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Main Street Republicans in B-N Mixed On Biden

Joe Biden
John Minchillo
/
AP

Main Street Republicans in Bloomington-Normal look ahead to a Joe Biden administration with a combination of fear and optimism. Several GOP members consulted by WGLT, who are not office holders and not involved in political activity, all affirmed traditional values of the party.

These are what used to be called "business" Republicans in an era that was less polarized than the country is today. They largely voted for President Donald Trump and support some of his policies. They’re pro-business, anti-regulation and think the government should have limits.

Policy

Bloomington-Normal banker Dave Rutledge said he has misgivings about the effect on the country if the policy plans of president-elect Biden come to pass.

“Taxes, to me, is a big one with the country coming through the pandemic and so many businesses suffering. Some of the environmental policies and things like that will put an extreme burden on businesses that they can’t achieve. This waiving of student debt and free health care, no one has ever asked him how he is going to pay for it,” said Rutledge.

Retired attorney Bill Mueller said he hopes Biden will not be captured by the left that helped elect him. 

“I think he needs to think strongly about helping small businesses and really think very carefully about increasing any government regulations, ‘What is this regulation really addressed to do? What harm is it correcting, how serious is it?’ Whether he will do that or not, I don’t know,” said Mueller. 

Mueller said he has no deep worry about policy in a Biden presidency, adding he thinks Biden realizes he has to govern from the center because most tickets get split and that will continue to happen. 

“The best example of that is probably in Illinois, where Biden won overwhelmingly but the so-called Fair Tax referendum didn’t come close to passing, didn’t even get a majority,” said Mueller.

The statwide referendum was not approved, receiving about 45% "yes" votes and 55% "no" votes. As a constitutional amendment, the proposal needed to be approved by 60% of those voting on the referendum, or by 50% of all voters voting in the election.

Mueller said in other states people voted handily for Trump, butt also approved a hike in the minimum wage.

Attorney Craig Queen voted for Trump four years ago, but not this year. He said he was very disappointed in Trump’s abandonment of traditional Republican values of fiscal responsibility, free trade and a strong foreign policy that tries to contain Russia. 

Queen said he has some anxiety about Biden tax policy, but is willing to take him at his word for now that changes won’t affect the vast majority of Americans. 

Comity and division 

Even though the popular vote went to Biden by a significant amount, more than 7 million, Trump received more votes than Barack Obama did in his two presidential contests. In fact, Trump secured more votes than any U.S. candidate has ever received--except for Biden. Rutledge said that should matter to both sides of the political divide.

“I think it should be a message to all of the Democrats, but I don’t think it matters to them. To me, the problem with politics has become it’s all about money, power and control and not about what’s best for the people,” said Rutledge.

The national rhetoric has not matched that silent middle Mueller feels is an actual majority. 

That same rhetoric is a barrier to achieving compromise in the House and Senate. Mueller said Biden hit the right notes after the election saying he wouldn’t be a Democratic or Republican president but an American president.

“He said we have to stop demonizing people that disagree with us,” said Mueller. “Well, that lasted about a day because the next day he refers to Trump as an embarrassment to the country and the traditions of the country because he wouldn’t concede the election.”

When asked what the president’s refusal to concede means to the country, Biden answered, “I just think it’s an embarrassment quite frankly … I think it will not help the president’s legacy.”

Queen said he does have some hope of a more centrist approach.

“I think his political collateral is sufficient. I also think that Joe Biden, having sat in the Senate for as long as he has, will be able to work with what I anticipate will probably be a Republican Senate in varying issues,” said Queen. 

He said he suspects Biden will be able to work with GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell in a constructive way on some issues, adding the Republican gains in the House  also also be helpful to force Biden to the center.

“I really am looking forward to, hopefully, a balanced government,” said Queen.

Rutledge is not so optimistic there is a class of national political leaders that views the art of the deal as a crucial part of government. 

“We have become such a divided nation of extremes. At some point, you have a group of Republicans and Democrats that had a more moderate view and opinion. I think since the last administration, it has become further and further of a divide,” said Rutledge. “That overlapping group has become smaller and smaller.” 

Rutledge said the vitriol of the language in the last election means it will take someone with '"extreme skills" to bring lawmakers back together. 

The Main Street Republicans said Biden is not the only piece of the political puzzle that has to tack to the center. Lawyer Queen said the GOP also must seek a way back to bipartisanship.

“I think they need to move back to where they’ve been most of my life, which was more to the moderate side,” said Queen. “As much as the Democratic party has shifted to the left, the Republican party has shifted to the right.”

Queen said both parties need to understand the nation has a lot more people like him than it does in the fringe groups.

But there is where Queen said his optimism runs into reality.

“I’m hopeful that Donald Trump and his base will end up in obscurity going forward. I’m afraid he and that movement will carry some momentum for a while,” said Queen. 

Mueller said possibly the best service Biden can render the country is to settle everybody down.

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WGLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio.