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Kevin Buck: Politics: A cynic’s view

Democratic Voices

Posted: October 5, 2009 10:42 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
I have a theory about politics and the role that the liberals on left and the conservatives on the right play in our form of government.

It is my contention that wild-eyed true believers on either fringe exist chiefly to drive the saner, more reflective, less committed to the political center, where decisions are made.

True liberals and conservatives may create the parameters for policy discussion and vote the eventual enactment or defeat of legislation, but when it comes to hammering out the details that will become the reality, it is Democratic, Republican and Independent centrists who shape the final bills.

Lenny Bruce once observed that, “Liberals can understand everything but people who do not understand them.” It can be argued that the opposite is also true: Conservatives believe that if their agenda is clearly put forth, everyone should accept the logic and righteousness of their ideas.

And therein partisanship is born.

There is a reason the left and the right are constantly at each other’s throats. Both sides are convinced that if their heartfelt policies are explained just one more time, in slightly different words, an epiphany will occur. Clearly this is never going to happen, but both sides still keep at it.

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a different result. That’s us out at the ideological fringes, the politically insane.

If this theory has any validity, it explains why the more Draconian planks of either party’s platform never get enacted into law.

Banning abortion, flag burning, gay rights, taxes, government regulation and indeed, government itself have long been guaranteed base motivators and money pits for the Republican Party.

Yet after eight years of a wholly sympathetic White House and six years of majorities in both houses of Congress, none of these issues (except tax cuts for the rich), were ever acted upon.

Currently the left is seeing the same dynamic at work. We have big majorities in the Congress and a liberal Democratic president, yet something as popular, necessary and long overdue as health care reform is currently stalled. And the centrists are now controlling the debate.

The entire summer of teabag protests, Birthers and Deathers, while great political theater, was little more than sound and fury, signifying nothing. I can sympathize with the right-wing protestors; we on the left have a long history of turning out huge crowds to protest the policy debacles of the day. Nixon and George Dubya alone created a particularly target-rich protest environment.

But think back to what the result of millions of people worldwide taking to the street to protest the Vietnam War or the invasion of Iraq would be, and the honest answer is nothing. Both wars moved forward to their expensive and bloody denouements, despite widespread opposition. So to those of you on the right who took to the streets and the town halls this summer, it may have been fun while it lasted, but do not expect your voices of protest to have much impact on the final disposition of whatever it was you were against.

In the long run, only one thing matters to politicians in Washington, D.C., state capitals or city hall: re-election. As Jesse Unruh pointed out, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Job one of any politician is to raise enough money to retain power, and today that comes mainly from lobbyists, special interests and industries affected by taxes and legislation (which is most of them).

Ralph Nader campaigned for president on the issue that there is no difference in the two major political parties. While that is not true on the issues, it is certainly true on the legislation produced by them. Platitudes are mouthed to energize the base and placate the middle, but in the long run, money talks and special interests win.

I may be a world-class political cynic today, but I still believe in a better tomorrow. I will continue to hammer out my partisan words, firing up the left, annoying the right and perhaps convincing a mushy centrist or two to join us out on the edge.

There are good people out there, some of them even elected, and where there are good people, there is hope. In the end, that is all we can ask for.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Democratic Voices” runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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