Monday, January 1, 2007

Personal Aside: Reorganization--the Only Thing that Can Unite the Illinois GOP. And the Need for a Council of Trent.

I was talking with a good friend who has been involved professionally with the Republican party both nationally and locally—a friend who reads this Website, incidentally. In discussing what could be done for the Illinois Republican party which is riven by dissension, we both hearkened back to my experience with the then moribund Minnesota Republican party in the latter 1950s. Then as now with Illinois, the Republican party had no respect. The two Senate seats were filled—with Hubert Humphrey, a national figure, and Eugene McCarthy, who was coming to be regarded as a national figure. A majority of the U. S. House seats were Democratic. The legislature was Democratic, the governor Democratic. The Republican party was split between the conservative Taft forces, represented by a formidable leader in the state House and the more moderate Eisenhower forces, represented by the faction for which I worked at the state party. There seemed to be utterly no unifying point that could solidify the GOP.

The Republican National Committee people were progressives; leaders of the Republicans in the legislature were conservative. Key leaders in the GOP House delegation were harshly anti-Ezra Taft Benson, Eisenhower’s ag secretary. Everywhere one turned, there was dissention. The party had a paid chairman, an executive secretary and a publicist. When I moved to Washington, it was seen as a hopeless cause to resurrect the party and build unity. It so happened that the charter of the GOP allowed for its huge—some 200-members—State Central Committee which contained in general assembly county chairmen, county chairwomen, congressional district chairmen and chairwomen to elect as its chairman anyone it wished. One need not be a county chairman or State Central member. So the worsen the situation, the conservatives mounted a campaign and elected as state chairman, a dynamic, Rush Limbaugh-like character, a former television and radio announcer with pronounced conservative views. Everybody believed that this was the final step to the ultimate dissolution of the GOP: a passionately ideological chairman who would intensify the split.

I didn’t believe this because I knew the guy who was elected chairman. He had been campaign manager for a Congressional candidate in the darkest part of the agriculture recession who had elected him by a scarce handful of votes—411. When this guy, Ed Viehman, took over the GOP he announced that he would concentrate all his energy on the nuts and bolts of political organization. He hired me and others to put together a program called “Neighbor to Neighbor” which featured grassroots organization of the party. Armed with that plan, the chairman took to the highways and turned the consciousness of the party away from division to the very constructive effort of organizing itself. I never believed political organization could be made interesting—but he did so: with wit, fervor, zest. By the time he died at the terrible age of 39, he had built an organization that was ready for any candidate: conservative, moderate or progressive. The very liberal Republican National Committee-woman, my mentor, was the chief mourner at his funeral---the same woman who had predicted the end of the party when he got elected. He didn’t change from his original conservatism; he changed the subject. And as liberals, conservatives and moderates vied to build organizations, county-by-county, a healing occurred. It was wonderful.

I repeat this now because I firmly believe the only salvation for the Illinois Republican party is to pull itself together in that way. Ladies and gentlemen, if Bob Kjellander were to be swooped up and carried away in a fiery chariot to either perdition or beatific reward…and he as an issue were removed…the Republican party of Illinois would be in the same funk: divided over issues, abortion, stem cell and all the other things that go into platform writing. This idea that we run a day-clock ticking off how many minutes and hours before Kjellander goes means that we are neglecting all the other elements. The party will either take care of him and he will exert enough power to block them. But whatever happens, we are blindsiding ourselves by being controlled by that damned day-clock. Take a look at brother Diersen’s excellent daily blog: so many days and hours remain before the SCC makes its decision. There are many, many more important things to decide to get ready to meet the challenge of 2008 than this. Decide about him what the party will…and I have been on the record on this as well…this is not the overriding reason this party was formed. At least I hope not.

The only way for the party to survive is to change the subject, get on with the organization building as (a) a vitally needed thing and (b) therapy of a sort. This is not to argue that issues shouldn’t be debated and discussed: of course they should and I am on record on each one of them. But this party is in a state of unconscionable weakness at the precinct level, up through the counties and the congressional districts. Campaigns and candidates are the ones who determine the issues and we can all divide up after they spring up. But no candidates and no campaigns and no fund-raising are worth anything if the party’s political organization is as supine as it now is. By all means have the SCC elected on the ballot: but if you think that alone is going to do it, think again.

If you think Kjellander’s leaving is going to do it and after he’s gone we will stride forth anew into the Valhalla of perpetual victory, think again. If you think a victory in Iraq will do it, think again. What will do it is to have a Council of Trent…composed of SCC, county chairmen…precinct committeemen…legislators, business activists, church people and movement leaders only if they are willing to do party tasks and so pledge to be Republican movement people…and have it ratify or elect a leader who will be concerned with only one paramount thing at the outset: organization.

Your comments, please.


  1. Dave Diersen, GOPUSA Illinois EditorJanuary 1, 2007 at 1:56 AM

    The Illinois Republican Party (IRP) exists to help elect candidates who can and will advance the IRP platform. Tragically, the more planks in the IRP that you support, the harder that Kjellander works against you. So long as Kjellander stays in power, only people who agree with Kjellander will have any opportunities in the IRP. If Kjellender stays, things will only get worse.

  2. There was a whole era of "Republicans" in Illinois who were in politics for MONEY and a PENSION. I can name names. Many surrounded RYAN and were caled RINOS because of their money lust and desire to bend with the political winds. Their whole goal was to used the political process to MAKE MONEY. Ultimately it is the greed of these types that takes the party down with them. Ryan attracted these people like flies. Many of these flies flew to the Topinka campaign.

    There are also the Republicans who are in it for Ideology. For the most part these are the conservative Republicans. They want an Illinois that is good for business but also good supporting good family values.

    For years the "conservative" Republicans have been USED by the money grubbing Republicans who wanted only their vote. Once elected the money grubbers sneered at the conservatives. The money grubbers were a smart intellecual click that knew how to manipulate the process to their best financial advantage. (Oh how I wish I could name names here!) The money grubbers built their power during the Thompson, Edgar, and Ryan years. With Ryan they became fat, greedy, reckless, and corrupt. Behind the scenes they played footsie with the Daley Machine.

    The problem is that they are still clinging to the drapes! They need to be flushed from the system, BUT here is the problem:

    Illinois is undergoing a dramatic demographic shift especially in the Chicago collar county area. This shift is making these areas more and more Democratic. This shift is not by chance but was well documented in a chapter in David Schipper Book, Sellout. If you criticize this shift, you are stuck with anyone of a number of labels. The same type of shift is happening in once solidly Republican Orange County in California and Nassau County (Long Island). In these areas the shift has caused these counties to go Democratic.

    The older more socially conservative people in the collar counties are dying off are moving out of the area to the sunbelt states like Arizona or Florida. See the Frey Demographic studies form Michigan

    Another disturbing trend are the suburban AAUW type college educated women from the Baby Boom generation and down who may be fiscally conservative but are socially liberal. They want abortions. They are environmentalists. They celebrate the demographic shifs. These are the type of women who support people like Rep. Kirk or Rep. Biggert. I have found these pseudointellecual women to be very arrogant, loudly outspoken, and stuck in their liberal social attitudes. These type of women also voted for Rep. Bean. These women act just like liberal with putting labels on conservatives.

    So Tom what do you do about these women?

    I just wonder Tom, if you are looking at the political situation through a perspective that had yet to absorb these changes and trends........

    The money grubbing Republican RINOS know how to use these trends to THEIR advantage. That is way it is so hard to get their stinky corrupt hands off the curtains as you try to kick them out!

    They are as clever as snakes! And in the end the MEDIA likes them because the Media knows that they lead to the destruction of the Republican Party in Illinois!

  3. Louis,
    Why not name names? One of the problems with the IRP is the devious nature of the players. Does it take a Suntimes reporter investigation like Hired Truck to get some clarity?

    You seem to be right on with your analysis, so quit holding back and let us all know about who is helping whom rake in the millions.


  4. Tom, the new year is not the time to start questioning our strategy. We really need to unite behind the effort to demand Kjellander's resignation. It is only through unity, behind Jack Roeser's (no relation claimed) leadership, and by Jack'$ money, that we can be successful.

    Tom, now, on the verge of the ILGOP SCC meeting is not the time to wander off the reservation. After all of our defeats, we desperately need some kind of victory. If we don't show some results this time our fallback position will be to demand the censure of Kjelander for obesity, and Cathy is uncomfortable with that, as you can imagine.

    And Jack is considering bringing in the People's Attorney General, that hired gun from Florida, Andy Martin, and that means I'm out. I'll have to get a regular job chasing ambulances--I can't imitate Roosevelt like Joe.

    So please, Tom, for the sake of a united party and for my sake, please retract your comments.

  5. Paul, Just This Guy, You Know?January 2, 2007 at 10:10 AM

    The question I am led to ask then, is:

    Is the Republican Party an end in itself, or is it rather the means to an end?

    If the ultimate goal is the election of candidates who are Republicans, then ideology and public policy are issues that should be subordinated to the goal of winning elections.

    But if the the ultimate goal is to get conservative policies made law, then the choice of party leaders and candidates should be dependent on their fidelity to conservative principles.

    Too, if the ultimate goal is not ideology, but only winning for winning's sake, then what's the motivation for anyone to vote Republican?

  6. This was a great post, Tom.

    I was a boy when my family moved to Minnesota in the late 60's. Even then Humphrey's Democratic-Farmer-Labor party ran the show. When I got to college in 1976 I had the pleasure of taking a course fromm a GOP activist from the very era you talk about. The message of party building and organization was clear. For those who don't know the history, the payoff was in 1978 when the GOP took both senate seats with Boschwitz and Durenburger and the governorship with Quie. The media thought it impossible so soon after Watergate, but the groundwork of preceding years paid off.