Munger’s narrow’ loss good omen for Rauner
by RUSS STEWART
For the Republicans in Illinois, and especially allies of embattled Governor Bruce Rauner, statewide election results are relative. A win by 142,284 votes, which was Rauner’s 2014 margin, is a veritable landslide bordering on the miraculous. A loss by 217,242 votes, which was appointed Comptroller Leslie Munger’s 2016 margin, is a respectable showing bordering on awesome. A loss by 944,714 votes, which was Donald Trump’s 2016 margin, is simply normal.
The Munger-Susana Mendoza contest was a bare-knuckled proxy war between the governor and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, and the speaker had a solid but not overly impressive win.
In 2015 Rauner appointed Munger, a defeated 2014 legislative candidate, to the vacancy created by the death of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, the only other statewide Republican winner. Madigan muscled state Senator Dan Biss out of the 2016 special election and anointed Mendoza, his longtime protege, as the Democratic nominee. Mendoza was the Chicago city clerk, an 11-year state representative who voted as she was told and the first Hispanic woman to run for state office.
On each ballot in Illinois, three of the first four Democrats were women — Hillary Clinton for president, Tammy Duckworth for U.S. senator, the congressional candidate and then Mendoza. Clinton got 3,090,729 votes, amassing a 944,714-vote margin, Duckworth got 2,908,363 votes and a 758,264-vote margin, and Mendoza got 2,583,436 votes (49 percent of the total cast), with a 217,242-vote margin. Mendoza had 507,293 fewer votes than Clinton had statewide. Being Hispanic did not sell well everywhere.
Munger’s loss was a good 2018 omen for Rauner, who with his allies poured about $100 million into the Illinois Republican Party, of which about $25 million was plowed into Munger television ads, almost all of which excoriated Mendoza as a Madigan flunky. Madigan reciprocated by spending about $10 million on ads tying Munger to Rauner and the "extremist" Springfield Republican agenda.
The comptroller’s job is that of a well paid clerk. The General Assembly budgets and appropriates money, and the comptroller signs the checks and forwards them to the payee. Because Illinois hasn’t had a budget for 2 years, Munger caused a stir when she initially said she couldn’t pay the state’s bills without one, but she quickly relented and funds for education and law enforcement were back in the pipe, although a lot of Medicaid vendors are still waiting for their $13 billion.
Munger versus Mendoza was a generic Rauner/Republican versus Madigan/Democrat race, and Munger’s loss was a big Rauner win because it demonstrated both Madigan’s toxicity and the ability of $25 million to get Illinoisans to support Republicans in certain contests. Trump waged no media campaign, his strategists having written off Illinois from day one, and he barely cracked 40 percent of the vote in the exurban and suburban areas north of Interstate 80, but Munger got 47 percent in the outlying counties and an impressive 54 percent Downstate.
Munger got 2,346,194 votes in a two-party turnout of 4,929,630, which was 522,567 more than Rauner’s 2014 total of 1,823,627 in a turnout of 3,626,504. There is a clear message here: Rauner has a base, and there is no reason why any 2014 Rauner voter or 2016 Munger or Trump voter would not support him in 2018. Rauner delivered what he promised: a Springfield shake-up.
The Mendoza vote of 2,538,436, not Clinton’s vote of 3,090,729, is the Democratic base. Clinton got 1,409,386 more votes than the 1,681,343 that Pat Quinn got in 2014, and she got 500,000 more votes in Chicago. Rauner can and will win if the 2016 Democratic base dwindles by at least 1.2 million, to 2014 levels.
Illinois’ situation is akin to what is happening nationally. Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, and the "Women’s March" allegedly mobilized 2.5 million people worldwide in support of women’s, immigrants’ and abortion rights and to protest Trump’s election. I seem to remember that, during the 2015-16 primary campaign, the only Republicans who supported abortion rights and gay marriage were Trump and Chris Christie. Now the new president is being demonized as a racist, sexist, homophobic lout, with his "America First" rhetoric being called "Hitlerian."
Welcome to the 2020 campaign. There are 46 months until the 2020 election, or roughly 1,385 days. It is an ancient political axiom that parity breeds polarity. Throughout its history, America has been divided economically, culturally, geographically, racially and ethnically, usually between the "haves" and the "have nots." The American political system, circa 2016, is divided basically along cultural, geographic and racial lines. The rich and the poor, the East and West coasts (plus Illinois), and the minorities, are Democratic, and everyone else is Republican. The nation is essentially divided 47-47-6 percent, with those in the middle tipping the balance. That’s parity, so the way to win an election is not only to persuade more than half of the chronically undecided, but also to motivate the base. Clinton got 62,170 fewer votes than Obama got in 2012, which means that she didn’t sufficiently motivate the party base and the "Obama Nation."
The outsiders, meaning those who backed Trump, despise the affluent elites who manipulate the system and mock their culture, and the congenital poor, who manipulate the system to secure social services and monetary benefits. The insiders, meaning those who backed Clinton, want to maintain the status quo, and they view Trump as a threat.
The "progressives" fully understand the necessity of keeping their liberal Democratic base agitated, angry and fully engaged, either by donating money or participating in events. Their strategy is exemplified by the "Six Ds" — delegitimize, define, demonize, distract, disrespect and deploy. This "movement" is predicated on six words — TRUMP WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO WIN. He upset their preconceived notions and expectations. A woman president was supposed to succeed a black president. Trump, who lost the popular vote 65,844,957-62,979,879, must be relentlessly attacked if the 2016 abomination is to be rectified in 2020.
The "Six Ds" have been used periodically in the past, with mixed success. In 1824 Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans and a contemporary celebrity much like Trump, rode a wave of Western, outsider, populist, anti-New England, anti-status quo votes to the presidency, getting 15,872 votes to 105,321 for John Quincy Adams, but there were four candidates, and none had an Electoral College majority, so the U.S. House picked the president from the top three, and Speaker Henry Clay, who finished fourth, strong-armed his colleagues to choose Adams — and then became the secretary of state. The social media, which were Jacksonian newspapers, howled "corrupt bargain," Adams was delegitimized, demonized and disrespected, and Jackson won 647,231-509,097 in 1828.
In 1856 the Abolitionist-dominated, sectional Republican Party was founded, and John Fremont lost 1,927,995-1,391,555, with 873,053 votes to a third party candidate. The pro-slavery Democratic Party was collapsing, and the 1860 campaign began the day after Fremont lost. Abraham Lincoln, who was not an abolitionist but who wanted to stop the spread of slavery and maintain it in the South, was nominated and got 1,866,353 votes (39.9 percent of the total cast), to a combined 2,810,501 for three opponents. The Southerners quickly delegitimized Lincoln by seceding, and pro-Southern Democratic Copperheads demonized and disrespected Lincoln throughout his term.
In 1876, Reconstruction, meaning the occupation of Southern states by the U.S. Army, was in its final stages. The scandals of the Grant Administration gave Democrat Samuel Tilden a 4,284,757-4,033,950 win over Rutherford Hayes, but Republicans manipulated the "returning boards" in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida to invalidate enough white Democratic votes to give Hayes a 185-184 Electoral College win, and Hayes because known as "His Fraudulency." Tilden didn’t try to foment a protest movement, and he didn’t run in 1880, when Hayes retired and Republican James Garfield won.
In 1896 Democrat William Jennings Bryan effected a culture-based political realignment, pitting his rural, agrarian, isolationist, outsider, populist party against the industrialists and elites of the East. He lost to conservative William McKinley 7,035,638-6,467,946, getting 913,532 more votes than Democrat Grover Cleveland got in 1892. Bryan kept on running, losing in 1900 and 1908. It was only Teddy Roosevelt’s populism that kept Bryan from the presidency.
In 1912, with Roosevelt forming his Progressive Party, thereby splitting the Republicans, Woodrow Wilson won with 6,286,214 votes, less than Bryan’s 6,408,106 in 1908. The combined Taft-Roosevelt vote was 7,699,942 (55 percent of the total). Wilson clearly was a minority president, but the fact that the liberal Wilson-Roosevelt vote was 10,501,234 (75 percent) made it impossible to delegitimize Wilson, who enacted most of Bryan’s reforms. In 1916 Wilson promised not to get America into World War I, won 9,129,606-8,538,221 — and then went to war.
In 1948 Democrat Harry Truman, who succeeded Franklin Roosevelt as president and who had his party split into leftist and segregationist segments, still won 24,105,812- 21,970,065 over Tom Dewey, getting 49.8 percent of the vote. Republicans immediately began their onslaught on Truman, realizing that if they didn’t win in 1952 they would be extinct.
In 1968, in a three-way race, Richard Nixon won with 43.9 percent of the vote. Democratic liberals immediately began "reforming" their party, and they went on to lose with George McGovern in 1972, getting 38.2 percent of the vote, but Nixon delegitimized himself with Watergate. In 1992 Bill Clinton won another three-way race with 47.3 percent of the vote, and in 2000 George Bush lost 50,456,169-50,996,116 but still took the presidency. The Democrats’ delegitimization efforts ended with 9/11.
In both Illinois and nationally, the "Six Ds" are under way.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.