For the last eight years the Illinois Republican Party has been adrift at sea, desperately looking for any port that would offer refuge from Category 5 political disasters like Typhoon Ryan (pick a Ryan, any Ryan), Hurricane Keyes and Tropical Storm Topinka.
When one acts out of desperation, one sometimes abandons one’s principles. And thus the GOP leadership in Illinois has exchanged their complete surrender for temporary cover from the Democrats.
To paraphrase former U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop, the governing ethos of the GOP in Illinois has been that if the Democrats introduced a bill to burn down the state capitol, Republicans would compromise and agree to phase it in over three years.
But that could change right now if Republicans comprehend and act upon the opportunity they’ve uncontrollably lurched into in Springfield.
With four weeks left for the political class in Illinois to pass a state budget, Republicans can recapture moral clarity in the minds of Illinois voters by opposing any and all tax increases.
I understand that the "No New Taxes" refrain has all of the originality of a Julia Roberts romantic comedy. But just as moviegoers find Roberts endearing to my chagrin, so too will Illinois taxpayers find a party that stands up for producers in this state appealing to the chagrin of Democrats. It’s a storyline that works because voters want it to work.
For GOP leaders to compromise on the tax issue is for them to relegate their party to rumor status for the foreseeable future.
We have a Governor slightly less popular than Lyme disease who has proposed a $7 billion gross receipts tax, code-named "Malaise-Maker", that is DOA in Springfield.
We have other tax increase proposals while mildly less obnoxious are nonetheless being marketed to fund schools that don’t educate, to funnel every Illinoisan into government-run health care, and to finance public sector unions impervious to reform.
Instead of rolling over like the French at the sight of Panzers on the countryside, this is a historic opportunity for Illinois Republicans to stand and fight.
Republicans should demonstrate a willingness to do whatever it takes to balance the state budget without a tax increase: move to defined contribution pension plans; sell everything that isn’t nailed down; add casino boats-hell, put a dogtrack on the lakefront if you need to — just don’t raise taxes.
If Republicans can show they still have some fight left, Illinois may again be a two-party state.