SB600 and “Who is the Republican Party?”

Foreign policy experts realize that a nation’s government isn’t always an accurate reflection of the people living there. There are extreme examples – Iraq under Suddam Hussein and Iran right now. The Eastern Bloc countries that are now flourishing under freedom are made up of the very same people that languished under communist dictators just twenty years ago.

The same simple concept applies in another way. Just as a government doesn’t always reflect its people, it’s inaccurate to say that a country’s leaders are the nation. The United States Congress is not the United States of America. Yes, American voters elected them, but they can also throw them out.

Let’s get local. The Illinois General Assembly is not the State of Illinois. The Illinois Republican State Central Committee is not the Illinois Republican Party.

As obvious as those statements are, some of the geniuses in senior GOP leadership posts assume that they are the party. Just as nutty – a contingent of state legislators are under the delusion that they speak for all Republican voters in the state of Illinois.

SB600 is expected to come up for a vote this week in the state senate and there appears to be enough votes to pass the bill. We won’t know until the vote is taken, of course, but there is a chance that the legislation could pass with a majority of Democratic senators and only a minority of Republican senators voting for it.

Republican supporters of the bill have no problem with that, since this party reform is a matter of principle. Similarly, if a pro-life bill was to pass in similar circumstances pro-lifers would rejoice over the win. If an education reform bill would pass because of Democratic votes rather than Republican votes, school reformers would be thrilled with the victory.

Illinois GOP reformers know that there are quite a few Illinois Republican legislators that don’t quite get it yet – year after year of failure doesn’t seem to impact their thinking. Evidently, the results of the 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections have not brought them to the place where they realize change is needed.

It must also be said that many of those same Republican legislators have done little to nothing to advance any policy solution based upon any GOP platform plank. If they don’t even speak for the party’s principles, why would they think they speak for rank-and-file Republican voters?

Evidently a few Republican legislators still think the old guard IL GOP troupe that has run the party all along is the winning team. The Judy Baar Topinka, Dennis Hastert, and Andy McKenna staff is the very same bunch that has brought us to where we are today.

And as far as the party’s current State Central Committee speaking for all Illinois Republican voters – that’s almost too laughable to comment on. Maybe if any of them had helped build a party that had a real infrastructure at the ward, township, and county level they’d have some credibility.

Anyone paying attention already knows that those local organizations that do have their act together do so despite the state party, not because of it.

Democrat legislators need not bother listening to Republicans claiming to speak for all Illinois GOP voters. Those same Republicans have been failing their voters and misusing their party’s brand for many years.

Lastly, a few comments are in order about a cliché that’s once again being used by Andy McKenna. In 1966, California Republicans authored the line – “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” It’s now called Ronald Reagan’s “11th commandment.”

First, ten years after that “commandment” was supposedly issued, Ronald Reagan audaciously challenged an incumbent Republican President (Gerald Ford) in the primaries. No one challenges an incumbent unless he thinks there’s something ill in need of a cure.

Second, nasty comments coming from McKenna’s pals against reform minded Republicans are par for the course. The old guard of the IL GOP is the most divisive group you’ll ever meet. The only way to unify the party is around the platform – and those people want nothing to do with it.

Third, back to Reagan – anyone who is familiar with Reagan’s career, writings, speeches, and over-arching message understands that he never shied away from saying what he felt needed to be said about his fellow Republicans. Reagan stood for principles – and against the unprincipled – even in his own party.