Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
Say what you will about longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. He has plenty of critics and plenty of admirers.
But a few days ago, Republicans in the state demonstrated---yet again---why they are the minority party.
At the 2012 Illinois Republican Convention (held this year in Tinley Park), where party leaders unveiled a political strategy of making Madigan the central issue in this fall's state senate and house races, Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady ripped into Madigan by claiming (as quoted in the Chicago Tribune), “We are under the thumb of a controlling, vindictive, ethically challenged, self-serving leprechaun, and I mean no disrespect to leprechauns."
In a moment of golden political opportunity, the state's top Republican can't resist spitting out an ethnic slur.
If anyone ever wondered why suburban and downstate Republicans only enjoy limited success in attracting ethnic voters in local races, Brady's comment stands as Exhibit A.
As much as the GOP's themes of self-reliance, traditional values, limited government, and pro-business/pro-growth often appeal to ethnic voters (white ethnics and non-white ethnics alike), those same ethnic voters are understandably leery of Republicans when we see and hear expressions of anti-ethnic bigotry.
And please---may Pat Brady or no one else try to split hairs and rationalize their way out of this one. Just take Brady's words and plug in any other racial or ethnic group, and you'll see what I mean.
It would be like if someone said of an African-American politician, “We are under the thumb of a controlling, vindictive, ethically challenged, self-serving lawn jockey, and I mean no disrespect to lawn jockeys."
It would be like if someone said of a white Southern politician, “We are under the thumb of a controlling, vindictive, ethically challenged, self-serving hillbilly, and I mean no disrespect to hillbillies."
The bigotry is clear in each case.
And if Brady uses the "Hey, I'm Irish. It's OK," excuse---well that's baloney. Every racial and ethnic group has its share of fools who will denigrate their own kind for their own gain.
Rest assured that those of us who are of Irish descent get the "leprechaun" message loud and clear.
My maternal grandparents---God rest their bright and beautiful souls---were Irish immigrants who lived, worked, worshipped and raised a family on Chicago's South Side. I spent my earliest years living in their two-flat near 55th and Laflin.
If they were here to hear Pat Brady's "leprechaun" slur, Joan and Edward McGee would have a thing or two to say. Grandma, an educated woman from County Offaly in the Irish midlands, would have shaken her head gently and said with her soft, lilting brogue, "Tsk, tsk, the things some of these Republicans say."
Grandpa, forever a no-nonsense, straight-talking man from a farm in County Down in the north of Ireland, would have been blunt and used one of his favorite expressions. "Thaht mahn Brady is a faht head," I can easily hear him saying, with his bare-knuckled northern accent.
So here's a tip, Mr. Brady. If you want to win people to your side, do what Illinois' greatest Republican did, and appeal not to ethnic prejudice, but to the better angels of our nature.
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