Mike Madigan is having a nice chuckle today at the expense of the Illinois Republican Party. That's assuming of course Mike Madigan even thinks about the Illinois Republican Party.
My sense is Madigan worries about the Illinois GOP to the same extent the eagle worries about the sparrow.
Over the weekend at the Illinois Republican State Convention in Tinley Park the Illinois GOP had an historic opportunity to make a big advance and to get back on track. Our Party had the chance to become a respectable force again, one that could maybe some day compete with Mike Madigan and the Democrats in Illinois.
Our Party had the opportunity over the weekend to get serious instead of just relying on Party Chair Pat Brady whose idea of politics seems confined to childish name calling and gimmicks. Yesterday Brady called Madigan a "self-serving leprechaun." Yes, that will definitely drive a lot of voters to the polls for Republican candidates. The Irish voters especially I'm sure.
A resolution to restore real elections for the members of the State Central Committee was on the table in the Platform and Resolutions Committee which met on Friday.
A majority vote of 10 "ayes" were needed to pass the resolution out of that committee and on to the convention floor on Saturday where the entire delegation could have once and for all decided whether Republican voters should again be allowed to directly elect the members of the State Central Committee, the senior governing board that runs our Illinois Republican Party.
Unfortunately the delegates didn't even get the chance to be part of history. Delegates could one day have told their grandchildren that grandpa and grandma had a leadership role in returning the Illinois Republican Party to Republican voters. Delegates could have could have proudly patted themselves on the back for being the biggest energizing force in Illinois GOP politics since Reagan.
But it didn't happen. The delegates were never even entrusted with the opportunity. So fearful were the bosses that they might lose control of an Illinois Party which they have no idea how to run and which they've already weakened into irrelevancy - that all the stops were pulled out to smother the reform resolution in committee.
The resolution that would have restored real elections and accountability failed by a vote of 11 to 7 on Friday. When the entire delegation showed up on Saturday there was not even an opportunity for them to weigh in on the biggest issue of the convention. The dirty work was done the day before.
Delegates instead spent 50 bucks and were forced to play pretend. Delegates were expected to treat State Representative Mike Bost as some kind of hero because he recently threw a rehearsed hissy fit on the House floor over House rules which Bost helped adopt years ago. Bost rants and raves over what he considers a lack of democracy in the Illinois House -- but never mentions that he's always been a an opponent of real democracy when it comes to the Republican rank-and-file. And of course no one from the podium on Saturday brought up the uncomfortable truth that the squelching of voting rights that occurred the day before (by Republicans against Republicans) was a hundred times more shameful than whatever slight Mike Bost feels Madigan has personally inflicted upon him and the rest of the hapless GOP caucus in Springfield.
First, let's recognize and say thank you to the heroes. Here are the seven members of the Platform and Resolutions Committee who voted to send the resolution to the floor and allow the entire delegation to decide the issue.
Karen Hayes (1st Congressional District)
Brent Woods (3rd Congressional District)
Joe Hedrick (9th Congressional District)
Raymond True (10th Congressional District)
David Smith (11th Congressional District)
Ken Shepro (14th Congressional District)
John Parrott (15th Congressional District)
[Under Illinois law the State Central Committees remains structured under the old congressional district boundaries until the member terms expire in 2014. So there should have been 19 members on this and the other convention committees. There were only 18, however, because our State Party has allowed the 4th District State Central Committeeman spot to remain vacant for 14 months and counting. So not only have the thousands of Republicans in that district been unrepresented at the State Party all of that time, there was also no State Central Committee member to appoint representatives to the committees which met over the weekend. Just one more example of how Republicans are disenfranchised.]
Okay, those were the heroes, now the zeroes. Here are the names of the 11 "Republicans" who hate the idea of Republicans voting so much that they voted in committee to keep the delegates from voting on whether Republicans should have a vote.
Here are the 11 people who did more damage to our Party in one day than Mike Madigan could dream about doing in a decade.
MIKE MADIGAN'S FAVORITE REPUBLICANS
Irv Anderson (2nd Congressional District)
Ray Soch (5th Congressional District)
Paul Hinds (6th Congressional District)
Linda Tibensky (7th Congressional District)
Marjorie Kubalanza (8th Congressional District)
Chuck Hanfelder (12th Congressional District)
Rachel Ossyra (13th Congressional District)
Andy Blankenbaker (16th Congressional District)
Susie Carpentier (17th Congressional District)
Lowell Schroeder (18th Congressional District)
J.C. Kowa (19th Congressional District)
Some of these same 11 "Republicans" also voted on Friday against proposed amendments to our Platform endorsing greater protections for religious liberties, traditional family values and parental rights -- all pretty basic, reasonable GOP Platform kind of language. Three even voted for scrubbing the anti-gambling expansion plank entirely. Again, Mike Madigan's favorite Republicans at work.
What's even more shameful about the whole thing is that I had never heard of some of these 11 people until a couple of weeks ago when their names showed up on the convention committee list. I talked to several of the eventual "no" voters by phone in the days leading up to the convention. In multiple cases it was quite clear the individual had little understanding of our current system, much less the proposed reform. Yet that didn't stop them from inserting their judgment for that of the many thousands of Republicans they were supposedly representing from their respective congressional districts on the Platform and Resolutions Committee.
These 11, some of them brand newbies to GOP politics, declared on Friday they knew what was best for the rest of us. They declared there was no reason to even send the issue to the delegates to decide. This is arrogance beyond belief.
All convention committee members were handpicked by the State Central Committee -- each member of that committee picked one member for each committee at the convention. No surprise, most of the incumbent State Central Committee members oppose the direct election reform for obvious selfish reasons. They all have a conflict of interest on this issue. So what do they do? In several cases they doubled-down on their conflict by stacking the deck with enough friends who would follow their marching orders by voting "no" on the resolution. It really is as simple as that.
How was the resolution able to get even seven votes you ask? Good question. The Platform and Resolutions Committee has always been sort of a bone the old guard throws to conservatives. Most of our rulers have no intention of respecting the Platform anyway, so the attitude has largely been "sure go ahead and put what you want in your cute little Platform."
A core group of really good people slipped through the rigging. But at some point the powers-that-be realized what we were attempting with direct elections and they scrambled to make sure they had sufficient hacks onboard to kill the resolution in the committee.
The case for direct elections is a slam dunk. Just some of the major arguments are spelled out here. The opposition really has no valid arguments. In most cases they've just lazily stolen an argument for the reform and shamelessly turned it on its head and tried to claim it as their own.
Typical of the phony talking points is what Rachel Ossyra told the media after her betrayal of Republican voters on Friday. "How do you get your name out there in a district that big unless you have name recognition, unless you already have money behind you?" said Ossyra.
Oh I don't know Rachel, maybe by working hard for years in the trenches, and talking and working with Republican voters, local GOP officials and volunteers? Just a thought.
And who picked Ossyra for the Platform and Resolutions Committee? Her State Central Committeeman Roger Claar, that's who. Claar is an old pal of George Ryan and remains the long time Mayor of Bolingbrook. If you're concerned about money people getting on the State Central Committee, well, you've got it now with Roger Claar. His political committee represents one of the fattest war chests in the state.
And as far as "everyday Joes" getting on the State Central Committee -- real elections are in fact the only shot independent voices have. Under our current system the State Central Committee is entirely comprised now of either public officials or persons handpicked by a Congressman or other public official in the district. Two Congressmen have even abandoned the charade. Two of the 18 State Central Committee members we have now are on federal staff working for Congressmen.
There's also this phony fear that people with "high name I.D." will get on the State Central Committee. So the current system wouldn't possibly give us someone whose name is plastered on milk cartons, ice cream containers, trucks, billboards and stores all over the state? (Spoiler alert: Jim Oberweis.)
Here's a crazy idea. Maybe real elections would give us people with "high name I.D." Maybe that name recognition could come from working hard and making the Republican Party better and larger. Heaven forbid.
But the main reason we need direct elections is accountability. Regardless of who gets on the State Central Committee, at least they will all be accountable to Republican voters in a real election. Direct elections make even the current members marginally better overnight.
The reason we keep having horribly rigged conventions like the one we just had in Tinley Park, and Decatur four years ago, and Collinsville four years before that, is because the State Central Committee that runs the thing knows it can get away with it. The members have no fear of the rank-and-file.
Serious Republicans shouldn't despair. The case for restoring direct elections gets stronger every day and yet another rigged convention seals that case.
November is likely to be a good election for Republicans nationally. But in Illinois, the GOP is headed for disaster. You can't tell Republicans they are too stupid to vote and then expect Republicans to turn around and get excited in those cases where you weren't able to rig a convention to defeat democracy.
Pat Brady's term as State Chairman isn't up until 2014, but hopefully he'll have the decency to end his failed tenure on his own after the November election.
Serious Republicans who are sick of the lies and the dysfunction should push for the installation of a good State Chairman, a real leader. (I nominate John Parrott, and I'm sorry John for just ruining your chances with that endorsement.)
There is also no reason why we can't hold a real State Convention next year, one that will do more good than harm for a change. Existing state law allows us to restore direct elections at a state convention -- but the law doesn't say that convention has to be the one mandated every four years. A special convention is warranted when you've got a party with special problems. Illinois law would allow Republicans to do it. As is usually the case in GOP politics in this state, the real hurdle is political will.
Bottom line, good Republicans can't fix stupid. If the people who make the rules and control a convention are willing to disgrace themselves, there is only so much true Republicans can do. A lot of people, including a lot of new people, stepped up this year on the direct election reform. It's great to see. We need to keep educating and growing the ranks.
Pat Brady and crew have made their beds for 2012. All the rest of us can do for now is witness.
This post was originally published on Republican News Watch.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.