GOP 101: Township, ward and county organizations (Part 1)

What does your local Republican Party organization do? For people on the outside of politics, their understanding of what happens on a daily basis on the inside can be a little vague. Even for insiders, the answer you’d get would echo the basics: a local party supports candidates, sends people door to door, runs ads and sends out mailings.

The next question is — how many times has someone from your local GOP knocked on your door? How many phone calls — or mailings have you received from them? I’m not asking about candidates or individual campaigns – but rather how many times has the local party attempted to reach out to you.

My experience is that even many — if not most — of those who consider themselves “politically aware” have little or no idea who their local party leaders are, whether or not they have an office, or what goes on in that office during the year.

Sure there are exceptions, where a township, ward, or county party has worked to create a presence in the community. Those exceptions prove the rule — to the point that even those Americans who identify themselves as Republicans have little understanding about what their state or local party organizations are up to.

Again — forget the candidates and campaigns. Have you been invited to participate or help out by your township, ward, or county organization? If you wanted to volunteer time or pick up information, would you know where to go or who to talk to?

Chances are if you live in the city of Chicago you know that somewhere nearby is the office of an alderman or Democratic Ward organization should you have a question to ask or a problem in need of a solution. Unfortunately, we know from the media why that political machine exists — and it’s not to insure good government.

At the local level most elective offices are non partisan, so some people would wonder about the necessity of a local GOP office. Municipalities, library and school boards and the like don’t field campaigns with the Rs versus the Ds. But don’t be fooled, Mayor Richard Daley is a Democrat whether the ballot identifies him as such or not. And it’s a safe bet your local library and school boards are packed with Democrats.

Many rank and file Republicans who have wanted to engage with their local Republican organizations haven’t exactly had the welcome mat rolled out for them. Your fresh energetic face might not be what they want to see barging into their little fiefdom.

It’s not necessarily that they’re up to no good — or that in the Chicago tradition — “they don’t want nobody — nobody sent.” Sometimes local party “activists” are just inactive, tired, or lazy. They wouldn’t know what to do with someone attempting to inject some life and energy into the group.

For some “active” Republicans, it’s too much work to attempt to actually fulfill the mission of the local party. This democracy thing is some times just too much trouble. It’s more fun to just act out the role of the local party chairman than it is to do the work of performing it.

Obviously, when there is no welcome mat set out for would-be volunteers, you have several options. You can get involved anyway and seek to work within the confines of the faulty leadership until an “overthrow” can be accomplished by you and a group of friends who also want the party to work.

You can get involved instead in a neighboring organization. Sometimes your time and energy would be valued not far down the road. Residency in a township or ward isn’t necessary if the organization is active and accomplishing real things next door to where you live. Technically Republicans have no borders, and good organizations need all the help they can get — even if it’s from the town next door.

Obviously without being a resident you wouldn’t be able to get elected as a precinct committeeman (as you can in all the counties outside of Cook). But there are many other ways to pitch in other than those that include putting your name on the ballot for precinct committeeman.

I have a theory which I believe will be proven during the Obama presidency: more rank and file Republican voters than ever will be looking to graduate from talk radio and other forms of political entertainment — and join in the actual political process.

Up next: Part two.