GOP 101: Endorsements, and the role of the party & legislative campaign committees

If you wonder why the best policies don’t prevail in state or federal government, you need only take a good look at the political players. So much ignorance prevails in Republican party politics in Illinois that sometimes I’m astounded. And since the years of Speaker Dennis Hastert, that stupidity has been successfully exported to Republicans nationally as well.

I heard someone complain yesterday about the sad fact that there is no Republican Party to speak of in Illinois. That same individual, only minutes later, admitted to endorsing Dan Rutherford for State Treasurer, saying that no one else was likely to get into that race. The same shallow approach has others endorsing Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate, despite the fact that rumors abound of a good conservative about to run for that same office.

One friend of mine who isn’t even all that political described the mistake being made by those who are endorsing Kirk:

“They underestimate the sizable damage done to the GOP when a radically pro-abortion tax-raising potential homosexual activist is their standard-bearer.”

When would-be “leaders” prematurely jump on the bandwagon of problematic candidates due to peer pressure they are under-cutting the prospects of better candidates getting in. Petitions haven’t even started circulating – yet some of biggest names are, by their actions, deterring those who would bring much needed new blood into the race.

The Hill newspaper reported this week that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has actually started to endorse candidates – one of them here in Illinois. Again, petitions haven’t even begun to circulate here but the same guys in Washington, D.C. who gave us Speaker Nancy Pelosi think they should meddle in our primary elections. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (which I commented on previously) is doing much the same thing.

That is not their role. The NRCC and NRSC exist to help candidates in the general election. The GOP state legislative caucuses exist to do the same.

The long-running saga of our inept and wrongly-focused Illinois General Assembly Republican caucus PACs is apparent for everyone to see. They collect donations from rank and file Republicans – and then use the money to protect incumbents in primaries often over superior challengers. In open races they anoint candidates in primaries that will do the bidding of the caucus leaders – GOP voters and principles be damned.

Our state party chairman Andy McKenna – clueless as always – has endorsed Mark Kirk. That is not Andy’s job, but the poor guy has never shown any evidence that he understands his role or that of the state party. (Click through our archives to learn more about Andy. Critical mass was reached years ago – yet our dysfunctional State Central Committee is silent.)

Many county party leaders are just as confused. Recently Lake County Republican Party Chairman Dan Venturi demonstrated his own ignorance by misusing his office. He made one legislative candidate remove campaign materials from the County Party’s booth at their county fair.

The good news is that there is a movement afoot to finally construct a Republican Party that seeks to bring new talent in and to build a bench. The bad news is that the tired old guard players are merely doing what they’ve always done: showing their foolishness and misusing the party organizations for their own selfish purposes.

The party “brand” isn’t damaged by accident. Instead of opening up the process to smarter and more competent and professional people, those running the local parties, the state parties, the state legislative caucuses, the national party, and the congressional campaign committees have failed both Republican voters and Republican principles by issuing early endorsements.

©2009 John Francis Biver