Commentary by Daniel T. Zanoza, Executive Director
He is one of the most liberal members of the United States House of Representatives. He is a staunch defender of abortion rights and he recently voted for the largest tax increase in American history--Cap and Trade. Who am I talking about? U.S. Representative Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois' 10th Congressional District.
Earlier this month, Kirk threw his hat into the ring, seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Oh, and one more thing...Kirk will never win the seat currently held by Roland Burris who was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the office vacated by President Barack Obama.
It is a never-ending broken record which seems to play over and over in the Illinois GOP. For that matter, this long-playing sour tune can be heard in Republican circles on a national level as well. From Judy Baar Topinka to Sen. John McCain, there is a myth that simply will not die when it comes to so-called moderates running for political office as Republicans. Even though Baar Topinka could only garner 39% of the gubernatorial votes cast in her contest against Rod Blagojevich and McCain essentially threw away the presidency in his rush to moderation in the 2008 election, the GOP seems ready to court disaster once again with Kirk.
It is a very strange phenomenon. Republicans who run away from their party's platform are frequently rewarded by the GOP establishment. Some heavy hitters have already endorsed Kirk, even though it is far too early to do so. The question is "why?" But we can't forget the myth perpetuated by some party leaders and promoted by the media that says: "Republicans must govern like Democrats, in order to win elections."
Mark Kirk is looked upon with disdain by some fiscal conservatives and a vast majority of social conservatives. Kirk's recent vote on Cap and Trade drew a firestorm of criticism from both wings of the party, yet somehow there are those who believe Kirk would prevail over a Democratic opponent in 2010.
I would like to know how the Congressman from the 10th District can hope to win a general election against any Democrat without the support of both fiscal and social conservatives. Perhaps Kirk is hoping fiscal conservatives will have a short memory--or no memory at all--when it comes to the fact he was one of eight Republicans who voted for the Cap and Trade legislation in a very close vote in the U.S. House. But it is an absolute certainty pro-family Republicans would rather sit on their hands than cast a ballot for Kirk, no matter how hard he may try to morph himself into a different political animal than he is.
However, there are some in the GOP who hold fast to a flawed notion that says, "Republican--right or wrong." I once sat in on a meeting attended by leaders in the Illinois social conservative movement and the party's state Chairman. It was a gathering designed to encourage greater communication between pro-family activists and the GOP establishment. At the time, the chasm between the two political factions had just begun to widen. I will never forget the words uttered by the GOP state Chairman--whose name I will leave out of this column. Indeed, what the man said is consistent with the views held by some in party leadership in Illinois for many years. "I know we can all agree we have to support all Republicans--right or wrong." The room went up for grabs. "No!" exclaimed the participants in the meeting. This was followed by a litany of criticism levied against the individual who made the "Republican--right or wrong" statement, to the point where I actually felt sorry for this man who was simply echoing the misguided party line.
Sadly, this mindset still exists in Illinois Republican politics and this philosophy continually rears its ugly head on the national level as well. What is even more astounding is the fact some in GOP leadership have not learned Republicans cannot out-Democrat the Democrats. Indeed, at least with the opposition party, voters know what they are getting. There is no ambiguity. There are no campaign promises that eventually will be broken. Democrats, for the most part, hold fast to their political ideologies which create unity among special interest groups which represent the left.
To the contrary, Republicans, like Mark Kirk, who deviate from the principles which should separate Republicans from Democrats, try to straddle a political fence which, most certainly, ends up in disaster for the GOP. There was no ambiguity regarding where Ronald Reagan stood on the issues. He was bold in his support of conservative values. Hence, Reagan became one of the most popular presidents in American history.
In Illinois, though he received little, if any, support from the GOP establishment, Peter Fitzgerald won not only the Republican primary, but the general election as well when he defeated the incumbent, U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, in 1998 because he closely adhered to Republican principles.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party establishment does not believe in what it should stand for. Those who abide by the GOP platform in Illinois are considered too conservative to win general elections. This is a premise that is not based in fact. Subsequently, individuals like Kirk, far too often, become the party's nominee, but their support among the true party faithful is wafer-thin or practically non-existent. Therefore, Republicans in Illinois go down in defeat, time and time again. But we hear the same old rhetoric...only moderate Republicans can be successful in this state. The elephant, which is the symbol of the Grand Old Party, is famed for its memory. An elephant never forgets. However, in the case of the Illinois GOP, it's the party that never learns.
Mark Kirk is not a "moderate" on abortion By John Biver, Champion News: http://www.championnews.net/article.php?sid=2009
Cap and Trade Passes U.S. House: Kirk, 7 other Republicans, Vote for Greatest Tax Increase in U.S. History by Dan Zanoza: http://rffm.typepad.com/republicans_for_fair_medi/2009/06/cap-and-trade-passes-us-house-kirk-7-other-republicans-vote-for-greatest-tax-increase-in-us-history-.html
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