GOP 101: Diagnosing the health of your local GOP organization

You listen to talk radio when you can. You catch the latest on cable news. You scan the Internet for the latest news and commentary. You watch the Republicans in your area and nationally as they fumble and stumble and play the role of the invisible man. And the left-wing media and the Democrats prosper, while the evidence stacks up proving that the right fork in the road is the better path than the left has taken.

What’s happening with government spending at all levels — from your local school district right up to Washington, D.C. impacts you and your quality of life. You’ve seen the news about General Motors and bailouts, Fannie and Freddie, your state’s public employee pension scams, Social Security and the government’s role in the creation of a health care mess. Well, all those things are related to the health of the GOP. Many of us can’t impact the top directly – but there is undeniable power in numbers.

So what can you do? You’re busy. A kid — or kids. A job — or jobs. A business. Local activities, clubs, church, and just regular life fills up your week. But you want to carve out some time for doing more than just being in the political audience while those holding office continue to screw things up.

If you live in Illinois, vote Republican, and want to do something beyond just voting — one thing you can do is learn about your local GOP organization. If you’re in a Chicago ward or a suburban Cook County township — find out who your elected Ward or Township Committeeman is and investigate whether there is anything going on in your area.

Or if you live in one of the other 101 counties in the state — is there an active township or county GOP that you can get involved in? Who is your elected Republican Precinct Committeeman? If you don’t have one — or the person isn’t doing the job, you need to run for that post. How can you know if the person isn’t doing their job? Have you heard from them? What are the vote totals in your precinct? In tomorrow’s column I’ll flesh out a bit more about the work of a Precinct Committeeman, or in Cook County — the Precinct Captain.

If you’re like the person I quoted in yesterday’s piece and aren’t someone who particularly likes politics, well, join the club. Don’t think that all of us working in this arena are pursuing our first love. We’re here because someone has to do the work — as Plato wrote a few years back (circa 4th century B.C.) — if you’re not going to serve, don’t be surprised when you’re governed by your inferiors.

It’s easy to make a list of some of the basic criteria for measuring the health of your local GOP.

  • Have you heard of them before?
  • Do they have a presence in the community?
  • Do they host or participate in forums?
  • Do representatives of the organization occasionally knock on your door or ring your phone or send you mail?
  • Are you aware of their website or any of the events they might be having?
  • Have they reached out to you to invite your involvement? If you’ve reached out to them, have they been welcoming and eager to see you join in their efforts?

There are so many things that can and should be done at the local GOP level that drafting a list could go on for pages. Some of the fundamentals are as follows:

  • Registering new voters.
  • Helping educate voters about the problems and proposed solutions facing the various levels of government.
  • Helping inform voters about the candidates’ positions.
  • Holding elected officials accountable no matter the party affiliation. This isn’t about electing Republicans — it’s about electing Republicans who will get the job done!
  • Raising money to support outreach efforts and election campaigns.

If your local organization doesn’t have work for you to do — guess what — that organization doesn’t have its act together. Maintaining an up-to-date voter list and sending out welcoming packets to new move-ins — to name just two things — are the kind of activities requiring year-‘round volunteer labor.

I write from first hand experience. Having lived in Cook County and now in Kane, I can attest to the ongoing challenges of building and maintaining viable and lively local Republican organizations. It’s a lot of work — but it’s not optional if conservatives want to see good people elected who will make the right governing decisions.

Anyone who is looking to choose a college — or find a job — or buy a house or car — has to learn the ropes. Grassroots politics is no different. And don’t let anyone tell you that the entry or lowest levels of participation are unimportant. On the contrary. The GOP desperately needs new blood – dynamism — vitality. That new blood has to come through the door at some point or Republicans are going to continue to lose and things will continue to get worse.

Look around you — locally, regionally, and at your state and national Republican Party. Strong and effective organizations are the exceptions that prove the rule. More often than not, that new guy or gal walking in the door at the local GOP headquarters has the potential to bring new life to a listless organization.

Up next: Taking it to the streets.