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Kevin Buck: Political reality is disheartening

Democratic Voices

Posted: March 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Editor’s note: This column was intended to be printed in Tuesday’s edition of The Signal.

I recently had a conversation with one of my oldest friends. He is a lifelong liberal Democrat and, like me, proud of it. At one point he stunned me with the following words: “I’m giving up on Obama.”

Barney and his lovely wife, Lee, had been swept up, along with millions of others, myself included, in the 2008 Obamamania that propelled our current president into the White House.

Those were heady times, and for hardcore political junkies, all too rare. These charismatic campaigns are to be cherished, as they are far from the norm.

Here’s the thing: At the end of the day, after the speeches, after the campaign signs, balloons and confetti have been swept away and discarded, the winner of any election is still just a politician.

A politician’s first job is to get elected, his second is to get re-elected, and the voters are just a means to an end in this exercise. Successful politicians will say and promise anything to get and keep power.

Truth-tellers rarely make it out of primaries, let alone into office. Once in office, the realities of governing come into sharp conflict with campaign promises and the expectations of the electorate.

This is especially true of our presidents. Presidents must govern the entire country, not just their political base. In addition, the president is considered the leader of the free world, so he also has the responsibility of using the economic and military power of the United States to stabilize an inherently unstable rest of the Earth.

To get re-elected, a president must also court the independents in the mushy political center, which will always annoy their political base.

So my friend Barney is disillusioned with President Obama because he has not fulfilled every promise.

But given the hatred, hysteria and blind opposition from the Republican right wing, the policy and legislative accomplishments of the Obama administration are quite impressive. At least he is trying to live up to his campaign rhetoric.

Obama’s second term will fill the now-half-empty glass even more. Obama is also moving toward the center, in anticipation of the 2012 elections, but this is a normal political move, and those of us on the left should not be concerned.

The ones who should be pitied are the poor tea partiers. They are worried about Democratic deficit spending after having ignored the red ink run up by the Republican congressional spending spree, Bush’s off-budget wars and tax breaks to millionaires and corporations.

Republican electoral victories are built upon anger, fear and loathing. In the past, they have put together coalitions of social conservatives worried about the decline of God and the 1950s sitcom family values. And how did that work out for them?

If you so desire, you can still burn an American flag (remember when an amendment to the Constitution to prevent flag burning was a vital Republican policy goal), abortion is still legal in all 50 states, gays and lesbians can proudly and openly serve their country in the military and soon gays and lesbians will be able to marry the person they love.

Teenagers are still experimenting with sex; popular culture is still rife with excess, sex, drugs and instant celebrity.

Republican lip-service to these issues helped them consolidate power but accomplished nothing for their base.

Now the Republicans have convinced fiscal conservatives that they are the instruments of change. Yet the first action of the newly elected deficit hawks (after reading the Constitution aloud for two days) was to extend the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of wealthiest Americans.

The price tag for that is $80 billion. To pay for the tax breaks, the Republicans in the House have proposed $60 billion in domestic spending cuts.

The cuts amount to less than

2 percent of the deficit, but make teachers, nurses, doctors, firemen and the police pay with their jobs. When asked about the job loss, House Speaker John Boehner replied: “So be it.”

Local programs to combat gangs, graffiti, clean the air and water and feed, house and fund health clinics for women, children and the poor would be wiped out.

Those of you who are disappointed or disillusioned by Obama and the Democrats need to realize that flawed as they are (they are politicians, after all), they are the only bulwark we have against the class warfare being waged by the plutocrats of the Republican Party.

Job growth and economic recovery are political handicaps for the Republican Party in 2012, and that is exactly how they are governing.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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