A litmus test for leadership and Andy McKenna’s failed tenure

Long time readers of this website know that this writer have been the loudest critics of Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy “no litmus test” McKenna. If you doubt that, click through our archives. We never feared telling it like it is, never hesitated to hold him or his enablers accountable. Countless suggestions have been offered about what exactly needed to change. My question for those who didn’t speak up is – why not?

Learn this and never forget it: political reform precedes policy reform. If you wonder why this state is losing ground, you need only look to the incompetence of the leaders of the Illinois Republican Party. Let me say it again—the Democrats aren’t the problem in this state. The problem is weak, ineffectual, and vision-less Republicans.

The path to solving every major policy problem facing Illinois is found in the GOP Platform principles. As I’ve noted countless times—the policy answers are already known. Examples and specifics can be found in think tanks and in Republican legislation in other states. The only unanswered question is when will we see the kind of political leadership that is needed?

If we can’t clean up our political house—if we can’t reform the Illinois Republican Party—forget ever seeing a General Assembly that sets priorities, balances the budget, limits spending and the size of government, reforms state pensions and also education, and allows for the kind of climate required for economic growth.

Andy McKenna’s tenure as state party chairman was a failure from the start – but outside of what we wrote, it was nearly impossible to find any other criticism of him or his handlers and lackeys. Why? That’s an easy one. It’s because too many Illinois GOP politicos lack of courage, judgment, or any clue as to what a successful state party should accomplish.

I had many private conversations during the past four and a half years with people involved with Republican politics who had doubts or complaints about McKenna & Co. But seldom was a negative word ever voiced publicly.

Listen, a person who can’t muster the guts to speak publicly about problems within our own Republican Party—you can forget them ever having what it takes to take on the teacher unions or the other government employee unions. Forget them ever having the ability to make a convincing case to the public for what reforms are needed or having the ability to put together a winning coalition to advance those reforms.

It’s good news that McKenna has stepped aside. It’s also good news that he’s going to endorse a candidate for governor. McKenna will finally be doing something good with that action, as he’ll be signaling to serious reform minded GOP voters who they shouldn’t support in that crowded gubernatorial primary.

Will things improve now that Andy is gone? That remains to be seen. One of the people who has been silent on the failures of McKenna’s four and a half year reign is Pat Brady, the man who now succeeds him. For what that portends in my view, re-read what I’ve written above. Brady’s first order of business should be to repent for his silence.

©2009 John Francis Biver