IL GOP Chair’s ouster goes far beyond stance on gay marriage

By DOUG IBENDAHL • February 23, 2013


On May 7, 1940, with England facing the real threat of German invasion, Leo Amery, Conservative Member of Parliament, rose in the House of Commons, looked over at Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and quoted what Oliver Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation:


“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”


I love the Brits.


Chamberlain did resign, just three days later on May 10, 1940, literally just hours before the German lightning invasion of France. Chamberlain’s former appeasement policy was officially abandoned once and for all when Britain chose Winston Churchill as the new Prime Minister. The rest as they say is history.


World War II analogies are maybe always a bit dicey when applied to Illinois politics. But there’s no denying that just like the British at the start of WWII, Illinois Republicans are today hobbled by a weak leader more concerned with appeasement than winning.


The good news is that some Republicans are finally finding a spine. Members of the State Central Committee which Pat Brady chairs have at long last scheduled a special meeting to take up the issue of ousting Brady. It’s about time.


The meeting is reportedly scheduled for Saturday, March 9th in Tinley Park. We’ll have to see what happens, but my sense is the weighted votes are there to remove Brady. It would be good to see the State Central Committee finally doing its job, or at least a small part of it.


It’s been funny watching this drama play out. No one on the State Central Committee said a peep throughout Brady’s tenure when he was rigging the State GOP Convention to ensure Republicans voters would remain without a vote in their own party, “washing” contributions from Chicago billionaires, and selling pooch attire instead of fielding a volunteer army for get-out-the-vote work. Even after this past November election, one of the most catastrophic shellackings ever experienced by a state political party anywhere in the history of political parties, almost no one spoke up.


But when that same chairman starts lobbying for gay marriage without telling the State Central Committee – now heads must roll.


Well whatever it takes I guess.


One would only hope the members of the State Central Committee might now appreciate how every member of the Republican rank-and-file feels in Illinois. Members of the State Central Committee get their undies in a bunch only when the chairman keeps them out of the loop. These party pooh-bahs will let anything go – anything that is except what they interpret to be disrespect to them personally – or, God forbid, an encroachment upon their own little fiefdoms.


Well wake up State Central Committee. Nearly ever Republican in this state feels ignored by Pat Brady and you every single day. For crying out loud, the State Party’s website contains neither phone numbers nor email addresses for the members of the State Central Committee. Gee, why would anyone ever want to contact their representative at the State Party? And more importantly, why would the State Central Committee want to encourage pesky peasants to become more engaged with their State Party? Good Lord, who knows where that all might lead.


With all due respect I also have to say some of my conservative friends have misplayed their hand a bit on the Pat Brady ouster issue. Like the members of State Central Committee, few conservatives said a peep about Brady’s many other failures and all of the mismanagement that’s been ongoing for years. Brady should have done the honorable thing and resigned the day after the November election disaster. But he didn’t and few in the Republican base made any noise until Brady was exposed a few months ago lobbying for the gay marriage bill in Springfield behind Republicans’ backs.


Don’t get me wrong. Brady’s lobbying on the sly against a major plank in his own organization’s platform is legitimate grounds all by itself for ouster. But with some making the issue only about gay marriage, Brady has hidden behind the issue and bought himself time and cover from gullible members of the Illinois press.


Pat Brady was a failed chairman long before he desperately sought cover in the gay marriage issue. I wish more people had spoken up sooner and about other issues.


But again, whatever it takes.


I don’t begrudge Republicans who are just now waking up. Better late than never, plus I recognize that people are busy and everyone has their own issues that are most important to them personally.


It’s offensive for Pat Brady to mock his own constituents who refuse to turn on a dime to embrace gay marriage. Granted, America does appear to be shifting at record speed on this issue. But it’s wrong for Brady to ride his high horse and demean a significant percentage of the Republicans he’s supposed to represent just because many hold the identical position on traditional marriage which even Barack Obama held up until less than a year ago!


What Brady’s really doing is pulling a con – and it’s been partially successful. He wants to distract from his management failures at the core of the November election disaster. But every honest observer knows Republican candidates weren’t wiped-out in Illinois because our platform wasn’t pro-gay marriage enough. November was a disaster because we’ve got a chairman and other party officials who don’t have the slightest clue how to put boots on the ground or get voters to the polls.


Despite all the snags, we seem to be approaching critical mass for Brady’s ouster. But don’t bet the farm on it just yet. Never underestimate the dysfunctionality of today’s Illinois GOP.


But if and when Brady is ousted, step two has to be about ensuring an open process to pick his replacement. Republicans should demand, at a minimum, at least a couple of town hall/debate forums around the state where all Republicans can hear from the candidates who want the job. Let’s hear their visions and plans for our party. Let’s ask them some questions and hear their answers. At the end of the day, only the State Central Committee chooses its chairman, but the Republican rank-and-file should at least have the opportunity to weigh in.


That’s the best we can hope for now. Of course the Illinois Republican Party will never get fully on-track until we restore real accountability by restoring the vote to each and every Republican in Illinois.


Oh, and finally, Mr. Brady, if I could have a word. “In the name of God, go.”


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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