An Elgin parable on how conservatives kill their own cause

As an addendum to my Eric Cantor post, I was about to do a piece on how those eminently nearsighted national Republicans consistently kill the conservative cause. Democrats may have no plan whatsoever, but even that’s better than putting a gun to your own political head and pulling the trigger.

But, lo and behold, like manna from heaven, the conservative faction of the Elgin City Council (once again) provided me with the perfect opportunity to present a parable that aptly applies across the political board.

God bless ‘em!  elgin city hall

So here’s how today’s conservatives will eventually render themselves moot:

1. Battle every minute budget item or council accomplishment so when you finally want to fight something big, no one listens!

It’s the political equivalent of crying wolf and, in Wednesday night’s case, it was Councilmen John Prigge and Terry Gavin calling out a $30,000 consulting contract – again.

To put that amount in perspective, it is but .01 percent of Elgin’s total 2014 $281 million budget. And while I love city councils that always keep an eye on the bottom line, failing to wisely choose your battles is worse than doing nothing at all.

In fact, Prigge and Gavin have gone Quincy Wagstaff Adams so often, their insistent whining has become the equivalent of a mosquito buzzing around your ear. And the irony is, the city council will likely spend more money because there’s no truly fiscally conservative input and they’re tired of hearing those two yammer.

2. Take a mildly contentious expenditure and completely misrepresent it so you can play to your base.

We all know conservatives can’t stand the word, so when the “diversity” consultant contract came up, Senior Gavin couldn’t resist issuing this statement:

“It’s an unnecessary expense, largely about quotas and affirmative action, which have been deemed by the high courts of the nation as no longer appropriate. The only kind of diversity we should be seeking is the best possible people to work for the city at all levels – period . It has nothing to do with the way people look.”

As a brief aside, the high courts of the land also imbued the Elgin City Council with the capacity to fill an aldermanic vacancy, but that didn’t stop Gavin from declaring that new Alderman Rosamaria Martinez was being “rammed down the city’s throat.”

Not only that, but, as Councilman Tish Powell pointed out, diversity training has nothing to do affirmative action and everything to do with encouraging a broad spectrum of people to engage in the political, bidding and hiring processes.

Sometimes we need to expand our horizons. Remember the resume you sent that company without a personal introduction? You may as well have saved the 49 cents because 80 percent of jobs are filled through the networking process.

So while I’ll give Masseur Gavin credit for dispensing with the relentless speeches (this time), he took a pointless opportunity to mangle the truth in an effort to appear as the savior of the City and appease his rightwingnut base.

I’m sure all those fine AFLA (Association for Legal American) folks thoroughly patted him on the back at the bar after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the conservative cause is a casualty because most of us can see right through this kind of self-aggrandizing tactics.

3. Grill a City employee like a cheeseburger to make a point that’s disingenuous and doesn’t need to be made.

While Brother Gavin only briefly managed to mangle the truth, Councilman Prigge decided to go all Perry Mason on City Manager Sean Stegall. And this cross examination, which fell flat, was ostensibly intended to provoke a response that rendered any kind of Elgin incited diversity effort moot.

But proving his point was never the point. Conservatives love to hold “hearings” on obsolete issues that simply go around in circles so they can keep repeating the same accusation without a verdict ever being reached.

4. Instead of working within the process, subvert it with relentless opposition to further your own limited political goals.

Councilman Toby Shaw issued a three to four sentence opposition statement which merely asked for a more concrete method of measuring the contract’s deliverables. And then the council moved on.

That’s how it’s done. Ya gotta know when to fold ‘em and save your political powder for a day and issue where it really matters.

At a previous council meeting, Sriman Gavin said he’d never change his vote simply because he was on the losing side. But no one asked him to do that! What someone was trying to tell him is that beating an already dead horse does not serve the process.

So every now and then, when you know that .01 percent budget item is gonna go the other way, why not simply vote no? Your pearls of wisdom will have far more effect if issued sparingly. If you have to wade in, make a brief (and accurate) statement and move on.

Because if you really want to make fiscal or political progress, simply standing in the way ain’t the way to go about it.

This microcosmic Elgin example is exactly the kind of thing that goes on everyday in Washington. The big difference is, those conservatives have turned obstruction into an art form that’s negatively impacting the entire country.

Prigge and Gavin have become a form of white noise to everyone but their small constituency.

Fed by their unlimited capacity to blame everything and everyone else for their own failures, this country will always be challenged by an overly loud plurality who firmly believe someone will save them from themselves.

As a result, under the guise of conservatism, some self-serving politicians will always be ready, willing and able to play to these folks’ base(r) instincts by reinforcing the belief that their sad lot really is someone else’s fault

The problem is, as Eric Cantor ultimately discovered, it’s a trap. Like it is with any addiction, the “junkie” always needs to find a bigger and better fix. When you can no longer provide that relief, you get tossed aside for someone ever nuttier than you. And when you run out of nuts…

So while Elgin will thrive despite Prigge and Gavin’s best (or worst) efforts, we’re witnessing the end of the Republican Party and conservatism as a viable national force. The problem is, even though these mortal wounds are clearly self inflicted, they’re trying to take the rest of the country down with them.

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