Direct Elections: Conservatives need to tear down the wall

Now is the time for American conservatives to stop playing fantasy politics and get in the real game. I keep reminding people – there is no conservative ballot line – the place for conservative activists and candidates is in the Republican Party fighting for its ballot line.

What do I mean by conservative? Simply – those who support the principles outlined – in of all places – the Republican Party’s national platform. Limited government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, traditional values, free markets, a strong, smart defense and a wise foreign policy.

Here in Illinois it’s time for conservatives to tear up their little organizational stationary, drop their meaningless titles, and get on the field where candidates and legislation win or lose.

The little whine often heard from conservatives – that they’re conservatives first and Republicans second – needs to wind up on the dustbin of history. It’s mostly an excuse not to get one’s hands dirty fighting the fight and doing the hard work of democracy. That work must involve party politics.

For those who don’t like party politics, well, tough. I’m not all that thrilled with it either – just like I hate cutting my lawn in the summer or driving through snow in the winter. Life is full of things we have to deal with despite the fact that they’re not our first choice for how to spend our time. Your country – which, by the way, is a democratic republic – needs you.

Conservatives are great at publishing magazines, endlessly posting on blogs, and forming new independent organizations that actually don’t get much accomplished. Conservatives instead need to start suiting up and playing in the political big leagues.

Building mailing lists is nice – but you can bet those mailing lists consist mostly of other conservatives who are already on countless other mailing lists. What we need are more lists of people who are actually engaged in taking over the Republican Party and reaching new voters with the message of how the GOP wants to fix the policy messes that face our state and nation.

Conservatives need to tear down the wall between themselves and real political activity.

Right now the fight is on for the future of the Republican Party in Illinois. The fight centers on SB600, a bill that will once and for all open up the party to the participation of rank and file GOP voters.

The Illinois GOP has been controlled by a small old guard contingent that has a long history of failure. The question on the table is whether to undo a damaging change that a group of good old boys got passed in a Democratic Party dominated legislature back in the late 1980s.

As you can see on the Illinois General Assembly’s SB600 page, several conservative-leaning legislators have removed their support from the bill. Several of those same politicians have expressed interest in running for higher office. The question is raised as to whether campaign contributions are being promised in exchange for their opposition.

The so-called “ethics” reform law passed last year still allows the state party to collect massive sums from special interests that have very large contracts with the state. Access to the party’s coffers might be a bigger lure to these guys than opening up the Republican Party to genuine reform.

This past Wednesday evening the Illinois GOP State Central Committee adopted a resolution that is simply a desperate attempt to give Illinois legislators a reason to reject SB600 and party reform.

The 18 members of the GOP State Central Committee claim party reform via legislation is illegitimate. They don’t want you to know that the very system they’re defending was created by legislation.

President Ronald Reagan’s famous line calling on Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall provides a nice parallel for conservatives in Illinois and around the country. The Republican Party – to the extent it has existed – isn’t an “evil empire,” but it certainly has been inept at advancing the conservative solutions called for in its party platform.

Conservatives who expect liberal and so-called “moderate” Republicans to do their work for them on the political battlefield need to wise up. There shouldn’t be a wall between the conservative movement and the party charged with advancing its policies.

Never before has the divide been as stark as it is right now in Illinois, as defenders of the current message-less GOP cling to the old, corrupt way of picking its leadership. Rank and file Republican voters need to call their legislators and tell them to support SB600.

The list of SB600 supporters is here. There is no list of opponents to be found anywhere. We now know where 18 members of the failed State Central Committee stand. When it comes to the state senate and state house floor we’ll see whose side Republican members of the General Assembly are on.

©2009 John Francis Biver