Obviously, I live in Illinois. Or as close to Illinois as Chicago is ever going to get. And it’s an interesting political landscape. We have politicians who learn corruption before they learn how to work their office phone system. I have occasionally been offered parking ticket forgiveness in return for a vote. None of this is a big deal, because Illinois is a one-party state. There’s no real opposition. There’s no real Republican Party. If you want to make waves in IL, you’d had better start believing in Barack Obama as your lord and savior and Mike Madigan as his priest, or you’re just going to be one more voice howling at the brick walls of city and state government.
This is not because Illinois Dems are so freaking awesome that no opposition can ever truly compete. This is because what passes for an “Illinois GOP” is a bumbling, useless set of windbags, with less common sense than your average, everyday Lindsay Lohan, who spend party dollars putting on “Meet the Candidate” barbecues for people who only barely qualify as human beings (let alone potential elected officials), whine about the lack of coverage Republican candidates receive in downticket races on Chicago’s south side, and lose very winnable gubernatorial elections by putting up downstate politicians with a penchant for teaching Creationism and a hatred for urbanites up against weaselly Democrats who promise to raise taxes on the campaign trail.
You’d think some genius, somewhere, would think, perhaps it’s time for a party purge…maybe in favor of a more open, tolerant and moderate Republican party that can attract voters from downstate strongholds and heavy urban centers. Well, they’ve determined they’re in need of a purge all right, but it isn’t the likely future of the party that’s taking control.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady was already in hot water with a vocal contingent from the conservative wing of the state party (a lonelier club in Illinois than the one here in Missouri). They’ve been trying to oust Brady for awhile, for several reasons that have nothing do to with same-sex marriage.
But that issue, currently playing out in the legislature, might be the one that gives the oust-Brady movement critical mass.
As party activist and Brady critic Doug Ibendahl put it in a recent essay: “Well whatever it takes I guess.”
Great. The weird part of this? Illinoisans, both Republican and Democrat, favor gay marriage by a strong margin, so any rational politician looking to expand his base going into a gubernatorial election year against a beleaguered Democratic candidate would likely make the decision to embrace at least some moderate support of the measure. And it’s not like Brady went out and changed the IL GOP platform – he lobbied lawmakers for the gay marriage provision privately, likely understanding what solid support for the measure could do for the flagging image of the party in Illinois.
And then there’s that thing about how the leader of the ouster? Yeah, Jerry Clarke. The guy who decided Bill “Let’s Teach Creationism” Brady shouldn’t campaign in any urban or suburban Chicago counties, lest his precious conservative credentials be soiled talking to urban RINOs, and instead farmed out the task of converting Chicago voters to the GOP to a Democrat named Skinny. Because, if there’s anyone I’d trust to get Republican votes out of a Democratic stronghold, it would definitely be someone playing for the other team.
I mean, I can really see how the IL GOP chair who brought the state party out of debt and raised nearly $8 million since he took office, managed to steal Mark Kirk’s Senate win from the jaws of Alexi Giannoulias’ shady Democratic machine and slashed overhead and unnecessary spending at the party level, is definitely running the party into the ground with his support of the Illinois gay marriage measure.
Illinois will always be weird. And given the spineless nature of the local Republican party, they will always be on the losing end. But couldn’t we just, for once, have something nice? I mean, really. Just one step in the right direction? I know, I know. It’s not what the IL GOP is used to. But you know, there’s always room for improvement.