Ordinarily, when the chair of a major political party is forced to resign, it’s safe to assume there’s been some kind of scandal. Occasionally, there’s suspected embezzlement or a personal scandal that brings a chair’s judgment into question, but as a rule, a resignation is tied to some kind of disgrace.
But not always. The chair of the Illinois Republican Party, for example, has been forced to give up his post for the shocking crime of supporting the right of gay Americans to get married.
Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, announced his resignation Tuesday amid a simmering controversy over his support for gay marriage legislation.
Brady had been expected to drop out of the lead GOP role following a tumultuous period that pitted the Republicans’ social moderates against their social conservatives.
The context matters. Illinois, where Democrats control many of the key levers of government, is considering a new marriage-equality proposal, which most Republicans are predictably hoping to derail. In early January, Brady endorsed the effort – in his personal capacity, not as the state GOP chair – which drew immediate condemnations from far-right activists that make up much of the party’s base.
Intra-party efforts to force his ouster began almost immediately thereafter, and though Brady narrowly prevailed in February, the Republican State Central Committee met last month to complete a “succession plan” for the chairman, making clear his days atop the state GOP were numbered. It led to this morning’s resignation.
We’ve reached a curious moment in the culture war, haven’t we? If a leading Republican official believes two consenting adults who fall in love and want to get married should be able to do so, he apparently can’t be a state GOP chairman – even if his job performance is otherwise fine, and even in a “blue” state where Republicans have to be more moderate to compete.
In March, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus said his party’s opposition to equal marriage rights hasn’t changed, but he wants to “welcome” those who disagree. The party will adhere to its platform, Priebus added, “but it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party…. I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics.”
I think it’s fair to say the developments in Illinois represent yet another setback for the Republican Party’s rebranding campaign.
Update: The Chicago Sun-Times piece on Brady’s resignation notes he “wants to spend more time” with his family, and for a change, that might have some merit – the outgoing chairman reportedly has a wife in poor health.