Still the chairman
Republicans in Illinois have enough problems without going out of their way to create more.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady last weekend survived an attempt to oust him from his position and that is, for the most part, a better result than the summary dismissal some sought.
But it seems clear that Brady won't hold his position for long because, even while retaining him, party members started planning for an orderly transition to new leadership. That's good, too.
Those may seem like contradictory positions, but they really aren't.
Brady, a smart, successful guy who's been party chairman since 2009, got himself in trouble when he publicly endorsed same-sex marriage, a controversial issue currently pending before the Illinois General Assembly.
There was nothing inherently wrong with Brady, as an individual, endorsing this dramatic change in public policy. Unfortunately for him or anyone else in a similar position, it's impossible to speak as an individual when you are the chief spokesman for an organization, in this case the Illinois Republican Party.
The party chairman's job is, among other things, to enunciate and advocate party principles and positions. With the state party platform expressing opposition to gay marriage, Brady wandered outside the lines when he announced his own preference and urged its adoption by the General Assembly.
Brady tried to undo the damage when he argued that he was speaking for himself on gay marriage. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. People in his position can't pick and choose the party positions they'll support — it's all or nothing. He could have worked from the inside to change the platform or, if Brady's principles would not allow him to be silent, he could have resigned his party post and then gone public.
No one could question the legitimacy of either of those alternatives. Unfortunately, Brady did neither.
So Brady's critics had every right to question his judgment and challenge his action. But they misfired when they sought his immediate dismissal because they turned the debate from one about the party chairman's leadership duties, the real issue, to same-sex marriage, the catalyst that created the real issue.
The result was a mad scramble of side-taking that was portrayed in the news media as an effort to punish a party leader for speaking out.
That's no way to run a railroad or a political party. That things could have been worse does not detract significantly from the wounds that were self-inflicted.
The Republican Party in Illinois is lost in a sea of blue, out of power and often out of luck even in the face of widespread Democratic Party failure. Attempted ideological purges only will make it more difficult to recover from the party's current hard times.