The Illinois Republican Civil War is Dumb OPINION - Patrick Pfingsten - February 3, 2023

There’s been a drumbeat in recent weeks of some far-right Republicans, backed by a Republican blogger and former GOP gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey for Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy to resign, essentially arguing GOP losses in 2022 were Tracy’s fault, not Bailey’s.

Let’s get something straight: Darren Bailey lost the race for Governor because he was a terrible candidate. He was too conservative not only to appeal to the mainstream, but he was so street-preacher-Handmaid’s Tale-fire-and-brimstone conservative that he was a complete non-starter for suburban voters, both men and women.

Bailey couldn’t raise any money. And if it weren’t for Richard Uihlein’s piggy bank propping up a poorly run third party PAC, it may have been even worse for Bailey. Top to bottom, they ran an unworthy campaign with a candidate who wasn’t ready for primetime.

Darren Bailey had no coattails. He was a drag on the ticket and took Republicans down with him. Just look at his 52,000 vote loss in DuPage County, a former Republican stronghold that has now been lost by the GOP twice in history, 2018 and 2022. Don’t blame Chicago voters, don’t blame suburban voters, don’t blame Republicans who didn’t turn out or gay people or whoever else the right seems to want to blame for this sort of thing these days.

But it goes further than that. Republican primary voters, I’m talking to you. You picked this. People like me told you Darren Bailey couldn’t win a general election. But you did nominated him anyway.

Following the 2022 drubbing, JB Pritzker empowered by winning an election by half a million votes with record supermajority in the House and a huge supermajority in the Senate and Democrats have a 14-3 margin in the congressional delegation. Republicans are in this position as a matter of their own doing.

How does that relate to Don Tracy and the Illinois Republican Party? Let’s be clear about the role of the state party. It raises money and essentially acts as a pass through account for campaigns to get a discount on direct mail pieces that land in your mailbox.

Have Tracy and the party generally failed at raising money? Yes. So did Tim Schneider. So did Jack Dorgan. So did Pat Brady. Andy McKenna propped it up with a lot of his own cash. This has been going on for more than a decade. It’s not like fundraising dried up overnight on Don Tracy’s watch. In fact, you can probably blame Bruce Rauner, who drove away all of the fundraising infrastructure by floating the party for four years, then pulled the plug when he knew he was going to lose in 2018.

This Republican civil war is one of the stupidest things I’ve seen in Illinois politics. And, trust me, this is Illinois politics, so I’ve seen a lot of stupid things.

Once in a while in politics, people need to take some responsibility. Darren Bailey and his band of hangers on refuse to take responsibility for how they so embarrassingly lost the governor’s race last year.

Conservatives, or, should I say, the far right fringe, thinks that it’s the state party’s fault that they’re losing elections. The governing wing and the moderate wing think it’s the far right that has polarized primaries and nominated candidates who can’t win.

A bunch of goofballs who read a blog written by Rod Blagojevich’s post-prison body man are not reflective of the Republican party, previously or currently, in this state. The state GOP should be a tent where all of these wings can join and have a revival complete with the Reverend Bailey and whoever else wants to be there. The party exists to raise money, enact a platform, and support their general election candidates.

The rest is up to your candidate. If you keep nominating sapheads that can’t win statewide races, congressional races, or legislative races, it’s your own darn fault. That’s not Don Tracy’s fault, it’s fully on the heads of Republican primary voters who don’t seem to care about winning.

Is Don Tracy a dynamo that’s leading the Republican party into the golden age? Of course not. He’s another old white dude in a long history of old white dudes that doesn’t connect with our diverse state.

But for the right to make him the scapegoat for all of the losses the top of the ticket incurred is just folly. Look in the mirror Darren Bailey. Look in the mirror Tom DeVore. Look in the mirror, Trump fans. This isn’t on Don Tracy, it’s on you.