It’s often asked, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” In Chicago politics, the tree is a lot like the Chicago Republican Party. Whether it makes a sound or not, it really doesn’t matter. No one is paying attention.
In a desperate grab for headlines, the Chicago GOP voted last week to censure Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., for his impeachment vote. Despite the state Republican Party already indicating it has no plans to do so, the city’s Republican leaders somehow found it necessary to insert themselves into the conversation. The Chicago GOP would better serve its voters – nearly 20% of the city – by getting its own house in order instead of attacking one of the few Republican officials in Illinois.
In their press release, leaders noted that Kinzinger “has repeatedly engaged in conduct injurious to Republican Party.” But if the Chicago GOP is concerned about harming the party then maybe it should look in the mirror.
Take just a cursory glance of the Chicago GOP website and you’ll find the most common word is “vacant.” That’s because the party can’t even fulfill its most basic duty of recruiting ward committeemen and nearly one in three spots remain unfilled. Of the city’s 50 aldermen, only one identifies as Republican.
While the Chicago mayoral races are officially nonpartisan, the Chicago GOP doesn’t even bother to put forth candidates. In fact, last election cycle the party endorsed a Democrat who previously served as Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate.
The last time I checked the GOP’s symbol was still an elephant, not a white flag.
While obviously no Republican stands a credible chance of being elected mayor of Chicago in today’s political makeup, a group that endorses Democrats shouldn’t exactly be pointing fingers at Kinzinger who voted with President Trump 90.2% of the time during the last four years.
This censure may garner affirmation from rabid, out-of-touch activists on Facebook or at Lincoln Day Dinners where state GOP insiders toast their irrelevance, but it doesn’t build the party in Illinois.
A spokesman for recently elected Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy said the chairman’s view is that the party won’t censure Kinzinger and that his goal “is to unite the party and stop the circular firing squad.” Tracy should be commended for this approach and the Chicago GOP would be wise to take note.
With Speaker Michael Madigan finally exiting the scene, Illinois Republicans have lost their boogeyman. There is no longer a singular figure to blame for our own failures. The GOP is, has been, and will continue to be, a minority party in Illinois. Because of this, the party must persuade voters to take our side and offer up something other than fervent partisanship. The Chicago GOP is showing exactly how not to do this.
Patrick Wohl is a public affairs professional who has worked on Republican campaigns in Illinois and across the country