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Republicans trying to find their way should visit Illinois

National party thinks things are rough after loss to Obama, but it hasn't seen how politics work in Chicago

John Kass

January 27, 2013

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With President Barack Obama embarking on his second term, the Republicans have proceeded through their stages of grief:

•Denial. (He's just a wacky socialist.)

•Anger. (He was born in Kenya.)

•Bargaining. (Not all rich guys who sell arms to the Pentagon are evil.)

•Depression. (It's all Ron Paul's fault.)

And now, with Obama poised to stuff the Republicans in a burlap sack and drop them into the Potomac, we're at the well-known fifth stage of GOP grief:

•Acceptance. Finally.

"So we're expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this (Obama) administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party," said House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accurately predicting the future.

"And let me just tell you," Boehner said without a tear, "I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history."

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but speaking as a conservative (and not a Republican), I don't know about that dustbin of history part.

Obama is a Chicago Democrat. And Chicago Democrats aren't known for sweeping their enemies into dustbins. That's too tidy, and it doesn't involve gristle or fluids.

Here's what Chicago Democrats do — they rip the heads off their enemies and shout down their necks: "You didn't build that! Hahaha!"

Republicans shouldn't be surprised. Obama needs to annihilate them to fully transform America into his ideal, which involves every American connected by bureaucratic umbilical cord to one government program or another, and in our sleep we'll hum, collectively, "Yes, we can!"

What should truly peeve the Republicans is that, as presently constructed, they can't do anything to stop him.

At least the Democrats know what they're about. Democrats are the government party, and they're about big, big government; big, big taxes to come on the middle class (demonizing the rich was just a prelude); redistribution of income; and making lawyers rich.

But the Republicans? What are they about?

They don't know what they're about, not really, and so they have a difficult time explaining what they don't know they're not about to the American people who don't know either.

Obamaphones? That's easy. That woman in Cleveland at the Romney rally explained it well, if not accurately: She's got a phone in her hand, she thinks Obama in his kindness gave it to her, and even though he didn't, she sings his praises as her benefactor. That's simple enough.

Confused Republicans can't draft simple messages. And, to be fair, it's difficult for a nation that looks to the Kardashians for cultural guidance to embrace the subtleties of sequestration and its effects on the budget process.

Establishment Washington Republicans talk and talk about fiscal responsibility, about the need to "cut spending" on all those unsustainable entitlement programs turning the U.S. economy into a big plate of flaming Greek cheese.

Young voters clinging to the Democratic Party will cry one day, and pull out their hair when they realize the costs of trillions upon trillions in debt and the effects of inflation. But for now, they're busy tweeting and getting their politics from Comedy Central. When they wake, don't be surprised if they start talking about death panels for everyone older than 60. By then, of course, it'll be too late.

So the Democratic message — give us free stuff because rich, white guys are evil — is effective. But the Republicans, what's their message? "Kick me, Mr. Obama"?

Republicans often talk of cutting domestic spending on entitlements for poor people. But in the same breath, the GOP backs defense contracts for wars that the middle class doesn't want to fight.

Republican establishment, where's the logic in that?

I don't think Republican bosses care, as long as they're the ones holding the rice bowl. It's about control and power, and they'll let Obama kick them and kick them as long as they've got their paws on that bowl. It's their bowl. You didn't build that. They did.

If national Republicans want to see what's coming and why, they might want to think about visiting Illinois, to see what Republicans can do when they abandon their principle and play junior Democrats in order to cling to their rice bowls.

For decade upon decade in Illinois, Boss Democrats spent and spent. But so did Boss Republicans. The Democrats kept their political workers happy and used them to leverage power and treasure. The Republicans kept businesses happy and used corporate leverage for power and treasure.

Middle-class taxpayers paid the bill. About 10 years ago they began to leave by the thousands. Now Illinois is broke.

On Friday, the bond rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the state's credit level again, to A-, putting Illinois' on par with California.

Illinois was once the place to do business. Now Illinois taxpayers are holding nearly $100 billion in public worker pension obligation debt. The only thriving business here is government.

In Illinois and in Washington, Republicans talk and talk about runaway spending. But then they run away and spend.

No wonder Obama cuffs them like wiggly puppies. He knows what he stands for, and he knows how to get there. And the Republicans don't.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass