It’s good advice worth repeating: if you’re a college student thinking about studying political science you should add a second major and study psychology as well. Understanding politics without having some idea about the workings of the typical human mind can leave a person without some important pieces when it’s time to solve puzzles.
It’s not complicated: to understand behavior, look at motivation. For example, rank and file Illinois Republicans see the pathetic state of the IL GOP and wonder, “how can Illinois Republican ‘leaders’ continually fail to build a party or advance an agenda?”
The short answer is that in most cases the players on the field don’t have any desire to build the party or advance a substantive agenda. The longer answer is that some may once have had such a desire, but got in, got over overwhelmed, never figured out what to do, and decided to remain in office because of a lack of something better to do.
It’s easy to imagine that there were several conservative Republican General Assembly members that remained quiet during the recent Topinka fiasco in the hopes that they might get appointed by her to run a state agency, thereby escaping their dead end legislative career (and bump up their pension as a bonus).
Others clearly got into politics because they knew it would benefit their law firm or their business or help insure the profitability of their other double-dipping government post. In their view, party building and policy reforms are for idiots.
Absent the right goals, they instead just build their own little fiefdoms and advance their own narrow agendas. Whether it’s holding a state legislative seat or party job such as those who are members of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee, efforts extend only as far as necessary to insure their own “reelection.”
You would think that pride would cause a person who has held an office for a while to fear being seen as a failure. But when a person’s real purpose is to enjoy the perks of office, “pride” morphs into something most regular people don’t recognize.
There is such a thing as honor among thieves, and there is such a thing as pride among the politically useless. The best examples currently sit on the Republican State Central Committee. If getting invitations to fly to Washington D.C. to have your picture taken with the President are what you live for, then that’s all you need to find satisfaction.
Actual party building would create more problems for these folks, since if more people were to really get involved, there would be a greater chance that others might compete for their “leadership” role. God forbid!
Still others who attain party or governmental office think that they’ve arrived, they now possess information the rest of us will never have. They use words like “realistic” and “pragmatic.” Legislators, for example, excuse bad votes by saying that if the rest of us weren’t so stupid, we’d see that they had to cast those bad votes so they can stay in office to accomplish other, more important tasks.
Of course we never do see those “more important tasks” accomplished.
The first six months of 2007 will be a key time for those who have been skating along, attempting to hold important jobs while pursuing only self-interests.
If a sports franchise is lousy you can’t blame the ticket buying fans. The players on the field – those with the bully pulpits and power – are the ones who have to execute the plays.
In years past there hasn’t been much oversight of the political performance of our Illinois Republican Party officials, legislators, and candidates. That changed in a big way in 2006. If you doubt that – just ask Judy Baar Topinka.
The good old days are over for those holding office just for the perks. We are committed to shining a spotlight on all those who take the field.
At some point someone has to hold these people responsible for failures that impact 12 million people. That point has arrived. We’ll continue to help rank-and-file Illinois Republicans judge who is useful and who is useless to the cause of good government.
©2006 John Francis Biver