Is the Illinois GOP Civil War Finally Here?

Written by John Biver

Now that prominent conservatives are seeing Governor Bruce Rauner for who he really is, we arrive at a genuinely dramatic moment in a state where the Republican Party’s failures have paved the way for Leftist policies to ruin the state.

After signing several outrageously left-wing bills into law, an increasing number of rank and file conservatives and elected political leaders are finally seeing the truth about Governor Rauner. This gives conservatives in Illinois the opportunity to get their act together.

Technically, every election cycle is another chance for limited government and pro-family Republicans — but some opportunities are greater than others. This is one. Examples of the lost chances happened in 1982 (Don Totten’s lt. governor candidacy), 2002 (the caucus leadership changes in the General Assembly), 2004 (Jack Ryan’s U.S. Senate campaign), and the past three gubernatorial primaries (all of which, 2006, 2010, and 2014, were lost due to State Senator Bill Brady’s involvement…that’s a sad story for another article).

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there were people warning about Rauner four years ago — including IFI’s Laurie Higgins. Another voice, probably the loudest and most thorough, was Doug Ibendahl at

Among the stronger recent statements, my favorites are that of State Rep. Peter Breen: “The Rauner experiment is over,” — and State Rep. David McSweeney: “Rauner is a failed governor.”

Will Rauner run for reelection? He says he is, but we’ll see. If he does and conservatives mount a credible challenge to him, can Bruce and his millions of dollars be defeated?

Not unless conservatives unite around a solid, intelligent and able governor/lt. governor ticket and run the best campaign of their lives. (Anyone reading this who personally knows Bill Brady, please ask him to stay the heck away from the race and enjoy leading the GOP super-minority in the state senate.)

As simple as all of that sounds, Illinois conservatives have proven incapable of uniting, and in fact, have not been up to the task of successfully taking on the 40 years-in-the-making RINO (Republican in Name Only) establishment. Since Jim Thompson was elected Illinois governor in 1976, the RINOs have usually been happy to cooperate with the Democrats as long as individuals in the RINO club were able to become rich in the process.

Yes, there were exceptions, such as moments during the decade-long state senate Republican majority in the 1990s, when Republicans acted as Republicans are supposed to. The fact that they were exceptions, however, is why we are where we are today.

As several people are now realizing, this is a unique opportunity. President Donald Trump tapped the economic and cultural frustration in the electorate and defeated a talented primary field and the Democratic Party dynasty of our era in the general election.

The same exasperation that exists in Illinois caused a majority of voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa to help candidate Trump take down the vaunted “blue wall.” Does it exist here on a large enough scale to send Rauner back to the private sector and take down the next silly Democratic Party left-wing nominee?

Yes and yes.

But it will take a competence level we haven’t seen from Illinois conservative candidates and consultants in a couple of generations.

Does the candidate and consultant talent exist here to step up and lead? Yes on candidates and maybe on the consultants. Too many conservative campaign consultants don’t realize that in this era of Trump, things are different. The statewide campaign can no longer be all about their financial take on media buys, and their percentage of the cost of massive direct mailings and yard signs, or the fact that these “wise” consultants think they’re the smartest people in the room (they’re not).

The campaign must be all about effectively communicating to the people of Illinois the serious problems that exist here. Those problems have gotten worse during Bruce Rauner’s tenure, and will speed-up in the wrong direction under a radical lefty like J.B. Pritzker.

I have been saying this for decades — the people of Illinois are not much different from all those in the red states that surround us. This is not Vermont or Massachusetts or California. Cook County might not turn red any time soon, but there are plenty of what used to be called Reagan Democrats living in Chicago and its surrounds to give a conservative a primary and general election win.

All that has been missing all these years is effective conservative leadership in the Illinois Republican Party. While Rauner’s money has purchased the party apparatus for the time being, a counter insurgency is possible and necessary. And the time for that is now.

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