Friday, March 5, 2010

Oberweis wants to be the guy Republican pols kiss up to in order to get elected

When I learned that James Oberweis, chairman of the family’s dairy products company, got himself elected to a position on the Illinois Republican Party’s state central committee, my initial reaction in all honesty was a bit of relief.

Then, confusion.

OBERWEIS IS THE guy who has been tagged as some sort of conservative extremist due to his campaigns for Illinois governor, U.S. Senate from Illinois and Representative from a Congressional district covering the far southwestern suburbs of Chicago.

Many of us political watchers had wondered if his pair of losses in 2008 to Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., were the lesson that would finally teach Oberweis that he was never going to get elected to a political post of any significance.

Would he go back to running the family business, which includes a chain of ice cream parlors that actually make an excellent product. Seriously!
People like Chris Lauzen, who published this negative leaflet during a previous primary campaign, are now going to have to make nice with James Oberweis if they want to have a political future.

Apparently, that isn’t the case.

FOR OBERWEIS THIS week was chosen to represent the Illinois 14th Congressional District (the same one that preferred Foster to represent them in Congress) amongst the party bigwigs. That makes Oberweis one of the top Republicans in his home district, and one of the top Republicans who will convene from time to time to deal with issues of strict partisanship within the state’s Republican Party.

Seriously, it is the Democratic state central committee that these days is having to fill the vacancy for lieutenant governor. If some similar calamity were to befall the Illinois GOP, Oberweis will now be one of the people in that locked-up room trying to figure out what to do about it.

Now how is it I feel relief, particularly since I never voted for Oberweis and was usually repulsed enough by him and the specific voter blocs he pandered to that I wanted Anybody But Jim to win those elections?

It was in reading his statements made to the Daily Herald newspaper of Arlington Heights, where Oberweis said he does not believe that party committeemen should also be elected office-holders.

THAT WOULD INDICATE to me that Oberweis realizes all his personal wealth (the dairy founded by his father is doing well financially) will never be enough to fund a successful political campaign. He’s not running again. Hurray!

But now, he’s on the state central committee, the collection of Republican officials who decide what direction the party ought to be headed. In short, he’s now one of the guys whom the elected officials will have to seek out if they want the party’s support for their future campaigns.

Because having the political party vehemently opposed to your chances can mean electoral death – regardless of what one’s qualifications for a political post actually are.

Do I get this image of people like Mark Kirk and Bill Brady having to genuflect before Oberweis and his crew? That might be considered sacreligious to some. But it is now a very real possibility.

I ALSO NOTICED that Oberweis, in talking to the Daily Herald, tossed out some rhetoric about wanting to “open up” the Republican Party to more people. That sounds nice. So sweet that one might think Oberweis is campaigning for political “Goo Goo” of the Year (ie., a good-government type who wants more people involved in politics).

But then we have to realize that Oberweis’ backers were always the people who were quick to rant about RINO’s. As in, “Republican In Name Only.” They are the ones who think that the political leadership of the GOP is too business-establishment oriented and not hard-line ideological enough to address their preferences on a myriad of social issues.

I read Oberweis’ “open” talk as saying the ideological segment of the Republican Party will gain more influence by now having “one of their own” as a state central committeeman.

Does Oberweis see himself as a potential political “boss” for the Republican side of the aisle? I have already heard some people speculate that he will someday try to become chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, making this committeeman post a step along that political path.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that we’re not rid of the man who once flew a helicopter over Soldier Field and tried to scare nativists into voting for him by portraying Chicago Bears game-sized crowds sneaking across the U.S./Mexico border into this country every single day – although I will admit if I saw the actual group of Bears’ faithful charging at me, I’d be scared too.

But then again, the fact that people like Oberweis are now going to be having a say in calling the shots within the Republican Party tells me that the split between the party establishment and the ideologues is nowhere near to being resolved.

It has been that split that has caused the Republican Party in this state to become so weak and ineffectual during the past decade.

So perhaps Democrats should keep this in mind. The fact that Oberweis is rising to positions of significance within the party infrastructure could be the ultimate evidence that the Republicans are more than capable of being their own worst enemy.


EDITOR’S NOTES: James Oberweis’ appointment to the State Central Committee was one of several decisions ( made recently by far west suburban Republicans.

Oberweis’ past campaigns ( have the potential to live on forever on the Internet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I won't quibble much with your article.

However, note that some of your assumptions are out of date. Oberweis really isn't the "outsider" guy anymore.

You see once he came up short in the '06 race for governor, he said screw the trying to be a reformer thing. He threw in with Denny Hastert and that circle. Recall they all backed him against Lauzen for Congress.

So while it's probably not correct to say Oberweis is the establishment, he is the willing stooge of the old guard these days.

And note that Oberweis was the state central committeeman candidate backed by the incumbent county chairman in the district's largest county, Kane. Oberweis didn't have the support of most tea partiers or movement conservatives this time. They backed other candidates for this post. Most conservatives see Oberweis as a Judas for jumping in bed with the Hastert faction.

Yes, you need a score card to follow the drama in gop politics here.