• Local Republican Party shows pride in small-town, high-society, social-club vote in favor of recklessness and insensitivity
By Brandon Reid
Senior Assistant Editor
Twenty-four Winnebago County Republican committeemen unanimously rubber-stamped the reckless and insensitive remarks of Winnebago County Republican Central Committee Chairman (WCRCC) Jim Thompson at a closed-door meeting in May.
Thompson had come under fire in late April for comments he made at the end of a weekly e-mail newsletter sent to supporters. In the newsletter, Thompson used the following disparaging remark about President Barack Obama (D):
“Media update for the week: saw on the news this week the offspring of a donkey and a zebra, black and white legs, rest all donkey. Not sure why this is news: now if we can teach him to read a teleprompter, we could have two living creatures the media will fawn over that is part white, part black and all a**!”
Once again acting as if they are a Good Ol’ Boys social club rather than a political party with real responsibilities that extend beyond their party clubhouse, the local Republican Party — with its unanimous vote in support of Thompson — has shown it simply DOES NOT GET IT.
Lest you think the Good Ol’ Boys Club is limited strictly to the Republican Party and that this is a “liberal rant” against the “Grand Old Party,” you are mistaken. Many Democrats — and even independents — are members of the Good Ol’ Boys Club.
As Michael Kleen, Republican candidate for Rockford mayor in the 2013 election, noted recently, political parties have very little influence over local elections. Rather, the Good Ol’ Boys Club — through campaign contributions and “dynasty” building, as Kleen referred to it — determines who can run for office, who gets elected, what the political agenda is, and, as in the case of Thompson and the Republican Party, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in terms of political correctness.
As Kleen observed: “I’ve never seen a place so poorly administered by public officials who are so incompetent, corrupt, or morally bankrupt. One has to look no further than our local leadership for an explanation of why Rockford keeps ending up on lists of some of the worst cities in the country. They can blame anything they want to, but in the end, they themselves are to blame. … [I]n Rockford, we reward failure. Loyalty to political dynasties trumps competence.
“Local leaders say they want more public participation in government, but that is a lie,” Kleen continued. “As a political newcomer, I was not welcomed at all, but greeted by pretty much everyone with suspicion and/or hostility. There is a reason we hardly ever see fresh faces on the scene. Candidates are hand-picked by political dynasties. Anyone who goes out and gets signatures to run on their own is an outsider and not taken seriously by the political class.”
Plenty of good Republicans have had their reputations unnecessarily and unfairly tainted by the recent poor decisions of others in the Republican Party who are beholden to the Good Ol’ Boys Club dynasty.
Many of Thompson’s supporters said, “I know Jim Thompson, and he is a good man and this comment does not reflect his views.” OK, but the majority of people — and voters — in Winnebago County do not personally know Jim Thompson. Instead, they must base their judgments of his character on his actions. And in case you haven’t noticed, Thompson’s actions were not very well received by many.
In short, the unanimous vote in support of Thompson represents true country bumpkin, small-town, tunnel-vision, cowardly, head-in-the-sand thinking.
Some have suggested that since “liberals” likened former President George W. Bush to a chimpanzee that it was OK for conservatives to compare President Obama to the offspring of a zebra and a donkey. First, comparing Bush to a chimpanzee was also inappropriate and reflected poorly on anyone who spread such lunacy. Second, why does the Republican Party feel it necessary to lower itself to that level? And when Republicans do stoop to that level, they proudly use the kindergarten excuse of, “Well, he did it first!” What buffoonery.
Thompson’s joke was so hilarious it drew national attention. National website TalkingPointsMemo.com first broke news of the hilarity — and then national media outlets including the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Post also picked up the story. After his comment was exposed, Thompson offered the following: “I would like to offer my sincere apology to those who were offended, and I regret including this item in the newsletter. In the future, it most certainly won’t happen again.”
Unfortunately for Rockford and Winnebago County, the giggles and snickers did not come in response to Thompson’s joke — but rather from the fact that, once again, Rockford and Winnebago County had become the butt of a joke.
While others throughout the region continued to laugh at Rockford and Winnebago County, a few local leaders stepped forward to condemn Thompson’s remarks.
Rockford Ald. Jamie Getchius, R-2, and Winnebago County Board member John Guevara — also the party’s candidate for state representative in the 67th District — both called for Thompson’s resignation.
John Sweeney Jr., chairman of the majority Republican caucus on the Winnebago County Board, said in a statement: “The Republican caucus of the Winnebago County Board would like to state that we do not believe the comments made by Chairman Jim Thompson represent the values of our party or the policies we pursue in government. We strongly condemn his remarks and believe that he should step down as chairman of the WCRCC.”
And Mike Schrimpf, spokesman for Bruce Rauner, Republican candidate for Illinois governor, said: “Bruce believes the comments in the newsletter were wholly inappropriate and don’t have a place in the Republican Party. It would be best if he resigned.”
The local daily newspaper even wrote an editorial calling for Thompson’s removal.
Despite the common sense and profiles in courage shown by Getchius, Guevara, Sweeney Jr. and Rauner, Good Ol’ Boys Club leaders state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, and Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) — both likely still overcome with school-boy laughter in response to Thompson’s joke — pushed for the party to retain Thompson.
Syverson, you may remember, also has experience as a party funny man and class clown. As reported in the May 7-13, 2014, editorial “Time for a new face of the Republican Party in Winnebago County,” Syverson made the following post to his Facebook page July 5, 2011:
“Father Daughter Talk … My daughter just walked into the room and said, ‘Dad, cancel my allowance, rent my room out, throw all my clothes out, take my TV, iPhone, iPod, and my laptop. Please take all of my jewelry. Then sell my car, take my house key. And then write me out of your will.’
“Well, she didn’t put it quite like that……… she actually said.. ‘Dad this is my new boyfriend, Mohammed from Iran’.”
Speaking of jokes, each February, local Republican Party leaders gather at a local establishment to celebrate one of the Republican Party’s most celebrated politicians and one of our nation’s most storied presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, you may recall, is the one who “freed the slaves” and kept our nation from becoming divided during the Civil War.
Some of Lincoln’s quotes include the following (in italics):
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Did you hear that, Jim, Dave and Scott? ALL MEN are created equal. That probably means we should treat all men — regardless of race, religion, class, gender, creed or party affiliation — as equals, and stop telling and supporting insensitive and sophomoric jokes. These jokes do a tremendous disservice to our nation — and also to your own political party.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Did you hear that, guys? You have quite a bit of responsibility as elected leaders. Maybe you should stop fooling around and start taking things more seriously. Enough with the foolish partisan politics; let’s get serious.
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Maybe you guys are spending a little too much time looking at your own ego-bloated shadows.
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
You likely should not be telling, repeating and supporting such asinine jokes. Doing otherwise — and repeating or supporting these jokes — simply exposes you for the a**es you are.
If Abraham Lincoln were to attend one of the Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinners and Thompson, Syverson and Christiansen were to pull him aside and share some of their jokes with him, Lincoln would likely slap each one of them in the face and tell them to leave his party. As voters, we should do the same. It’s time for Thompson, Syverson and Christiansen to go away. Enough with the Good Ol’ Boys Club tomfoolery — vote these clowns out of office! The people of Winnebago County deserve better.
From the June 4-10, 2014, issue