By Jack Koenig, Lake County Illinois -
A few weeks ago I posted “An Open Letter To Tim Schneider, State Chairman, The Illinois Republican Party.” The article castigated Schneider for meddling in the GOP primary battle for governor in defiance of accepted protocol.
One reader, “truth said,” challenged an assertion I made, that just because you support conservative values, or take a republican ballot in the primary, or support the party with your donations, it doesn’t make you a member of the party. Although common sense and observations should make this a non sequitur, I spent many hours researching the internet and elsewhere in an attempt to nullify my own argument.
In the process, I came across the following description which does a pretty good job in knocking down the idea you’re a member of a political party just because you appear to support them (Sparknotes.com):
“A political party is an alliance of like-minded people who work together to win elections and control of the government. Political parties compete against one another for political power and for the ability to put their philosophies and policies into effect.”
“Many voters demonstrate party identification, even though they do not formally belong to a party. So a voter might claim to be a Democrat, even though she does not pay dues, hold a membership card, or technically belong to that party. Other voters see themselves as independents: These voters do not belonging to any party, and they willingly vote for the best candidate regardless of that person’s party affiliation.”
Now I’m not saying that Sparknotes.com is the definitive answer to this question, so let’s add a little reality and common sense to substantiate my claim that only elected and appointed committeemen (and women) compose the membership of political parties in general, and the Illinois Republican Party in particular:
If a person could simply claim membership in a political party through their donations or support, outsiders – the bad guys – could easily take over a political party and render it useless or even worse, destroy it. It seems to me that the republican leadership does a pretty good job of doing the latter on its own without any help from the outside!
If a political party creates two types of memberships – voting and non-voting – all hell would break loose as donors and supporters are relegated to “the back of the bus!”
To get around this problem, many political parties from townships up to the federal level create organizations designed to elevate the non-committeeman/woman supporters to a special status. In most instances, you must join these organizations and pay dues in order to be invited to special events, meet and interact with candidates, share research materials, attend closed door informational meetings, and of course donate time and money. In Lake County Illinois, the top level organization seems to be “The Republican Federation of Lake County.” Other membership groups such as the “Woman’s Republican Club of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff,” “The Republican Assembly of Lake County,” and numerous GOP township clubs play important roles in raising funds and providing support for selected candidates and issues.
The bottom line is that political party membership and political party identification/affiliation are two separate things. Furthermore, voter registration in Illinois doesn’t make you a member of anything other than the pool of registered voters, and that selecting a particular party’s ballot in a primary doesn’t make you a member of that party anymore than attending a church makes you a member of that church. As far as the ballot preference is concerned, taking a particular party’s ballot only indicates that you favor a candidate in that election cycle who happens to be on that party’s ballot.
Jack Koenig, Lake County Illinois