Did you know a movie was made about the Illinois GOP a few years ago? I missed it when it came out. It won the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2007. In May it was recommended to me and last weekend I watched it. I give it five stars.
“The Lives of Others” is a movie set in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It focuses on the activities of the Stasi, the secret police of the Communist Party. Anyone familiar with Republican politics in Illinois during the past twenty or more years will recognize some very familiar human behaviors in action.
The same mentality that drove the communist apparatchiks to secure power by any means behind the Iron Curtain has been mirrored by a couple of generations of Republican political hacks and useless elected officials.
One of the first stories I heard about GOP politics back in the early 1990s when I returned to Illinois from Washington, D.C. was about the Jim Edgar/Steve Baer primary. The Edgar people made it a habit at local Republican organization endorsement meetings to take down names of Precinct Committeemen outside of Cook County and Precinct Captains in Cook County who voted to support Steve Baer in that race.
In the tradition of the Stasi, the Communist East German secret police, those who supported Baer got black marks beside their names.
Later, I worked for a short time for the George Ryan Secretary of State’s office. It was an opportunity to see the corruption first hand. Entire divisions were created to do political work on state time. I quit a full year before the Willis children died as a result of that corruption.
Was there a revolt within the IL GOP over George Ryan’s corruption in the 1990s? Heck no. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar’s administrations had created a strong, corrupt culture that carried George Ryan into the Governor’s Mansion in 1998.
It didn’t stop after Ryan was run out of office. He was forced by a corruption investigation to not run for re-election in 2002. But his successor was ready. Judy Baar Topinka inherited the mantle. Have you ever seen the video of Judy and George doing the polka? Click here. A short video can be worth 10,000 words.
Topinka became state party chairman and successfully rigged the 2004 IL State Party Convention so people like Bob Kjellander could win another term as National Committeeman.
After Judy’s tenure, hapless Andy McKenna was inserted as party chairman and did his part to squelch reform, prevent the building of a bench or any real state party organization. He had his own convention to rig in 2008 so the next generation of approved “leaders” could keep the Stasi — I mean IL GOP — in good working order.
If you wonder why there’s a “tea party” movement, it’s because of the corruption inside the Republican Party — not just in Illinois, but nationally.
If good people would have been running things in the party of Lincoln and Reagan, the Bush/Hastert years would not have led to the Obama/Pelosi years. Those who have arisen and joined 9/12 or tea party groups would’ve instead been recruited into the Grand Old Party during the past twenty years. They would have been holding party or public office. And this country wouldn’t now stand at this precipice.
Those who have been around GOP politics for many years are constantly struck by the atmosphere and nature of 9/12 or tea party events. I was at one of these events this past Saturday and the speaker pointed out that from his vantage point, the quality of the people is so much better than what you typically find at political events. Instead of careerism, a lust for contracts, patronage, or the protection of some petty fiefdom, good Americans are entering politics with the right motivation.
They’re not looking to get paid off with a high powered law firm gig. Or to cling to a staff job even if it drives a person to drink. Or to cash in eventually as a lobbyist or via some Cap and Trade type scam (etc., etc.). They want to see their country return to its founding principles.
Fortunately, the political Berlin Wall in Illinois is starting to fall. Yes, it’s just starting, but for those of us who know life in the political gulag, the start is a pleasure to watch. It’s reminiscent of the summer of 1989 in Europe. If you remember (or have read history) the rumblings began the summer before the actual Wall fell in November 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed two years later in December, 1991.
Towards the end of the movie “The Lives of Others” one of the characters says disgustedly to one of the old party bosses after the fall of the Berlin Wall – “To think that people like you once ruled a country.”
We look forward to the day — hopefully soon — when such a statement can be made about those who once ruled the Republican Party — not only here — but also in too many other places in this great nation.