Monday, October 3, 2005

The Edgar Decision

In his brilliant film, “The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin shows a German crew in Berlin pointing a huge cannon at the sky with sixteen stupid-looking Teutonic types (with spears on top of their helmets) tugging the missile to it, loading it laboriously into the cannon. This missile is destined to go all the way to London! They congratulate themselves. They push the button for the charge to send the missile on its way to London. Everyone holds his ears. The cannon roars. Smoke bellows angrily. The men are toppled to the ground by the detonation. Then—blip!—the missile plops out and topples to the ground. They all run away fearful it’ll explode. But it’s a dud. That resembles the comic opera given us by former Gov. Jim Edgar with the liberal media’s compliant help, where, posing as the intellectual he assuredly is not, pondered his future for weeks, a forefinger pressed to his cheek as he weighed his future. The media is alerted that this announcement will come any day. Days drone on and no announcement. Then, a flurry of excitement: the day is here! The Great Man has decided! All are present for the announcement. Everyone holds his ears for the shock will be deafening. Then—blip!—he’s not running. He always was a dud. Pencil-thin, with a brush of stylishly grey hair, he looks good. That’s it. What in the world did he learn during those months of pondering that he didn’t know initially? Nothing. And why in the world is he shown weeping, his handkerchief to his nose: Is making $700,000-plus in private life so hard to take? And guess what, the media are sad, too. “Your party will miss you, Jim,” said one. Yeah, right: like they know what the GOP feels, huh?

Edgar and his well-wishers in the liberal media have made him look exceedingly foolish in this farce, which he compounded by unaccountably weeping. The media wasted too much time over this Hamlet, concentrating on a non-story while ignoring the valid discussion other GOP gubernatorial candidates have been having. They have maintained that only a recycled pseudo-liberal Republican can beat Blagojevich and assuredly, a poll has shown that Edgar beats Blago handily. But, of course, Edgar was leading: it’s based on name familiarity of one who served decades in public life and to whom little onus has come.

But the media won’t understand that a recycled Edgar, who made permanent one tax increase, would have to be subjected to harsh reexamination. Example: Do you think the secretary of state scandals began with George Ryan? I am not an insider and don’t know much about that office but I don’t. The scandals were perfected to a high gloss with Ryan but the scandals go back at least to Paul Powell and undoubtedly before. You think Alan Dixon just ran a clerical shop as secretary of state? You don’t think Blagojevich’s negative research couldn’t find at least one guy who would say he got a commercial license the old fashioned way under Edgar? I do: because the culture didn’t start or end with Ryan. Edgar would have been an exceedingly poor choice against Blagojevich. The media don’t understand this because they are inherently liberal without even recognizing they are and fawn on the idea of a pro-choice, pro-gay rights social liberal running against Blago.

Now that Edgar’s out, the next media watch will be on his accounted choice, Judy Baar Topinka. Yes, the media have a poll (presumably taken by Topinka’s people) showing she can beat Blagojevich. So the media hustle will be: will Judy run? Run, Judy, run! Media are entranced because again there’s a pro-choice, pro-gay rights liberal woman. Again, the media are wrong. Topinka will go into the race with good name ID but again the deals from the old days will be brought front and center. Blagojevich has a corner on the gay vote, has a corner on the pro-abort vote, has a corner on all the liberal interest group support which Judy claims. You think core Republicans are going to vote for her because she played her accordion at gay rights marches? If she runs, nobody will be trying to scoop up the socially conservative vote. Nobody. She very well may not run—not because she doesn’t want the governorship but because she may not survive the primary. And if she decides against it, media will say: oh those horrid old Republican extremists short-circuited her!

The real facts are these: Illinois missed the Reagan revolution because Republican governors—Thompson, Edgar, Ryan—were of the old school where cooperation with the Democrats was mandatory and no ideology or philosophy was required. Reaganite revolution means tax cuts; Thompson and Edgar gave tax hikes and Ryan fee hikes. Reaganite revolution means conservative social policies: all three were pro-choice (Ryan did a flip to become a liberal after election). Topinka is an inheritor of that tradition. The real way Republicans can win is to nominate a conservative, pro-life, anti-gay rights, pro-business, pro-Second Amendment guy. Media can’t understand it because they aren’t sympathetic to those issues so they talk to themselves and all sound like Rich Miller (to whom any Republican slightly right of center is a dinosaur, a nut, goofball, wacko). How to explain it? You start out with the base and add to it. No, that doesn’t mean go to the left. The great center field is un-determinative, fluid, able to be formed.

When Ronald Reagan ran for governor the first time, the smart folks and the lion’s share of the media believed the man of the future was George Christopher. Who was George Christopher? He was the Republican mayor of San Francisco. He was a liberal, indistinguishable from a Dem. He had smooth, rounded-off edges that didn’t offend. Reagan was perceived to be a B actor with paleo-conservative views. He then convinced Californians he was not a nut but fiscally responsible with a deft sense of humor. He captured the middle. Christopher would have been licked by Pat Brown because he wouldn’t have captured the base.

There are four good candidates for governor now running: Oberweis (whom the media have demonized as they had the early Reagan), Birkett (whom the media have also demonized), Brady (whom the media haven’t figured out yet) and Rauschenberger whom the media likes because he is malleable on some social issues. All are well qualified and all have particular strengths. The main job for Republicans is to build a unified ticket. If they don’t build a unified ticket, with four conservatives running they will split the vote and either the accordion lady or Ron Gidwitz will get the nomination. No one who knows Gidwitz well believes in his heart of hearts that he’s a winning candidate. There are certain things money can’t buy: one is a contagiously friendly personality. I know what I’m talking about because for a time he was chairman of the City Club when I was its president. A chillier scion of multi-wealth there never was. Unless the conservatives get together, they will split the votes and either Topinka with her accordion or Gidwitz with his godzillions will get the nomination. Blago vs. Topinka? Blago vs. Gidwitz? Whatta choice. Then Republicans could kiss 2006’s governorship goodbye.


  1. Are there really enough moderate votes out there for Judy? Even she says the nominee should be center-right. The last moderate candidate came in third.

  2. Am I mistaken, didn't Senator Brady say he would not put his own money into this race? When he announced he was asked if he was going to put his own money into this race and he said he was going to raise the money from the people who wanted change? Am I wrong?