The Grand Old Party in Illinois is an oxymoron.
Now it is in the throes of selecting a new chairman after cannibalizing the old one.
Problem is the old one, Pat Brady, isn’t all that old. And dared to express a modern idea about equality, publicly voicing support for same-sex marriage. Brady’s pronouncement caused the delusional in the right wing of the Republican state central committee — I’m speaking chiefly but not exclusively of Jim Oberweis, the state senator and ice cream king — to choke on their double-dip vanilla.
The electorate is not vanilla.
It’s a rainbow sherbet, though you’d never have known it looking at the Republican National Convention last year. Even though the Land of Lincoln’s favorite son was closing in on re-election as the first African-American president.
Has the right wing of the Illinois GOP had any “ah-ha” moments in the last — say — decade?
No need to answer that.
So, truly, it’s time for Republicans in general in this state to skip the meaningless ritual of picking a new chairman.
Remember the right wing’s gift in 2004 of Alan Keyes as the Republican alternative to Barack Obama in the race for U.S. Senate?
The party chairman at the time was Judy Baar Topinka, a moderate who actually understands how to win elections. She could barely hide her disdain when answering questions about the choice of a wild-eyed, Maryland carpetbagger as the conservative’s choice for contender. After all, the right wing reasoned, Keyes was black, wasn’t he?
He went down in flames.
The real leadership of this party are the people who have been elected repeatedly to public office. Moderates like Sen. Mark Kirk, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Tom Cross. They are the ones who fought back several efforts to depose Brady as chairman. But Brady was done doing battle with the batty fringe and resigned last week on his own terms.
Ron Gidwitz, one of the pillars of the party and one of its deepest pockets, is fed up. And said so to the Sun-Times’ Natasha Korecki.
“A faction of the state central committee is destroying any chance that the Republican Party has in 2014,” said Gidwitz. “They’re fundamentally creating an irrelevancy for the state party.”
Before Illinois Republicans pick the next chairman, they should go looking for a big tent rather than the small outpost they’ve become.
By phone on Friday, Gidwitz went further:
“I am pro-choice. But I was one of the guys who got (conservative, anti-abortion) Henry Hyde elected! This nation’s biggest problems,” he went on, “are not in somebody’s bedroom. They are fiscal in nature. They’re about jobs and pensions and budgets.”
In the last election, Illinois Republicans lost virtually every voting block: blacks, Hispanics, young people, middle aged and elderly.
Republicans in Illinois don’t need another chairman.
They need a tent.
A big one.
Build it, Illinois GOP.
And voters might actually come home to you again.