children need our time and talents now and we will work with anyone ready to hustle with heart.
Meanwhile, the IL GOP doesn’t stand a chance until it defines its “why” and is able to give unwavering support to those who define it too. Only then can it reach the tipping point or as Jeffrey Moore says “crossing the chasm” into mainstream Republicanism. Once it does, the current one-party monopoly of IL policy-making will be disrupted and competition will improve the marketplace.
On December 10th, the IL Republican State committee is meeting at Bolingbrook Country Club to hear comments on the party leadership. Will the gathering end in self-indulgent hobnobbing that will toast itself on years of failure? Or will it get to work on defining and defending its values? Will it finally start working alongside grassroots activists in their communities and work on school board elections this April?
Rather than “have a plan”, they would do well to talk about how instead, they have a dream. Until they awaken, We, the People, will continue our bold fight at the barricade for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Shannon Adcock lives in Naperville, IL with her husband of nineteen years and their three children. She is founder and President of Awake IL, Awake IL PAC, and is chair of Moms for Liberty DuPage County. Join the IL grassroots movement here and here.