By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger encouraged a Republican crowd to improve its attitude to boost the party's chances in the upcoming elections.
Kinzinger, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who lives in Bloomington and represents the 16th District, was introduced by Quincy mayoral candidate Kyle Moore as a focused, results-orientated, conservative leader. He laced those values into his keynote speech during the Lincoln/Reagan Luncheon at the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center on Sunday. He outlined why he believed the Republican Party did so poorly during the 2012 election.
Kinzinger said roughly 35 percent of Americans align themselves with the Republican Party. He believes in recent years Republicans have gained a reputation for being angry at the current state of the country.
"The new definition of conservatism in this country is not what you actually believe, it's become who's louder and who's angrier," Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger noted that, in years past, young voters and ethnic minorities had often voted on the Republican ticket, and he asked the crowd to consider why. He said this constant fury and an unwillingness to accept more liberal conservatives had driven potential allies away from the party.
"If somebody is with us 80 percent of the time, shouldn't they be our friend?" he said. "If we don't accept them, guess what? The Democrats will."
Kinzinger praised former President Ronald Reagan for his optimistic view of the country. He recounted how Reagan had promised Americans a "shining city on a hill" when he entered office in 1981. Eight years later, Kinzinger said, Reagan achieved that vision. The economy boomed, jobs were plentiful and the Republican Party thrived.
The representative explained the party strives for a government that builds roads and bridges, defends the country from enemies, encourages the free market to flourish, preserves family and provides a social safety net that fosters essentials but not a way of life. Kinzinger said somehow this message has gotten lost since the Reagan years, and he believes Republicans could benefit from conveying their ideals with a smile rather than a scream.
"I believe that the last great explainer, the person to explain the conservative message, was Ronald Reagan," Kinzinger said. "Let's change our conversation from who's not a Republican to who is."
Three potential Illinois gubernatorial candidates were in attendance Sunday — state Sen. Kirk Dillard, Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner.
Two other prominent Republicans have been linked to a possible run next year for governor — U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, who lost the 2010 general election to Gov. Pat Quinn.