Legislator excuses and extreme déjà vu

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to time travel. Instead of merely standing at a Republican Party event in September 2009 I was transported back to October 1991. On both occasions I was able to have a one-on-one conversation with a Republican elected official who had taken the time to attend the local political meeting.

Yesterday’s chat was with an Illinois Republican state representative – and it mirrored almost exactly one I had with an Illinois Republican U.S. Congressman eighteen years earlier. Both exchanges began friendly with my giving due respect to the individual holding the office. You don’t have to be an expert in psychology to know that it’s best to put a politician at ease by being complimentary.

After a few kind remarks, I asked this Republican state rep why he and the others in his 48-member state house caucus were invisible. He blamed the press. When I expressed my exasperation with his answer, he genuinely seemed confused – as if I was expecting him and his elected buddies to achieve the impossible.

My complaint with our would-be conservative political leaders since the 1980s (yes – since President Ronald Reagan’s second term) has been that they don’t seem to grasp the potential of their bully pulpit and the responsibility of their office to move public opinion.

I was sick of that lame excuse even before Fox News Network came into being, conservative talk radio took off, the Internet became what it is today, and eighteen more years of human knowledge was accumulated about how to disseminate information and advance a political cause without the permission of the big media outlets.

If you wonder why the conservative cause hasn’t won more hearts and minds here in Illinois you need look no further than the anti-intellectualism of our elected ranks. Rather than them simply diagnosing the problem and seeking to learn a proper prescription, they turn off their brains and hide behind their desks.

Another way to summarize the need for a Republican renaissance is that it’s way past time for our state and national Party Platforms to be championed by elected men and women who understand something very simple: if they don’t know how to fix something they should either learn or step aside.

Both conversations – the one in 1991 and the one yesterday – didn’t last long. Yesterday I merely made a suggestion that the GOP house caucus privatize its communications by bringing in people who know how to connect with a busy population. It’s the same suggestion I made in 2004 when I wrote about The Need for Republican Outsourcing.”

Since then I have also outlined my views about the ABCs of the role of the legislator in a series of articles found here, here, here and here. There are even more helpful suggestions found in other essays found on this page.

We have 48 individuals in the state house and 22 in the state senate who were talented enough to get themselves elected (and most reelected several times). What I said to the gentleman yesterday was that I wished we had 48 (let alone 70) talented people committed to advancing an agenda in this state. If we did, that agenda would be advanced.

None of this is the proverbial brain surgery. Fortunately, citizens aren’t waiting for their absent leaders to do their job but are instead pushing back themselves through TEA Parties, town hall meetings, and the 9/12 Project. Somehow they’ve gotten the word about how many public policy problems exist without the help of the big-time media.

For the solutions to be enacted, however, it will require Republican elected officials who are willing to learn how to do their jobs. It’s not too late for anyone in office to repent of their failures and to go to school. If they don’t, it’s only a matter of time before they get pushed out along with all their tired old excuses.

©2009 John Francis Biver