Why I Just Left the Illinois Republican Party


By: Warner Todd Huston

The Illinois Republican Party has finally lost me as an “official” member. One final act has pushed me out the door. As of this month, the Illinois GOP has decided, in its benevolent omnipotence, that Party honchos … and only they … may decide who may use the appellation “Republican” in this great state of ours.

On their official state website, the Illinois GOP has issued an edict with all the flavor of “the law” and as much haughtiness as they can muster. It lacks only a link to the official Party title request form and phone numbers to call in case you spot a person calling themselves “Republican” who are not “real” or “authorized” Party members.

I can see it now: children will be encouraged to call Party officials in case they feel their parents aren’t “authorized” Republicans. Neighbors will make discreet phone calls to their local precinct officer to let them know that an “unofficial” Republican lurks nearby and that official, in turn, will send his goon squad to cart off the evildoer.

It all sounds rather nefarious.

The first paragraph of this new edict reads as follows:

Of course, in this country of free speech and exchange of ideas, any individual can define himself as he sees himself. Organizations can do the same. However, a difference exists between official and unofficial definitions. And, in Illinois, the use of “Republican” in the name of an organization and in the official statements attributed to the organization, its officers, and its members is allowed with the approval of the officially elected Republican committee of responsibility in the political district the organization operates.

“Of course, in this country”, they say, “… any individual can define himself as he sees himself”? Well, awfully kind of ya, friends. I mean, allowing us to our consciences like that is quite mature and civilized, doncha know? But, what follows seems to make the lie to that allowance of conscience.

Of course, it is without question and perfectly reasonable that the Party may determine who officially represents said Party at the polls. That is, after all, why they are in the positions of Party direction and leadership. But, to say that they and only they have the power to dispense the tag “Republican” and may determine who is allowed to use the name is nothing short of Stalinist.

As they say in the movies, here is the money shot; The last sentence of this royal proclamation says you are not allowed to be an “authorized” Republican unless you announce “public support for all elected Republican committee members”.

This is no mere arrogance on their part, though. The reason that this warning has been made is because Chairman Andy McKenna and his cadre of soulless Party officials are doing their best to secure their slipping grasp on Party power. Not because they have a viable agenda, but because power is simply all they have. The GOP natives are restless in the face of the emptiness they perceive in their leaders, but apparently those leaders won’t go down without a fight. The old guard is circling the wagons to prevent insurgents with new ideas from nosing in. They are feeling threatened.

And as the rank and file begin to look to others to take the banner forward, the cowardly generals who have lead us to so many defeats attempt to keep control of the troops even as the junior officers fall in battle by the fistfuls. Like the incompetent French General Staff of WWI, these ostensible Party leaders are willing to destroy everyone around them just to keep their own positions assured as they walk whistling past the graveyard self-satisfied that they are still in charge.

The result is that Illinois GOP lies dyeing. No wonder the National Party has pretty much ignored them for the last 7 years.

Now, unless Chairman McKenna and people like Bob Kjellander step down and make room for people with ideas, I can no longer support them. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I have not left the Illinois GOP, the Illinois GOP has left me. (I have, by the way, worked for some candidates, briefly belonged to a GOP precinct organization and pounded the pavement for Senator Steve Rauschenberger, so I am no mere bystander here.)

Now, this isn’t a lone gaffe by the Illinois GOP or a knee jerk reaction from me, by any means. This is the culmination, rather, of decades of misdirection, failed leadership and outright corruption by this Party. So, it is no sudden decision by me, to be sure. I have been struggling with this Party for several years, at least since the nomination of George Ryan for Governor in 1999.

Ordinarily, I think of myself as a Party loyalist, preferring to work from within than without. I usually say to conservatives, that the only way to get conservative ideas into action is to stay seated firmly at the table where our ideas can have some impact. Standing on the outside looking in does not help get anything done. Half a loaf, as they say, is better than none.

However, the time has long since passed where I can sit idly by and support this state’s Republican Party. The graft, corruption, fiscal irresponsibility, ignorance of the law, inability to prevent liberal Democrats from steamrolling across the state, and laxity in creating a dynamic Party platform has become intolerable. Further, the Party’s constant inability to pick sensible candidates and work together on reform and a legislative agenda for this state is unfathomable. And, worse, their complete lack of any ideological position other than seeking power just for power’s sake makes them a soulless entity.

Even in the face of the most corrupt crop of Illinois Democrats to come to power in decades under Blagojevich and Kid Daley, this party cannot pull out a win because they truly offer no reason for voters to chose them over Democrats.

And now they have decided to hand out the name “Republican” as if they are handing out royal titles? Are we to bow before Party Chairman McKenna so that he may tap our shoulders delicately with his official GOP scepter to bestow upon us our title as “Republican”?

Do I have to buy a new suit for this ceremony?

Of course, I realize that I am just one man. So what if I re-register as an independent? Why should big powerful guys like Kjellander and McKenna care if little old me leaves their graft ridden organization? The only reason is, that if a Party loyalist like me is finally fed up, there must be millions just like me who left already — whether actually or by their indifference. I believe I am no harbinger of the future, but am firmly in the middle of the on coming wave.

The Illinois GOP is a sick organization that is being confined to its deathbed by incompetent physicians who are applying leeches and bleeding it out, while claiming to have only its best interests at heart.

So, I am going to re-register as an independent, dropping my “unauthorized” tag of Republican. This commoner is not rich enough to buy his way into this State Republican Party and is not suitable for royalty. Of course, I cannot become a Democrat, to be sure. I do have principles, after all, and that is what this is all about.

I’d like to say it’s been great knowing you, Illinois GOP, but I am at a loss to know exactly what it is you ever did for me.

A History of Corruption

I am not a native Illinoisan having been born in the Buckeye State in the Queen City, Cincinnati, Ohio, so I cannot lay claim that the Land of Lincoln is my land of birth. But, it is my home and has been since 1978, so I can lay claim to a long time relationship with the state and with its leading city, Chicago to who’s southern suburb I moved during Carter’s disastrous presidency.

When I got here, it was a Republican stronghold for the most part. Not Chicago, of course, King Daley and his mob bosses having successful sewn that up for the Democrats since the 1950s, but the state itself had a strong Republican Party.

As I learned about this organization, though, I began to lose my satisfaction with how the Illinois GOP operated here. As Reagan came to office and went and as Newt Gingrich revived the Republican Party in 1994 I realized that the Illinois GOP was not a Party of ideas, but one of mere power. It just exists because it does run entirely on an insider’s network and often interchangeable with the state’s Democratic Party operatives.

There were a few bright spots like the legislature’s “fab five”. This was a group of five conservative Illinois state senators first elected in 1992 that tried hard to interject some Conservatives principles into the Illinois GOP. The group included Sen. Patrick O’Malley of Palos Park, Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin, Sen. Dave Syverson of Rockford, Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora, and Peter Fitzgerald of Inverness, who later became a U.S. Senator. (only Syverson and Lauzen still serve in Ill. Government)

But, such men of principle are far and few between in the Illinois GOP, I came to discover. No, this party was merely a power based good-old boy’s network, the proof of which was the 1999 nomination of George Ryan for the office of Governor. Ryan, then the Secretary of State, was one of the most corrupt officials in the Party and was nominated not because he was a good candidate, but just because it was “his turn” and he had greased enough palms to get it.

Ryan, it turned out, would be the first (and so far only) Republican I could not vote for when it came time to pull that lever. I ended up voting for the Democrat that year (former state Senator Glenn Poshard) who seemed far more like a Republican than the state Party’s candidate, Ryan.

Since then the Party has gotten worse. The continuing Federal probes show that Republican officials and operatives have worked their sweetheart deals with corrupt Democratic party officials to the point where they are utterly indistinguishable one from the other.

And, on top of that, the Party has steadily lost offices state wide since 1999 to Democrats who are often times ether under indictment or surrounded by friends who are.

Now that the GOP has taken a stumble nation wide, this is the perfect opportunity to revitalize the Illinois Party with new blood, new ideas. Instead of doing that, Party officials are doing their level best to stifle new ideas and keep new people from receiving the blessing of Party officials.

This Party is moribund. And I have become despondent to its renewed health unless drastic measures are taken.

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